Margie

Everyone told me when I was kid that a sensible, strong woman just “took no notice” or “laughed it off” when people harassed her. That was the dignified way to respond. When I got kissed by a drunk on the bus, I thought it was gross but I tried to forget it as soon as possible. When we got catcalled in the street we tried to ignore it. My mum had her own experiences of sexual assault but that was just normal too and, being a sensible woman, she didn’t make a fuss about it. So when my brother told her when I was 4 he’d seen my grandfather sexually molesting me well, she and my dad thought it must be a “one-off”, that I should be careful not to be with him alone, that they’d be careful not to leave me with him alone but that the key thing was to “not make a fuss” so I didn’t think it was my fault. Of course, I thought it was my fault. No one was telling him (or me) that it was not. And, unfortunately, he was a sadistic psychopath and the incident my brother saw was just the tip of the iceberg. So when I got tickled and I didn’t want to be and no one stopped it, how was that different from being brutally raped and tortured by him and his associates (more than 40 men and some women)? How could I tell as a child where that line was? If it didn’t start at my own skin and my say in who touched me and whether I wanted them to or not, where did it start? The people round me who cared for me didn’t understand that something “small” could be the same as something “big” … that all of it eroded my bodily autonomy. They’ve been horrified to find out what happened. It didn’t seem the same to them. But, you know, in many ways it still seems the same to me. I tried to “take no notice” and “not let it affect me” but that doesn’t work with regular, extremely brutal child sexual abuse. I’m not sure it really works with any abuse. It’s time the dignified, strong response was to make a fuss, to see the connection between little steps that damage our sense of self and make us feel unsafe and big crimes that deeply damage and end lives. I’m now 11 weeks pregnant and I hope my child, boy or girl, will be free to be themselves, with respect and safety and a strong sense of their own value. I intend to teach them to always help other people have that too. Thank you for this project. It’s so important.

Jessie

I was cat called when I was 16 and walking to the dairy. At first I thought it was great, to finally have a male acknowledge my existence and find me attractive. Then I was worried the car was going to turn around and follow me. I’m ashamed I put my worth in a stranger finding me attractive.

Emma

The more I think about my life the more I have realised I have had so many instances of unwanted attention that has made me uncomfortable and at times made me feel unsafe just because I am a female. Many times walking around Manukau to get to different places, no matter how I am dressed, getting yelled at by guys in cars, whistled at, I once had a guy loudly say “errhh I wonder what she’s like in bed” as I walked across the crossing and he sat in his truck. Then there were the times I was flashed in the city while I waited for the bus, the random guys that come up to me and tell me to smile, and the guys that get angry because you don’t want to dance with them when you are out. Even as I write this there are so many instances, plenty from when I have been out and guys have been drinking, and the way our culture is seems like if they are drunk they just being eggs so it negates it, makes it more acceptable. Sons need to be raised to respect women, not daughters raised to avoid potential hazards.

20

Sick of using music to drown out Air NZ safety video with Sports Illustrated models. Completely irrelevant. Whether you are female or male, when you are being explained how to use the oxygen mask by a girl in a bikini, your attention isn’t going to be on the oxygen mask.

name

Growing up I was sexualised at a very young age. I knew the ins and outs of sex from TV and Cosmo magazines. I developed early and was excited that I was becoming sexy and attractive. I remember watching American Beauty, and wanting to be the beautiful seductress getting attenuation from older men. I felt pride when I gained attention from men because I was too young to understand what it meant. I remember watching movies where a man is overcome by lust and assaults the girl. I gained a fantasy of rape. That I was so desirable a man could not control himself and tried to rape me. I understand this is a common fantasy of woman and find this very confusing. At age 16 I proudly still had my virginity (Feeling I lost something when I eventually had sex). I was at a friend house drinking and playing SingStar. I remember being told about a guy called Neil that was coming over that everyone thought I would get along with even though he was 6 years older than me. I remember flirting with him and being very charming as I was a confident girl. I felt I was invincible. That night him and I slept over. My friend’s flatmate (who was much older and a girl) left us a mattress in the lounge for us to enjoy ourselves. At this point I was very drunk and knew we were going to hook up, but this time was different. He wasn’t the usual nervous 16 year old boy. He was confident and clinical. As he entered me I thought to myself “Oh so we are having sex now oh..So this isn’t so bad, oh well” The next morning he was gone, and I never told a soul. It wasn’t until 6 years later when I was the age he was. Talking to friends in University about sex, the subject came up about having sex with a 16 year old and how awful it seemed. A feeling of a weight being lifted off my shoulders suddenly came upon me. For years I had subconsciously felt like I was less of a person, a slut. I had only realised then that what had happened to me was not right. The blurred lines of consent still makes me wonder if it was rape or not. But either way, it should not have happened and it was not my fault. I think back to countless of times before I learnt about the objectification of woman. When I performed theatre plays as a sexy nurse at the age of 13.

Cat

There are Libra ads in the women’s bathroom claiming that their new pads “absorb more than you ever did in maths class.” Way to use sexism to hawk a product that girls will start using right when they’re most likely to drop out of STEM courses. I’ve started putting Post-Its up on the advertisements with the names of famous female maths pioneers so that there’s something a bit more inspiring to look at.

Anne

I run in the campus every Friday. There was never an instance wherein there wasn’t a wolf-whistle to be heard every time I pass by the Student Halls, or a shout or a cheer or a catcall from those ‘blokes’ in their cars when I pass by them whilst they are parked on the sidewalk, or those who for some reason or the other are trying to get my attention (and themselves killed) by slowing down whenever they drive by. At first I thought perhaps my shorts were extremely short, or that perhaps I’m showing too much skin—I’m flat-chested and tomboyish so I thought perhaps it’s the skin. So then I decided to wear long-sleeved tops and long running tights that covers up to my ankles, yet despite that, and through the loud blaring of the mp3 player on my ears precisely to block out those unwanted sounds, I still hear them. I decided to change my running routine, my route, etc., but still there is always that faint unwanted sound every time I pass by some guys with nothing better to do…it’s like for God’s sake, what do you want me to do? Run with a burqa?

Alice.

First day at a new job. Sorting items for retail shelving in a warehouse. Just myself and a couple of males of different ages. They were very chummy, I was ignored and all of the talk was about rugby. I was told to “chuck any Penthouses over this way” – hurhur. About two hours into the day, one of them came and stood right behind me, close enough that he could lean his head over my shoulder. He picked up the book that was in front of me ready for sorting and read the title, which, sadly, happened to be “A tiger in the sack”. He goes, a tiger in the sack aye, wonder what that’s about. He stood right in close behind me for about 40 seconds before his concentration span faltered and he flitted off. After he wandered off I picked up my bag and left. He has since been reprimanded but I am clearly resented as a troublemaker by a small group of men there. Makes me sick. Plenty of other nice people there, but the vibes I get from his “buddies” – it definitely feels as if they want me out the door. Actually one of them shut the door behind me from the inside today when I left, usually it just sits open. It’s subtle but yuck. I saw one of them look at an older woman working there with the most fuming hostile disgust when she wasn’t looking. It’s misogyny and it certainly is an everyday experience.

Taren

I’m doing my school speech on sexism it just has to stop why are women always blamed at the end? and silly comments like ”you run like a girl” are actually very insulting to some females

jordyn

I was at university wearing a red dress and tights with some boots and sitting in the student association waiting for a bus that was about a hour away and someone who sometimes catches the bus and sits at the back eyeing me the only girl who catches the bus and he walks in and says casually “you should suck my dick at the back of the bus today.” I looked up shocked I haven’t said anything more than hello how are you just to be polite and I am proud to say because of this project I did stand up for myself and the guy who was also sitting next to me doing his own thing backed me