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Olivia

About a year ago I was walking home from college in the middle of the day. As I was walking down the road a van with 3 men in it pulled up just ahead of where I was about to walk, I thought nothing of it until I saw them all look at me, then at eachother while beginning to get out the van. The older (roughly 50yr old) driver stayed in the car while shouting comments such as “give us a smile” “you’re stunning you are”. I kept a straight face and as I reached the back of the van the back doors were opened by the other two men, one of who began to say things such as “you really are stunning”. I felt sick to my stomach thinking they were going to drag me into the back of the van and assault me. These situations make you feel powerless and so objectified like your looks are the only important things about you, your grades or your achievement, none of it, just your sex appeal.

Anon

One Christmas morning when I was a little girl, I opened the presents from my stocking and discovered that Father Christmas had left me some interesting treasure. There were squadrons and squadrons of mini toy fighter aeroplanes in one parcel. Each plane in a squadron was the same colour and had the same symbols on the wings. I put them all in neat little groups according to team colour. They looked very boring just sitting on the carpet, so I decided to have a war with them. I pinched my nose and acted like I was talking on a crackly old radio and said: “War has been declared”. I hummed some war time songs I had heard on the TV as the fighter planes took to the skies of my bedroom. I made them have “dog fights” with each other ensuring that in each hand I held a different coloured plane. “Neeaaaaw!” I said making them climb up slowly and steeply dive. I provided all of the cinematic sound effects including the bullets “putt putt putt!”, making sure to empathise the “peeaaaw!” when they “ricocheted” off of the other aeroplane. One male relative used to watch lots of old films about air battles, so I knew what exactly what sounds to provide. “Enemy target in range! Open fire! Roger Juliet Peter 44 degrees west!” I said making up my nonsensical dialogue trying to mimic all the old war films my male relative watched. “Mayday 999!” I shouted: “Pull up! Pull up! Pull up your trousers Alpha Bertie Caesar! Do you read me? I repeat…Do you read the newspaper? Wilco and out.” I let go of the second plane and it plummeted onto the soft carpet. As I sang “The White Cliffs of Dover”, my mother entered my bedroom. She asked: “Oh Merry Christmas. I heard noises coming from your room. What on earth are you doing?” “Having a war,” I said matter of factly: “I haven’t decided which side will win yet. Father Christmas has given me fighter planes from four different countries, so he must have thought it was a good idea for me to have a war with them.” With that, I continued to play air battles and make sound effects. “Why are you making spitting sounds?” asked my mother in a very concerned tone: “It’s very rude to spit.” “Because they’re spitfires spitting out bullets. Putt putt putt Neeaww kaboom!” I said. My mother said: “Please stop. Why can’t you play a nice game instead?” “Because it’s a war. War isn’t always very nice,” I said: “But when it’s all over the victorious pilots will go home and have a big party to celebrate with a scratchy old record player. Everybody will dance. Then someday there will be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover.” “But what happens to the other pilots?” my Mum asked folding her arms with a displeased look. “They escape by parachute, then they get captured by the enemy or they go splat and die when they crash,” I said very immaturely and very insensitively. “That’s not very nice,” said Mum in a horrified tone: “This is a horrible game. Why don’t you play with your nice toys instead?” What did she expect me to do exactly, dress the fighter planes up in dolly clothes? “Father Christmas wanted me to have these war planes,” I said with conviction: “And I’m having fun with them. Thank you.” “I am going to have to have a word with Father Christmas,” said my mother in a dark tone rolling her eyes: “I think he has made a terrible mistake.” With that, she left the room and called out to my male relative. She did not sound happy at all. She sounded very angry and upset. Later on, I got told off by my mother for playing with the toy aeroplanes and was told to never play with them again. I wonder what would have happened if I had been born male instead of female? My male cousin played war games all the time and no one ever complained. I always wished him luck in battle and brought him biscuits and orange squash while he sat in his muddy dug out trench in the garden with a plastic gun. If “little Johnny” plays with toy aeroplanes or toy guns, then he is the pride of the household. If “little Jenny” does this, then well she’s told to stop because people think that girls that play war are mentally disturbed. That’s been my experience anyway. Boys are allowed to play war. It meant that I just played war in secret on my computer instead with video games my male relative bought me. I had pixelated fighter planes, bomber planes and even missiles. I had many tiring and expensive virtual wars. Many pixelated cities were lost. I felt weary and sad because the virtual people in my cities protested the fictional wars. I felt guilty for a while. When I grew bored of that, I even blew up some Martian tanks and space ships. I never told my girl peers that I did this when I invited them round for tea parties. I never talked to any women about my gender atypical hobbies because I didn’t think they would understand. I felt lonely about playing war on my own. I knew it was “wrong”, but I still played. FYI I never joined the Air Force because I am easily scared and get air sick: I just did fantasy wars.

Nicki

My roommate always touches me when he’s drunk. It’s mostly pats on the back or leg or flirty punches. He doesn’t do this to my other male roommate. When he’s sober he’s really hard to deal with and won’t do chores or buy toilet paper. When I ask him to do these things he gets upset. I end up cleaning up after him a lot. Both of my male roommates think that leaving the toilet seat up is ok and if I talk to them about it or the cleaning problems I get a lot of attitude. They act like I’m annoying for standing up for myself.

Katie

When I was 18 my boyfriend at the time had sex with me after I had told him that I did not want to. On multiple occasions. I would tell him ‘no’ but he would carry on. The worst part was that I did not try to stop him; I just lay there and let him have sex with my body. For a long time I thought it was a problem with me, and that since we were in a relationship I should want to have sex with him when he wanted to. One time after it had happened I said ‘you know I didn’t want to do that’. And he reaffirmed that thought by saying ‘you are my girlfriend – it’s what we do’. He also then got angry because he perceived me as saying I didn’t want to have sex with him at all and ‘that was hurtful’. I never told anyone what he did because I thought it was my fault for not wanting him. It wasn’t until years later that I realised that I was raped.

ash

The time my dad put his hand down my shirt while i was sleeping. I didn’t budge. I didn’t know how to react. I just laid there, unable to move. I later heard him tell my mom that he thought i was her. She was pretty upset and i thought they’d confront me the next day, but they didn’t.

ANON

I was talking to friends discussing careers, parents and growing up. Midway through this conversation I realized that all through my childhood I had been told by my parents, mainly my Father, that to get anywhere and to succeed in life that I would have to work twice as hard if not more to get to the same place as male colleagues. These comments that before had flown under my radar as “life advice”, are now becoming apparent as something a little more damaging especially combined with the programming found in the rest of the media and society. Looking at it now objectively, I realized that he was trying to prepare me for the hard work it would take for me to push myself into a male dominated career path, something that I had shown great interest in from an early age. He strongly thought that hard work was the be all and end all, and disparaged women that “used their looks” to advance. And so, I knew from a reasonably young age that I would never be pretty or sexy enough for that even if it was ‘acceptable’; that I didn’t have family contacts or money, so your work ethic and quality had to speak for you. This resulted in excuses for a wage gap, unending long hours, being saddled with an unequal work load, putting a hold on plans and making personal and social sacrifices that male peers don’t. being unwilling to take time off because your boss can guilt you easily into not taking it, because you know it will be counted on your pay review and used as an excuse and explanation about why you can’t match the ‘boys’. Constantly fearing and worrying about your image, the conversations that stop the moment you walk into a room, the subtle and not so subtle teasing and remarks about your body, clothing, appearance. The boys will be boys attitude and the excuses and acceptance of the culture. If you wear makeup, if you don’t. if you wear an outfit more than once in a week, even though that person has worn the same suit all week just with different ties. If your dressing like a ‘girl’ or ‘trying to fit in with the guys’. God forbid you wear heels, opens a whole new can of worms. Knowing that you must work your way up in experience but the person next to you has been there for less time and is totally incompetent and has already been promoted. Having to constantly play an incredibly convoluted social game that male peers bypass with ‘locker room talk’ and a couple of beers for the male boss. Worrying about being too bossy, not assertive enough, being told that women are just not really suited to a leadership role. And even then at the end of writing this feeling like I have to apologise for pointing it all out and voicing my frustrations, and guilt, like it’s all my fault and that I shouldn’t be making a fuss and that it not ‘significant’ enough to warrant sharing.

Elena

When I was in my early 20’s I was invited to stay with friends in Cornwall. I had recently been through the nd of a long relationship. I attended a dinner party of guests I’d not met before and once everyone was seated a man introduced me “so everyone this is Elena and she….is….available!!!”I was mortified everyone laughed I was the single entertainment for the evening and I hate every single minute of it. I’ll turn 50′ later this year and this is still a very vivid memory for me. And not a pleasant one :o(

Anon, 33

I play on Xbox live to relax in the evenings but there is this one guy who is married and in his forties that keeps making sexual comments. He totally humiliated me tonight by joking that I would perform a sex act on another person in the party. I felt so embarrassed and stupid and degraded even though he seemed to think it was funny. He has previously circled around me female avatar saying ‘nice tits’, ‘nice ass’ and making noises of approval even though I’ve made it clear that I’m not happy with it. People seem to think it’s just banter but it’s really not okay.

Sophie

I was out of my house for all of 5 minutes to pick up some milk from the petrol station. It’s less than a 500ft journey from my front door. While i was at the till the guy who had been served before me went to leave and then came back round behind me. I turned around because the man behind the till was looking at him strangely and when I faced him he said phwoar and gave me a leery look up and down, so I rolled my eyes and turned away to ignore him. Then as I left the petrol station shop I had to walk past the cars and the man and his friend said ‘oi smile for us, smile’, I shot them a very unimpressed look and carried on walking past and they shouted ‘oi smile at us come on smile’ and then muttered something I couldn’t hear and laughed as I got further away. I’ve actually had a much scarier experiences that started by the same petrol station and one slightly further up the same road before I lived here and if I hadn’t been under bright lights and probably on cctv it would have been really quite intimidating. Getting pretty sick of this shit tbh

Deborah

I am going through the process of buying a house with my boyfriend. We are not married, so we do not have the same surname. We would be categorised as people co-purchasing a house. The background is that it was my registered account with the housing association that brought the notification email, indicating that the development was available for viewings. When we saw the house and decided that we wanted to go for it, it was me that submitted the expression of interest form. When things got rolling, the instruction to the solicitor came from me. It was also me who firstly and directly contacted the financial assessors and sent through all of our documentation for them to review. Now, that is not to say that my lovely boyfriend hasn’t more than done his fair share. We have sat together evening after evening filling out forms and then calling people. I have always been applicant one, with him as my co-applicant. This is how we have filled out every form and the way we have approached it form the start. And yet… everything, but EVERYTHING we get sent back to us switches my boyfriend to applicant one and me to appliant two. The first form we got back was from the housing association. I immediately rasied it with them saying that the details of the form were incorrect, as I was applicant one, whereas they had switched me to applicant two. I was told that it ‘wasn’t relevant’. Our housing association contact is also a woman. My boyfriend also sent a reply email asking for the names to be switched back to me as applicant one, as this is how we have filled out every other form. They changed nothing. The next thing was a letter sent to us by the solicitor. When it came through, same thing, my name came after Mr’s. I sent an email to the solicitor right away, asking that my name be the first addresse on all correspondence, as I am applicant one. The reply was that ‘the system’ automatically puts my boyfriend’s name first and that there was nothing that she (that’s right, another woman supporting sexism) could do about it. Too right ‘the system’ puts the man’s name first. Well, I am furious. The housing association and the solicitor’s practice will hear all about their system’s archaic shortcomings once we are safely in our new house and the whole process is over. Just a reminder to everyone about the context of this, not only is it the year 2017, it was International women’s Day yesterday. How sad…