Walking to school in my uniform and being heckled by builders across the road.
“She’s tough for a girl”
I’ve just come across this via a Facebook link and I’m so pleased to see a place where women can write down their experiences of sexism and misogyny – I’ve experienced both over the years and it’s cathartic in a way to be able to anonymously talk about incidents (my husband either doesn’t want to hear or thinks I’m overreacting). From prolonged sexual assault aged 11 years by an older brother; boys on bikes grabbing my breasts as I was walking up the road with 2 bags of groceries, men who think it’s ok to grab you through the legs from behind, policemen thinking it’s ok to say a ‘strip search might be in order lads’ or being told by a senior police officer at a social event that ‘you have great boobs’, male colleagues being physically and sexually intimidating – being pulled into empty rooms, held against the wall demanding a kiss, a 6ft 4inch man (and almost as wide) standing in the doorway of my office so that I couldn’t get out, visiting a so-called male friend and being physically restrained and told ‘you know you want it’, being stalked by a bus driver, being verbally and physically threatened by a man who shouted I had taken his parking space on a busy road in the city – he was going to pull me out of the car and kick the car in if I didn’t move; I did move and reported him to the police who traced him through his registration number and, guess what, according to him, I was the one at fault! As I’ve got older I come across it less as I won’t put up with any s*** and I can now spot the type a mile off, also, being older has its advantages – generally you’re off the radar! My aim for my granddaughters is that they learn to be assertive from an early age (which they are) don’t put up with any ‘bloke’ talk that makes them feel uncomfortable even though it makes them appear ‘humourless’ and to tackle intimidating behaviour head-on.
Aged 17, living in London, I was exposed to in a lift in Holland Park tube station. It was only me and this guy. He took his penis out and played with it saying “it’s nice isn’t it”. I felt very scared. I did not think it was significant enough to report to the police and I would not have been able to identify him on a line up. Aged 14 ish, at a ball in Glasgow, I was kissing a boy outside, who then pushed me against a car and rammed his fist inside me. I felt violated. I did not report as at the time I thought this was as much my fault. I have also been rubbed up against on crowed buses and asked to “get my tits out for the lads”. More recently my father in law advised that I should not have any more children as it had affected my looks. I was told that I lacked a sense of humour and when I went bright red in rage, was laughed at. This same man passed judgement on my two children (who he called ‘it’ or ‘creature’) – saying one was pretty and a success, the other was not so good. All the while me husband and mother in law sit saying nothing. I am then told off by my mother in law’s brother to try to get along with my father in law.
I was 13 I was walking up the street in my grandparents home town. I was just an average day. I was wearing my new button up top (very mature for a 13-year-old but I was into the smart look) and some nice jeans not that what I was wearing matters. I was standing at the lights waiting fro them to turn green so that I could cross. Then all of a sudden, an old man who had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth leaned out of the passenger’s side of the window and yelled a blur of inappropriate words at me such as “ain’t you a pretty girl”. Although this may not seem serious to many, at the age of thirteen, I felt ashamed even though there was no reason for me to feel this way. This was my first experience but unfortunately not my last. (I am the only girl in my ICT class and are treated extremely differently by my peers and teachers).
I was shopping alone on a busy Saturday afternoon in Marks and Spencer’s food hall. I was looking at some products on the shelf, reaching up to pick a packet up, and I felt what can only be described as my bottom being groped firmly with two hands. Shocked I looked immediatly around me I’m disgust. To the distant left was a middle aged woman preoccupied herself, and to my near right was a suspicious looking elderly man with a stick. The stick seemed to be one that a partially sighted or blind person would use. I followed the man around the shop and he appeared to be able to see his surroundings and read packaging. I wish I had reported what happened to me, I felt completely violated and freaked out. You don’t expect to be groped at any time but especially not in the middle of a shop in the daytime. I didn’t want to make a scene or waste anyone’s time but I now wish that I had stuck up for myself. I have since seen said man in my local area without the stick.
I complained to the police about a male who was stalking me and the response I got was he has a right to drive around in a place at the same time as you. He had just been released from jail and was on bail for robbing a bank. I gave all the peoples names that he sexually assaulted to the police and not one of them or another person said they believe me. The sexual assault centre discharged me numerous times on the basis that I was apparently doing well. I have reason to believed that I am being stalked at least on occasion and it has been more than ten years since the first incident.
When I was in first grade, I was in a class of about 15-20 children. I was shy, most of my friends were in other classes and I kept to myself for the most part. I also had a crush on one of the boys in my class. Actually, he and I were pretty close friends too, or at least as close as you can be with someone at age six. I don’t think I ever considered it a crush in a real sense of the word, I just knew that I liked this boy and that based on what I’d been taught in the way the world: first love then marriage then the baby carriage, I considered him a good candidate to fill the occupation. Of course, at age six, the world is still relatively safe, you know you can trust adults to help you, you can trust your friends to be nice to you and you can trust your parents to protect you. So you can imagine the horror my little six-year-old brain felt when the trust I placed in these people was betrayed. For the sake of explanation, I’ll call my crush ‘X’ and his best friend will be called ‘Y’. I found out one day, I think via X’s best friend, Y, that X had said to Y and to some other kids in class that he had seen me, or dreamt that he had seen me in the shower, naked and kissed me all over. As I have said, I was only six at the time, and I can’t recall exactly, but some details really stuck with me. I remember feeling uncomfortable, feeling that I had been singled out amongst my classmates, and not really understanding why anyone would say something like that. I also didn’t understand why I felt so icky. I can’t explain exactly what I felt but I know it didn’t feel good. You don’t have to understand anything about modern society or rape culture or what sexism is to know when you feel violated and unsafe. I must have gone to my mother about it because I can’t imagine that six-year-old me would have felt comfortable reporting it to my male teacher, anyway, somehow it got to my mother and from there it got to X’s mother. She of course was mortified. When I discuss the incident with my mother nowadays, almost fifteen years later, she will tell me that the boy ‘X’ actually lived in the same general neighborhood as us, just a few blocks down. I remember being on the couch with just my mother, during our nightly time spent reading or watching TV together, my baby sister was already asleep for the night, and my father was at work still (he worked nights at a news station and was never home till later). She got a phone call, and then told me that X’s mother had just called, she would like to come by briefly, in the next few minutes because X had something to say. I don’t remember getting much of a choice here, but I do remember immediately asking my mother if she could call back and say no. Tell them not to come. I didn’t want to see him. I think I made the excuse that it was cold out and I didn’t want to open the door. I couldn’t even express to my own mother why I didn’t want to see him. I hadn’t talked to him since days before I had heard of the nasty thing he had said and had been avoiding him like the plague at school. I wanted the entire thing behind me. Even so, I was told to prepare myself to receive his apology, my mom said I didn’t have to forgive him or say ok, all I had to do was hear him and say thank you. But I didn’t want to. Again, at six years old, with limited experience in dealing with the ugly side of the world, I couldn’t express to myself or to my mother, properly, what I was feeling. I now understand that I didn’t want him on my driveway, near my front yard, in my doorway, or anywhere near where I felt safest and most secure with the people whom I loved most in the world. I didn’t want to accept his apology, I didn’t want to thank him for it. I did not accept it. I did not consider myself thankful for his apology. I did not want this person in my home. But I was made to stand at the front door next to my mother and listen to this boy read a written apology letter out loud, while his mother scowled at him from behind, shooting an apologetic glance at me every now and then. He couldn’t have written more than 50-60 words but it felt like a lifetime that I was standing at that door. When they left, he presented me with the letter he had written, like some kind of receipt of his debt paid for my humiliation. Our moms exchanged some words and they drove home. I remember nothing surrounding the issue after that. It was never discussed. I asked my father about it a few months ago and he didn’t remember it ever happening. My own father. Maybe he was never told by my mother, maybe it just seemed so normal to him that he forgot. Maybe he repressed it. Either way, this embarrassing and frightening experience had left me feeling exposed and small, and it was never, ever discussed. I saved the apology letter for some time, but now I can’t find it. This has popped up in my head a few times in recent years as I have become more aware of sexism and tried to work against it and inspire people to work along with me, starting with people I know and love. I understand now why this has stayed with me and continues to haunt me whenever I think about my multiple experiences with sexism in day to day life. I felt betrayed by my teacher, my friend, and my mother. My teacher hadn’t created an environment in which I felt comfortable going to him and telling him that I felt unsafe. My former friend, X had betrayed my trust, my friendship, and stripped me down into a small and vulnerable creature in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, and I couldn’t even understand why because no one had said that I could feel that way, to begin with. My mother, though I’m sure she had the best intentions at heart and wanted to protect her child as much as any parent, subjected me to further interaction with someone who I didn’t want to see because they wanted to apologize for having spread a foul, and offensive rumor about my body in a classroom of my own peers that I would have to sit next to every day for the remainder of the school year. She made me thank this person for their apology on the threshold of my own home in the middle of a nightly ritual that was a sacred part of my time with her. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was not ok with that. The entire experience should have been aimed at my justice and my ability to feel safe again in the classroom where I had been discussed in a vulgar and intimate way, behind my back, rather the apology (which was quite clearly forced, by the way, this boy only did this because his mother made him do it, not because he felt any real remorse) was more for the sake of X’s cleared guilt and his mother’s cleared conscious. This stays with me today, it’s a lingering thought that never ceases to pop up out of the blue when I least expect it and is a reminder of how early this way of thinking can begin. I try to use this to my advantage, by always bringing up this story anytime someone claims that boys will be boys, or that it’s just ‘locker room talk’. Thank you for this incredible opportunity to share my story and to read other stories, this is a wonderful step in the right direction toward awareness and changing our society.
I’m from a very small and rural Italian village, and I moved to London almost two years ago. I live in East London and I often walk home alone after dark. One week, for some kind of cruel random coincidence, I got catcalled or yelled at by men in cars or across the street for 4 nights in a row. I didn’t feel physically threatened, I didn’t take it as a serious menace to my safety, but it made me so incredibly angry. I just can’t wrap my head around the idea of being just an object, a toy to have fun with when you’re bored at a red traffic light. Or a prey you can’t get to, on the other side of traffic. On the 4th night, after being yelled offensive compliments at, I got home and I started crying on my boyfriend’s shoulder out of anger and stress. He tried his best but I could see he couldn’t understand. I went home a few days, to visit my family in Italy, a couple of months later. A group of 5 or 6 eastern European very drunk men passing by started blowing kisses at me and my friend outside of the restaurant we were about to enter. I yelled a very loud “fuck off!” in Italian, and we saw them turning around to come closer to us. We went inside the restaurant, safe, and never saw them again, but my friend got very upset at me. She asked me what I was thinking, why couldn’t I just ignore them. I just couldn’t, I was so angry I had to let it out somehow and show all of my disgust towards them. But that’s when it becomes dangerous. I can’t just express how being treated this way makes me feel, or I will really make things worse. That’s something I truly hate, it makes me feel completely powerless.
I was a waitress for a late shift. I was training a waitress and the only other staff on site was the cook. There was an older customer there who had repeatedly crossed the line, but because it was a job and I needed to make money, I just laughed it off. But this night, he pulled me onto his lap by my breast and then asked me very loudly how I masturbated. He continued on with this, working to get the entire restaurant involved. I would walk to tables with couples and the man would then ask me how I masturbated and the woman would ignore it or tell him to knock it off. No one stood up for me – the cook even got involved. The next day, I told the managers what happened. I was thankful that they stayed that night until the man came in. I shook when I poured his coffee. When he asked me what was wrong, I told him and my voice shook too. He looked upset and said, “I only thought we were having fun.”