I recently found this platform and cannot express the gratitude I feel to have finally found a place I can express my own experiences and thoughts as a woman. Feminism is something I have completely submerged myself in and have dedicated my life to, thus far. Reading Laura’s book has been one of the best descions I have ever made and the knowledge I now have is playing a major part in my own journey as a woman. This book has made me realise my own sexual assault story; I now feel it necessary to share with others, I know will understand and believe me. My mother gave birth to me at just 18 years old. My parents were both very young when I arrived and sadly, had a very abusive relationship. I do not recall most of the abusive instances at that time, as I was an infant. Nonetheless, their relationship was unhealthy and therefore, my mother sought peace by moving us in with my great aunt. At the time, I was maybe five years old and was living with my mother, great aunt and her two (much older) children. My aunts younger child was around 16 years old. I was very close with this person and admired my second-cousin greatly. I followed them around, striving to spend as much time with them as possible. In retrospect, I could see how this might actually be annoying to a teenager, however, this one never seemed to mind. One day I was playing in their room when they asked me if I would, “like to play boyfriend and girlfriend?”. Me, a young child, perceived this proposition to be not dissimilar to playing ‘house,’ or reanacting a platonic couple seen on TV. However, my abuser went on to describe something midly sexual. I didn’t understand what any of this meant but tentatively and naively agreed, nonetheless. This member of my family, whom I just wanted to be like, had coerced me into grinding into them and snogging them. Even pushing their hand downward and grabbing and pressing against my genitals roughly, through my trousers. I could feel everything they were doing to me and I didn’t understand this was inappropriate. I just wanted them to like me and wanted them to enjoy spending time with me, so I fulfilled their wishes. I remember feeling uncomfortable but not understanding the situation and not realising I had the power to stop it, again I was 5. I wasn’t aware of anything remotely to do with sexual misconduct, abuse or assault. I just knew my own little world and that was it. I cannot remember how long this went on for, maybe 20 to 45 minutes. I’m not sure. Afterward, I felt totally sick and uncomfortable. When we left their room, I remember my mother assuming we were playing together and making a comment about how messy my hair was. I was frightened; I almost, somehow, knew not to tell my mother what we were doing. I looked over to my abuser, who raised a finger to their lips and mouthed the word “don’t!”. I made up some excuse about us fighting and my hair getting messed in the process. Nothing more was said. I remember later getting cornered by the person and told if I said anything we would both get into trouble. Both. That I would be punished and so would they. That I needed to keep my mouth shut or I would face punishment. I kept quiet. For fear of being told off for something that I didn’t understand was wrong. For fear of losing my then, loved-one, as a friend. Years have past since then and I am no longer in contact with that person, through sheer circumstance. However, I have never told anybody about this. Not my mother, my friends, anyone! I have remained quiet. Not because I feared anything, anymore but I somehow didn’t feel as if there was anything wrong with what happened to me. I didn’t even see it. This book helped me realise that was the dangerous stage of denial. Now, I’ve accepted what happened to me, I’m struggling through the stages of, worrying about my family not believing me. Breaking up the family, as again this person is a distant family member. Or worse, getting shunned out my family by the members who will probably believe their story over mine. This hurts to think and feel but truth be told, I know it would be the reality of my coming forward. Therefore, I will not do so. I have struggled with this for many years and I do not see the benefit of sharing this information with anybody I’m personally in contact with, right this moment. Maybe I will in the future, maybe not. The truth is, I almost feel as if my soul still doesn’t understand the true severity of my violation and this is why I feel able to keep it to myself. Of course this is not the case for many others, I always encourage other victims to come forward for the help and support they may need. Maybe I have too much pride to share this and feel I can cope on my own. I’m not sure but for now it’s not a risk I’m willing to take, so private it shall stay. For me, talking about this on here is all the catharsis I need, right now. I’m aware that my being taken-advantage-of isn’t just because of my gender but also my age and the circumstance in which, my abuser had the opportunity to take advantage. Regardless, I still felt this was the appropriate platform for my voice to be heard. As many other women, I have a plethora of other stories – probably more closely related to gender discrimination – but this was the most pressing and the one I felt I needed to talk about the most. I still feel ashamed, embarrassed and a big list of other emotions, all a direct consequence of the event. I have lots of mental health issues as a result, ie, PTSD, OCD, Anxiety, Depression, etc. However, I’m learning to deal with what comes. I’m safe now and I’m trying to find solice in that. There are a multitude of other things I’m now facing mentally, like the battle of starting a relationship, questioning my identity and sexuality, etc. Nonetheless, I’m so grateful to have finally accepted this part of past and to have hopefully, been brought the tiniest bit of closure. Thank you for listening. Thank you to Laura and her book and the endless women who inspire me and motivate me to be a better person, woman and feminist. Thank you.
I was assaulted on a school trip. I shouted at the boy to stop. His friends all laughed. My friends said nothing. I told my school and they never did anything. I felt humiliated and ignored. I struggled for a long time afterwards to walk in public spaces and would het jumpy when I saw men walking behind me. I was wearing my favourite top when it happened and now I think of him every time I wear it. I refuse to get rid of it because that feels like letting him win. I will wear my short skirt. I will wear my low cut top. I will shout despite the laughter. I will stand up for other women. I will be brave.
Being an autistic woman is a rarely talked about intersection. There is a lot of unrealistic and problematic but in a way fairly positive media representation of autistic men as geniuses, but very little media representation of autistic women. The autistic man stereotype is someone who is socially awkward but really good at something, I’m not going to claim this is great (but that’s another topic), but the result is people know to look for talents in socially awkward men. A socially awkward woman is just seen as a total failure of a human being. As a woman, I am expected to be a certain feminine type of people-person, and when I fail to meet that expectation, I am perceived as failing at everything. In some parts of my life where nerds and misfits are better accepted, my talents are recognised, so I know they exist, my big problem is in the workplace. I could not get a promotion in many years in my old job because my social awkwardness meant I was perceived as stupid. When I tried to ask for more challenging opportunities, people said they didn’t want to “set me up for a fall” by giving me something too difficult, despite it being something I knew I could do. I have never seen someone worry not setting up a man for a fall by giving him work he could clearly do. I left that job, because I could see it wasn’t just me. None of the socially awkward women ever got promoted. When they overheard me saying that at a conference, rather than considering the real problem they need to address, they put in a formal complaint to my new employer. Even leaving wasn’t enough to stop them wanting to ruin my career for the crime of being an autistic woman.
As a woman, I have been trying and failing to understand why some men want me to do certain things on command and behave in certain ways for their titillation. My boyfriend was kind and caring at first, but after a few weeks, he made it no secret that he watched porn on his devices. He would talk about porn openly with his male friends during the middle of the day and discuss the porn inspired things he wanted to do to me with his mates. I don’t have cloth ears. I told him that what he said was making me feel uncomfortable but he just laughed and said “calm down darling”. When we were alone, he would would say: “Now baby I want you to…you’ll enjoy it…” and would state explicit acts that I was not comfortable with. He would sulk when I said “No”. He suggested that I “should” perform some of these acts on his lonely male friends. I firmly said “No” and he became upset and that I should do what he said because I was his “property”. Also he said that he had promised his male friends (without consulting me first) that I was going to perform for them in certain ways. He said that he was trying to “train” me to basically give lap dances on command. His lonely male friends had requested to him that I should lap dance for them. I figured out that was why he had kept telling me to sit on his lap, sometimes tempting me with food. When I did sit on his lap out of choice, he’d pat me on the head and say “good girl” and feed me a crisp. When I wasn’t in the mood to sit on his lap he would get very angry and sulky with me saying that if I really loved him, I would try to make him happy. I would not get fed a crisp and be called “bad girl”. It seems so stupid looking back on it now but he was basically training me to be a lap dancer using circus dog training techniques. He gave me a crisp and called me “good girl” when I took my jumper off because it was hot indoors. He then said “Now take off your shirt babe”. That’s how stupid things became because he had promised his male friends (without telling me) that I would strip for them. Thankfully I never did.
When boys or men were playing video games at home, they never invited me to join in with them. Was this because I am female? A male cousin would bring his console round our house when he came to visit and would play it for hours on end, never offering any female relatives a turn. I however as a girl was expected to be polite and fetch him biscuits and orange squash. When I had a boyfriend, he never offered to have me join in two player mode on his video game console, but I was just expected to sit there and he would ask me to cheer him on. It was boring and depressing for me even though he was thoroughly enjoying himself. He didn’t really agree with women or girls playing football, so I guess that is why he didn’t let me play the opposing team on his football video game? I don’t play video games online because I am afraid of being harassed as a woman so a play games offline. Also I don’t have much time to play games because I have to be ready at a moment’s notice to help my disabled relatives. There seem to be games and pastimes that some men cordon off for their own. Football is an example of this. On the school field during playtimes, the boys would never ever invite the girls to play football with them. I had an amazing acquaintance at Primary School who loved football. While the boys were playing, she would rush into the middle of them and perform spectacular tackles and run off with the ball! The boys were so impressed with her gumption that they made her Captain of the School team. Nearly all of the goals for that season were scored by her. So basically in order to be accepted as a football player on the playground, a girl would literally have to be the best on the school team. Any boy with mediocre ability would be accepted to play football on the playground when he was invited. If you were a girl, you would literally have to fight your way onto the field and prove your abilities because no boy would ever ask if you wanted to play! If you were a boy, you were expected to play football or else you’d get called a “girl” and beaten up. So that was how a girl at my Primary School became football team Captain and the only girl on the team. There was no girls’ football team in my Primary School because the girls were taught to play netball and the boys were taught to play football in PE.
When I was a young woman in my 20s, my boyfriend said that I “should” kiss his male friends because they lacked girlfriends and were very lonely. He also suggested that I take off my top for his male friends’ entertainment. When I firmly said: “No.” he sulked and called me unkind. He also asked if me sister was free to lend to one of his male friends who hadn’t had a girlfriend in many years and “desperately needed a kiss”. When I said “No” again because I respect my sister, he was very upset. I said firmly that I would be happy to say hello to his friends, but go no further than that. I had only ever agreed to kiss him and no one else. He was disappointed that he couldn’t share me or my sister around with his friends for free. I wouldn’t have agreed to it even if he had paid me to be their private stripper: it seemed so wrong: hadn’t agreed to be taken advantage of by being “pimped out” in this way. He was frustrated with me for several days after I refused to provide adult entertainment for his friends. I felt bad for his lonely friends but didn’t want to force myself to kiss or strip for them out of guilt.
I am lucky to be born in a Western European country where men and women are equal. I have a loving family, who support me in everything I do and try to achieve. I grew up believing sexism is awful, but could never happen to me. However, watching a TED-talk about this organisation changed my views. I started digging into my own past and detected some events I would like to share with you. I chose to share with you two events which happened to me as a teenager. This events are just words, but they were said to me by teachers in highschool. I chose these events because I believe they show how deep rooted the gender difference is in any of us, also teachers who are educated to handle teenagers and are aware of these problems. – At the age of 16 I was a shy, not very popular nerdy person. I noticed some of my male classmates making fun of me behind my back, just loud enough for me to understand them. They were joking about my body, my grades, my way of behaving, etc. Since this was something happening quite often it caused me to feel even more insecure. I listened to the advice of a friend and went to a teacher to tell him about this, hoping he would be able to help me. When I told this teacher about this behaviour he softly laughed and said “But they are teenage boys, eventually they will grow out of this. I am sure they do not mean to hurt you”. Next, I walked away and tried to forget this ever happened. Looking back at this, I now realise that this event caused me to keep silent even more and additionally gave me the message that boys are allowed to behave in a wrong way and get away with it, only because they are male. – Two years later, I was 18 and in my last year of highschool. I was working hard because I had a dream of going to univeristy and becoming a scientist. However in one of my biology classes, the teacher said to me and all my classmates “Because in prehistoric times men used to hunt and think logically, and women used to raise kids, we now still notice that women are biologically build to be better at languages and men are better at science and math”. I could not believe my ears, but all my classmates nodded yes so I did the same. Could this be true? Would I never becoming a scientist no matter how hard I work just because I am a woman? Maybe I should give up this dream… All these thoughts were running through my mind at this time. Luckily I was stubborn and told by my parents to not listen to this stupid way of thinking. After graduating highschool I went to university. In a few months I will graduate and be the proud owner of a master degree in chemistry. As a soon-to-be scientist I now know for sure that the brain of both men and women is capable of excelling in math and science. Both men and women can be very talented in languages. Even in prehistorical times men did not always go hunting, more and more evidence shows that women went hunting just the same or even more than men. If someone said to me something like this now, I would no longer accept it and stay silent the way I used to. Now, I would speak up and tell them the truth. Writing this down made me realise that many young teenage girls who are still trying to find out their place in this world, are told things like this. This holdes them back, silices them, preventes them from being brave and turn their dreams into reality. And many more girls and women experience sexism everyday by encountering events way worse than the ones I just described. I am angry, this has to stop. I promise myself now that I will keep my eyes and ears open. I will defend women and girls who for whatever reason do not have the strength to speak up themselves. By being a scientist I will show others that women are just as capable as men. I will use my knowledge and experience trying to change the world, but even if I only can help out one person, it is already worth the effort.
One of my male colleagues has just had a second baby. My male boss sent an email to the whole team with the birth announcement, congratulating the new father and said, in the email, “[new father] now has a daughter to look after him in old age!”. He never said anything like this when that male colleague had his first baby, a boy.
I work as a teacher in a college in England. While I’ve worked in secondary education for 20 years, I can’t say I’ve experienced sexism in such an obvious and consistent manner as in the place I work now. Here are some personal experiences. Not long after I’d started, a senior manager snuck up behind me at the photocopier during a busy interview evening in a packed library. As I waited for the machine to finish my print job, he snuck up and stroked my back. I was so startled, I just managed to keep my composure (there were prospective new students and parents around).I blurted out that I’d nearly screamed to which he replied he liked to make women scream with a grin on his face. I walked off mumbling something about he’d better be careful as I might hit someone pulling a stunt like that again. I reported it to HR, who passed it on to assistant principal. They told me that the man in question had mistaken me for his friend (I’m about 8 cm taller) and that he was mortified. Next time I saw the guy, he glared at me with undisguised anger… So, it’s obviously a load of BE and he’s been let off the hook. Fortunately, I have little to do with him, but have since heard other rumours about him and inappropriate behaviour with female students. He was also the guy who in a staff briefing shortly before he sexually harassed me, referred to another female colleague as “the beautiful [name]” . Then there’s the PE teacher who makes a rehearsed joke during a zoom briefing how the rugby team had won a competition, but it was a shame that it was “just the girl’s team”. While there were horrified faces across the zoom call, I doubt much will be done about this. And finally there’s my Head of Faculty who patronizes every female colleague and forgets to address them by name in emails, while using male colleague’s names. Male colleagues who make a mistake hear nothing, while a female colleague making same mistake gets sent an unpleasant, patronising email telling off. In a meeting, I made a suggestion, only to be ignored. Then a male colleague makes the same suggestion and he is praised by the Head.Fortunately, my male colleague is a decent guy, who pointed out that I’d made the suggestion first. These are just some instances and I don’t think much will change while we have more men with the same first name in senior and middle management than women and ethnic minorities in leadership positions. I’m saddened by these experiences (all cover the previous 12 months), because if this is what I’m experiencing, what must our young students of all genders be experiencing?
I was in a movie theatre and the front 3-4 rows were empty. Our tickets were of back rows but my little sister liked to see from first row, so I accompanied her there and after some time this guy sat on the adjoining seat to me and started touching my leg but he couldn’t proceed with his intentions because he was called out by his manager (I think he worked there because no adult wants to sit in front rows). But I got so scared. Now when I look back I still want to break his fingers for not only disrespecting my boundaries and making me uncomfortable but also now that I realize he could have done that to my sister too. I don’t think a monster who preys on children should be roaming free in society. PS I was 13 and my sister was 7.