A guy in a new friend group was reading a book and I asked his opinion on it. He began to say ‘it’s one of the best books I’ve read, very informative, it’s about how guys think and developing a mindset.’ After a pause he casually says ‘If you want to find a husband, you should read this book’. I was outraged. I went on to tell my other guy friend and he didn’t see the problem. He brushed it off saying stuff like ‘Ahh i’m sure he was just making conversation, don’t read too much into it. I’m sure he didn’t mean it like that.’ …Making me feel worse! Making me feel as if, did I read too much into this? Am I constantly overthinking it? Am I too sensitive? No, I am not, he second he said those words, I was hurt. Why does he think I am looking for a man, why does the women have to ‘understand a man’ in order to win him over and not be single. Why do I have to find a husband. It’s as if, every women’s goal is to find a husband. It’s not. I’ve got bigger fish to fry. I am annoyed I didn’t say anything but then apparently, no one else thought what he said sounded odd.
During a visit to our house in Turkey, my father forgot to lock the doors. We’d always thought of it as a nice place, everyone was friendly and so if there was the occasional slip of mind, none of us thought much of it. We’d had a busy day and I was exhausted. I fell into bed at about 11:00 pm Turkish time (9:00pm uk) and was almost immediately asleep. I woke up four hours later to my mother screaming hysterically, just my name over and over. I sat up, in time to see my bedroom door open, my wardrobe opened (though nothing touched) and all my drawers. Right beside my bed, so close there was hardly an inch gap between the mattress and the nightstand, my underwear drawer had been rummaged through. My purse was left, beside my lamp, untouched. My parents had woken up about half an hour earlier when their bedroom door was opened. The door in the apartments made a lot of noise when opened, and my parents are both light sleepers. They then heard the bathroom door open and close, and so assumed it was just me making a half-asleep mistake. Just in case, my mum got up and looked around the apartment, to see if anything was wrong and there was no problem so she went back to sleep. Later, the bathroom door was opened again, and the door to my room was opened, but not shut. My father couldn’t get back to sleep, so he got up and put clothes on, to go sit on the veranda. He comes out of his room and sees a man stood over me, as I sleep, going through my underwear. He shouts at the man, wakes my mother, and she starts to scream. The man runs from my room, I’m still asleep, and my dad follows, getting to the door before him. The man then yells, “I have had sex with your daughter!” Most likely knowing that it would cause my father to move out of the way, and wake by this point I start to shake. I was asleep only in underwear and a tshirt, the former of which had been removed from my body, and the man had held up to show my father. My mother starts to cry. Four pairs of my underwear had been removed from my drawer, and he took them with him when he ran. I can’t get over the fact that he would have been right next to me, and had even gotten to the point of undressing me in my sleep. As a usually very light sleeper, this chills me to the bone. I am fifteen years old. This is not ok.
I was 14, on holiday in France with my family and was taking out the trash. As I waited to cross the road a car slowed about 50m up the road, I assumed, to let me cross. When I turned around to cross back to the chalet we were in the same car slowed in front of me. Four men, no younger than 20 yelled at me in French and wolf whistled then turned down a side street. I was so shocked, I was a 14 year old in a flowy top and shorts being yelled at by people I didn’t know. The worst part was, that when I told my mum she said it was ‘normal’ and I should just ‘forget about it’.
My male best friend of 8 years decided he actually fancied me as more than a friend. I was on holiday with him and his family and we’d already had a conversation about feelings etc and I’d explained I wasn’t interested in anything further. When he’d had a few drinks and his parents were out he tried to snuggle up to me, touching me inappropriately. When I said no and moved away he started pretending to cry and asked for a sympathy hug – this time he tried to touch me more forcefully and I asked him if he’d actually just used emotional blackmail to try and make me sleep with him? He made no comment but still wouldn’t let go so I asked him angrily was he trying to seduce me? He answered yes and it’s going to work. I yelled at him to get off me and he stormed out as if I’d done something wrong. That was after 8 years of friendship. It was like I suddenly became an object and he had one goal, any care for me as a human being disappeared. We don’t speak anymore.
I have just returned from my first ever holiday abroad without my parents, and whilst I had an amazing time overall, I feel that some of the behaviour that my friend and I experienced may have tainted these memories. We have just finished secondary school and decided that we should travel to a few places in Italy to celebrate. Whilst we expected that as young females, we may have to be slightly more cautious than if we were travelling with our families, I was not prepared for the sheer amount of minor instances of sexism that we encountered. For instance, in Naples, our first destination, we were catcalled many times a day (on one occasion, we counted over ten separate examples within half an hour). These ranged from simply, ‘ciao’, to highly explicit sexual comments, sometimes leading to groping. I am aware that my experiences are not the most severe or shocking, however they made us feel very unsafe and forced us to restrict where and when we could go out (which I personally don’t believe would have been the case had we been accompanied by a man). One of our main reasons for deciding to go abroad was to find freedom and independence, but sadly, our ability to achieve this was limited due to unnecessary sexist remarks. Something which may have seemed like a harmless compliment to the perpetrators, when combined with other factors, effectively ruined some aspects of our holiday, which seems very unfair to me, and of course parallels what many people (particularly women) experience throughout their entire lives.
I’ve recently returned from a girls holiday to Kavos and two experiences stick in my mind. On our third night, we had walked into our first club of the evening, got a drink and proceeded to stand around a table. The three of us were standing, minding our own business when a lad came up to us and proceeded to ask if we were always this boring. Safe to say I put him in his place. On another night, I was dancing with one of my friends when a guy grabbed my bum, my first reaction was to turn round and confront him but my friend stopped me. Later on that evening, the same guy came up to another friend, grabbed her hips from behind and thrust into her. I started to shove him and shout at him until his friend got in the way of us, this is when I was repeatedly shouted “fucking virgin” at. 1. This guy knows nothing about me and my sexual life 2. Who the hell cares if I was a virgin-that is not an insult!!!! 3. I’m a virgin because I didn’t like you sexually harassing me and my friend?! I imagine this guy has not gotten laid much in his life
In two days, I’ve slapped a guy, insulted another one in a kebab shop and screamed at a third one in a pub while having a drink. By saying this, people may get a bad impression of me. What a rude, bad-tempered bitch. I actually started (and start) my interactions with people (wether with men or women) in a nice, warm way. But the guy I slapped said I was a slut for no reason (we had literally met 10 minutes before), that since my boyfriend wasn’t with me “I could have a bit of fun” and that I was totally crazy for being by myself in Bristol. The guy I insulted in the kebab shop told the kebab-maker I liked “everything in my face” after I had said I wanted all the ingredients in my kebab and then, he apologized to HIM for being rude in his shop and laughed at me when I told him in front of everyone to fuck off. The third guy had the same shit attitude, but backed off when I told him I had decided not no be nice anymore and not to take “anyone’s shit again”. Because of people like thie, I sound bitchy and rude. Because of people like these I leave pubs and cafes with a bitter taste. Because of people like these I get frustrated, violent and sad. If people choose to think of me as a bad-tempered always-thinking-the-worst-about-men woman, it’s on them. I don’t have to explain myself, I don’t need to be nice and satisfy anyone’s expectations but my own. And I couldn’t be prouder of myself for defending myself.
Reading some comments via the #whenIwas hashtag got me thinking about some of my own experiences. Here are those that came to mind in about 10 minutes. the list is not exhaustive: #whenIwas 8 a man walking towards me and my mum suddenly bent down in front of me and took a photograph of me #whenIwas 10 a family friend bought me earrings #whenIwas 14 the same family friend was asked to leave a jumble sale I was volunteering at and he was lurking at #whenIwas 13 a man pulled up his car in front of me and a friend – he was masturbating #whenIwas 16 my friend’s stepdad kissed me goodnight on the lips when I was staying at his house and smacked my bum as I went upstairs #whenIwas 18 a motorcycle slowed and the man on the front of it grabbed my breast before speeding off again #whenIwas 18 a man waved his penis at me through a café window #whenIwas 19 my ex boyfriend’s best friend pinned me down on a bed. I forced him off. I was later interviewed by the police about a rape accusation against him #whenIwas 23 and stood with a new group of friends in a very busy bar a man put his hand up my skirt – it was crowded and I couldn’t see who he was so I didn’t tell anyone. #whenIwas 23 a colleague told the rest of our team that we were sleeping together. We weren’t. He told them I wanted to keep it a secret because the things we were doing were so kinky. He told them we were in a relationship and arranged for us to be given a shared bedroom when we were working away. I thought he was my closest friend. #whenIwas 29 a man stretched out his elbows next to me on the tube and slowly started pressing one elbow against my chest and then rubbing it up and down #whenIwas 30 I was regularly called “darling” and “flower” and “sweetheart” by two men who were a lot older than me and yet whose work I was responsible for reviewing. Ironically, we screening job candidates for racism, homophobia and, yes, sexism. These are just a few that I could think of and a few I felt comfortable saying (there are others that I didn’t). The list doesn’t include the multiple wolf whistles, ‘cheer up’s’, leering, suggestive comments, situations I evaded, boyfriends and partners pushing against the word ‘no’. And, truly, compared to so many other women, my experiences are very insignificant. They’re pretty average, I would bet.
I recently booked a holiday flight with a major UK tour operator – Thomas Cook. Their online booking system gave me a choice of “Mr” or “Mrs” for the mandatory title field. As neither is applicable I contacted their customer service team, who told me that I should make the booking as “Mrs” as their new booking system did not allow any other titles. After booking I emailed them asking them to change it to my correct title on the booking (this is “Dr”, but I said I would settle for “Ms” or “Miss” if that was too hard). They replied saying that only the titles of “Mr” or “Mrs” were allowed. Over the last 3 months I have gone around in many customer service circles of hell asking why they will not update their booking system to allow the use of Miss or Ms as a minimum. They refuse to accept that it is an issue or do anything to fix it. My principal objection is that for the last 20+ years I have used the title “Dr” (and before that “Ms”) as I object to disclosing my marital status, what business is it of the airlines whether I am married or not? What has really surprised me is their stubborn insistence that my title doesn;t matter and I should call myself “Mrs”.