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Wolf whistling is FINE! Right fellas?

These women who get pissed off about men wolf whistling need to wind their necks in, right? I mean, it’s just boys being boys!

Women should appreciate that men find them attractive! They should know it’s all a bit of fun, no harm done.

Guys, when you and your drunk buddies whistle, jeer and shout sexual comments at me as I stand alone on a train platform, I should enjoy it, shouldn’t I?

Only I actually feel threatened, scared and I decide to not get on your train and wait for the next one because a group of loud, drunk men make me fearful when they’re shouting at me to “get my tits out for the lads”.

When you and your builder colleagues whistle and call out to the woman as she walks past the building site, she should understand that it’s only a bit of fun.

Only it makes her self conscious and embarrassed. She pulls her coat a bit tighter, looks straight ahead and walks a little faster to just get past.

When you and your school pals talk loudly about the size of a girls tits as she is in ear shot, she should enjoy the attention, right?

Only when that’s your little sister, it makes her feel objectified and sexualised. And she’s in a fucking school uniform.

When you are in the office and stand just that little too close, you make a suggestive comment and a risqué joke to your female colleague, she should take it as a laugh, shouldn’t she!

Only when it’s your sister, it makes her  feel disrespected, angry and demoralised.

When you call out to a woman as you both walk alone at night, she should know you’re only being friendly.

Only when that’s your mum, she feels nervous and walks faster, head down, just hoping to get home safe.

sam cleasby ibd blogger sheffield chronic illness

It’s easy to assume that those who call out the wolf whistlers, the jeerers, the men who stand a little too close and who cross the line, that those people are over reacting.  It’s all bants mate!!! There’s no harm done is there?  Yet the reality is that this sort of behaviour is at best unsettling, at worst scary, upsetting  and bloody annoying.

I’m a confident person yet in the past few weeks have had all of these events either happen to me or someone close to me and both myself and the other people were upset and angry that we’d been subjected to it.

I know this isn’t all men. Most men are respectful and kind and lovely… But it is some men and the fact this happens in our day and age sucks.  The defence is always that women should see it as a compliment. Or a joke. Or being friendly. That we should get a sense of humour. Or stop being so sensitive. Or my all time fave internet comment, that I’m just a feminist dyke… (Hooray for all the feminist dykes!)

But it does still shock me. And yes, as I stood on a platform at 10.30pm after a day’s work, a train filled with drunken shouting men, whistling, calling out to me and chanting, scared me.  I made the decision to stand alone and wait for the next one.  I’m a loud, bolshy woman, yet I felt I couldn’t even meet the eyes of these men in case it provoked them further.

I’m not trying to be dramatic. And I’m aware that they were probably all nice fathers, brothers, colleagues. Perhaps they just didn’t think it would bother me? Maybe they weren’t thinking.  Perhaps alcohol was involved and it made them act in a different way to how they usually would.  I wonder who they are, as I don’t see it in the men I know, I don’t see my husband or friends wolf whistling and voicing their opinion on other peoples’ tits.

I felt powerless at that point but now safe at home, I know my power is in the written word. Maybe they’ll read this and think again next time. Perhaps the builder, the school boy, the colleague, the man on the train, the man walking home late, perhaps they can look and see their wife, sister, daughter, mother and understand that their words and actions may be affecting that person more than they think.

sam cleasby timm cleasby so bad ass sheffield

There are those that will undoubtably shout that it’s Political Correctness gone mad.  Who will say you can’t ever smile at a woman without being called a misogynist. Who will say that men can’t chat a woman up these days.  To you, I would say that my opinion is all about context. Of course it’s nice for strangers to smile! It’s nice to chat to people on the bus or at work. It’s great to joke with people you know are on your wave length. This is not about human kindness or even people being attracted and making conversation in the hope of letting someone know you are into them!

In my opinion, it’s about power.  The men on the train weren’t hoping to chat to me about myself. Unless you count their interest in my breasts. The builder isn’t hoping I stop and ask his opinion on current news. The man on the desolate dark street may well be friendly, but should be aware that it can be quite scary to be approached by a stranger at night.

Context and common sense is key.

And for those who will say that sometimes some women are sexually aggressive towards men, I would agree and say that too is wrong.

As I speak to my female friends, every single one had a story of feeling afraid, embarrassed or self conscious because of the actions and words of a man unknown to them.  Even more worrying though, every one had a story of being flashed, approached or having some interaction with a man who had being openly lewd and sexual. Seriously, every one. That’s scary.

When I was a kid, probably around 9 or 10, I was at a friends. As we skated up and down her road in our roller boots, the phone box rang. And it kept ringing every time we went past. Eventually we answered, I was secretly hoping that it would be the beginnings of an Enid Blyton style mystery. It wasn’t. It was a man, he was silly and made jokes. At first we were scared, then we were giggling away. He asked what I was wearing and I told him I was dressed as She-Ra. (I bloody loved She-Ra). He replied and said I was a liar and described my clothes. It was then we realised he was watching us and we skated away home to my friends home, terrified and crying.

That’s an awful story isn’t it. Yet I know Im not alone.

This has happened for a long time. It happened when I was a kid, a teen and it happens now. I just hope it’s something that will change so my daughter isn’t dealing with the same issues.

I don’t think that every builder who wolf whistles is a sexual predator waiting to pounce. But I do think it’s time for a change, time we stood up and explained how this behaviour makes some women feel.

And that’s why I support the Everyday Sexism project. Head over and check it out now.  They “catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis. They might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so niggling and normalised that you don’t even feel able to protest.  By sharing your story you’re showing the world that sexism does exist, it is faced by women everyday and it is a valid problem to discuss.”

Sam xxx

Excuse me! I am here!

I am well aware of the Everyday Sexism project and applaud it’s work in giving an outlet for every woman to share instances of sexism in their lives.

“The Everyday Sexism Project exists to catalogue instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis. They might be serious or minor, outrageously offensive or so niggling and normalised that you don’t even feel able to protest. By sharing your story you’re showing the world that sexism does exist, it is faced by women everyday and it is a valid problem to discuss.”

I identify loudly and proudly as a feminist and I see the issues around inequality on a social scale; the pay gap, victim blaming and many other issues.  It worries me for my daughter and future generations, but on a personal scale I can say that I rarely have instances of sexism in my day to day life.  Perhaps that is because I work from home in an office with my husband, perhaps it is because I am confident and strong willed and others would see that I would call them out on it? Or perhaps I just don’t notice.

So it was a shock to me when I had an experience where my gender became an issue.  This year I have been working for a few different clients, sometimes alone and sometimes with a colleague.  On some occasions I was working with a male colleague in a situation where I was leading the project and he was learning on the job from me and this is where it all got a bit odd…

We entered the workplace and found the person we needed to see, I introduced us both and the company and put my hand out to greet them.  This person turned away from me to my male colleague and said hello, she then addressed all her questions towards him.  He told her that I was “the boss” and he was there as an extra pair of hands.  She seemingly ignored this and continued to address him over me for the entire day.

Now, I suppose there could have been other reasons behind this, but it very much felt that she assumed as he was male, he was in charge.  I let her know that I was leading the project and any questions she had, she should let me know and I would address them.  I am a friendly and open person, so I can’t imagine that she had taken a dislike to me.  It was all very odd.  We laughed it off and the day continued.

Only the following day, it happened again! Are we really so ingrained in a male dominated culture that we can’t imagine an event where between a male and a female, the woman is in charge?

Another time, we were staying at some accommodation.  I was driving (my male colleague can’t drive), and also towing a trailer.  As we arrived at the hotel, the owner came out to greet us, he went straight to my male colleague and spoke directly to him, despite the fact that I had booked directly with him and all correspondence came from me.  He then showed us where to park addressing my friend, he was told that I was in charge and I was the driver.  It was at this point that he asked me if I would like him to reverse the car and trailer into place for me!

HahahHAHAhahAHaaaa!! (That’s a manic laugh…)

 

laughing mum and son

Charlie and I think your sexism is hilarious…

 

What is funny (odd, not haha) is that I actually feel uncomfortable sharing these events, I feel that others will think I am making something out of nothing, that I am imagining the worst and assuming sexism.  Perhaps these people were “traditional” or “courteous”.

Or perhaps we are so deep into a culture where it is assumed that women aren’t the boss and can’t drive that it is seen as acceptable to act like this?

Don’t get me wrong, I know these events are so minor in the grand scheme of things, they were a tiny irksome point in my day, nothing compared to the huge scale inequality going on in other parts of the world.  Nothing compared to women who are verbally abused in the street, sexually attacked, nothing compared to those fighting for justice for women.

But it is these little things that make up the day to day sexism that we live through.  There are stories today about female only carriages on trains, an idea based on making women safer as they travel.  This kind of act puts the responsibility to deal with harassment or assault onto the victim instead of the perpetrator where it belongs.  It is another aspect of a victim-blaming culture of ‘why didn’t she keep herself safe’ rather than ‘why did he harass/assault her’.  I really don’t think we should be “shaming women into limiting their environments, but focus instead on teaching men not to degrade them.” (Via everyday sexism Twitter)

I am aware that the remarks by Jeremy Corbyn were based on him saying he would like to open a dialogue about safety on public transport and came from comments from women to him (I am actually a big Corbyn fan!) and also that this idea is one about immediate safety whilst the issues of public attacks on women is addressed, but what a sad world we live in where women can’t feel safe just getting the tube home from work.

Often the response to women who point out inequality is that men are just trying to help, the old ‘we can’t even hold a door open any more’.  That’s just silly, please do hold the door open for me if you see me coming, but not because I am a woman, just because it is a nice and polite thing to do, I hope you do it for everyone.  I am happy to ask for help if I need it, I am not ashamed if I can’t do something and will ask for assistance, but please don’t assume that I need help because I have a vagina. Don’t assume I’m not the boss because I have a vagina. Or that I can’t drive.

In fact, that is probably a good rule of thumb…

Don’t assume anything about me because I have a vagina.

 

 

Sam x