Welcome to Bullshit Bell, the new semi-regular series of posts in which I call bullshit on various ridiculous things. How semi-regular, you ask? Whenever I feel like it. Whatever, schedules are bullshit.
If you don't know about the Everyday Sexism project, then you've clearly not been paying attention to the internet for the past few months (in which case, how did you find this blog? Go follow them! Go read through some of their tweets! It's okay, I'll wait, I'll still be here when you get back.)
It's such a simple idea, just collecting stories of the shit women have to deal with on a daily basis. Some of it seems relatively harmless - people shouting from across the street or honking as you walk down the road, or bosses just assuming a male colleague will do a better job. Some of it is genuinely horrifying - girls and women getting groped or masturbated over in public, for no reason other than their gender, and nobody stepping in to help out. All these actions, be they acts of violence or just microaggressions, add up to create a culture where women are taught we are to blame. That it was our fault for dressing like that. That it was our fault for being there at that time. That it was our fault for going into a sector where we are a minority. That our bodies are not ours.
Yup, you've got it. This is bullshit.
I was thinking about it today, trying to work out some of the things that have happened to me. At first I thought "I don't have any stories". Then I realised, "actually, I have a lot of stories", but I didn't realise at first. Because they just seemed so... normal. Like they were my fault, or else like they were too trivial to complain about.
1. Age 15. Camped out with a friend outside a venue so we could be first in line for a gig. A drunk guy came over to talk to us. I wanted him to leave, but my friend was busy being nice and polite. He ended up lying between us, his arms in our sleeping bags. He groped my stomach and my thighs, and undid my friend's belt. I told him to stop, and he went back to his hotel room. When we went to the police station, the officer told us we should have gone to the nearest CCTV camera and waved for attention. Since then, whenever I've been on my own late at night, I've always stood directly in front of a CCTV camera.
2. Age 15. Walked into the village to buy some bread for my mum. It was a hot day, so I was wearing shorts. A bloke honked at me from out a convertible and made blowjob motions as he drove past.
3. Age 14. Walking down the hill from school to my grandparents' house. Some construction workers yelled at me to "get your tits out, love". I was in school uniform.
4. Age 17. Sat on the platform at St Pancras waiting for a train home with my friend. A guy, maybe 50, sat next to me and asked if the next train went to Luton airport, so I said yes. He decided to ask my another question. To attact my attention, he stroked my thigh.
5. Age 16. Walking about two miles to get to a hotel with two friends. I lost count of the number of times we were honked at. My friend said she "took it as a compliment."
6. Age 18. Was groped in a club trying to find my friend. When I asked the guy what the fuck he thought he was doing, he told me to "chill out".
7. Age 17. Walking through Cambridge town centre at about 5pm in October, when it was still light. A drunk man yelled at me to take my top off, and called me a frigid bitch when I ignored him.
8. Age 17. On work experience, where I went along with my boss to interview a moderately-famous musician. He commented his phone in his pocket had unlocked itself in his pocket, and it must have rubbed against his leg. I suggested he take it out of his pocket for the rest of the interview, and he responded by asking me I wanted to come over there and rub it for him. Nobody else commented. I blushed very hard but didn't say anything. When I told the story to my friends back at school, they unanimously told me that I was "lucky".
So, there you have it. Everyday sexism is bullshit. Together though, maybe we can do something about it.