#NotAllMen But Many Of Them

female-harassment feminism


The death of Sarah Everard gave me a lot to think about. I felt the strong urge to give my contribution by tweeting, retweeting and reposting content related to sexual harassment and catcalling. I had this flame burning in my soul for the entire weekend. All I wanted to do was make my voice heard and share my thoughts alongside thousands of women who, like me, are tired of being objectified and blamed simply for the chromosomes we were born with. I felt speechless and powerless when I read that according to several researches, 97% of women aged 18-24 and 80% of women of all ages had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces. Also, can you believe that 99% of women experienced some form of street harassment?!

Women should feel safe walking the streets day and night without the constant fear of crossing the path of a bad egg. It’s appalling to think that we have to modify our behaviour to avoid any chance of being attacked.

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I worked on shifts for a great part of my life. This means that I used to walk back home at 1am or even later. When I was living in Milan, it took exactly 12 minutes to reach my place from the station, not that much if you think about it. I used to walk an awfully lighted road as fast as I could and my mum used to stay awake until late because she knew I would call her if anything bad happened. I had pepper spray in my hand and I used to look around and behind me to make sure that no-one was following me. Every noise I heard on my way made me feel more worried and unsafe. 

Last year during summertime (now in the UK), my room-mate and I decided to walk home after work. It was such a beautiful night, loads of people were having fun on Edgware Road and you could feel happiness and good vibes all around. Unfortunately a group of men started staring insistently at us until we passed in front of them. At that point, creepy compliments started. I really wanted to stop in front of them and ask “Who do you think you are to treat me like this? Did I ask for your disgusting comments?”. My friend persuaded me to let it go because it was 3 of them against the two of us. We didn’t want any trouble. What makes me furious is that any possible reaction from my side would be seen by potential idiotic men as an insult to their manhood. This could resolve in 2 ways: an apology or heavier forms of harassment. What would you do at this point? Would you defend your rights or stay quiet and try to reach home safely? We know what’s the answer and unfortunately they knew it too.

There is not a single woman I know that appreciates being leered or excessively stared at. Honking car horns, whistling and vulgar gestures are forms of harassment even if you’re not physically touching or actually saying anything, keep it mind. Sexist comments are synonyms with a misogynistic mentality that highlights your poor judgement. Sexually explicit comments are horrible and masturbating in public is disgusting, not hot.

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Often I think that these men’s behaviour is the result of a patriarchal society that teaches them that they are superior to women and if this gets questioned they can be physical and violent to put women back in their place. At the 2019 MAKERS conference, Jameela Jamil shares a moving essay on masculinity where she invites all the women worldwide to teach the boys in their families that showing signs of sensitivity is not a weakness. She encourages all of us to “tell them what it’s like to be a woman. Tell [them] we have to be on guard, literally ready to protect our lives, every time we walk down the street at night, walk through a park, get into a cab, take a train, go out drinking, walk to our car, go on a date, be in a lift with a stranger, be in any basement ever. Sometimes we even have to feel afraid in our own houses because there is a constant threat to our safety from men, both strangers and the ones we know”. I always wonder what these people would think or do if any of this would happen to their mothers, sisters, wives. How would they feel? Would they accept it?

Recently I had the chance to discuss with several people about catcalling. I was surprised by the fact that a concept that was clear and well defined for me could be seen differently by someone else. There’s a marked difference between catcalling, complimenting someone or approaching someone to show your interest. Whether the last two are good and encouraged, catcalling is bad at all times since it consists in receiving unsolicited compliments that aim to make you feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. Catcallers are not trying to charm you nor compliment you. They leave such an unpleasant feeling that makes you wish you’d reach your destination faster. 

If this resonates with you and you want to do something about it, I strongly suggest you to sign the petition started by Maya and Emma Tutton to make public sexual harassment a criminal offence.

In Jameela Jamil’s words, “We may have to fight our generation of men (and the one before that) for our rights, our safety and for our voices to be heard, which is sad and frustrating. But we have a golden window of opportunity to shape the future of our entire society from our living rooms. Build these men from scratch to fit women, rather than to take up all the space and force us to compact ourselves to the little corner allocated to us by them. God we must be pretty amazing to have overcome all of this s***. Tell [them]”.

*Although I am generalising and directly attacking the male gender, I want to stress out that I’m not putting everyone into the same basket since not all men act in the same way.