For the past few days, I’ve watched female friend after female friend post the same update.
Each update has seen these brave women opening up candidly and honestly about the abuse they’ve suffered at the hands of men.
From unwanted advances to violent assault and rape, and every shitty experience in-between, it’s been a sobering and raw thing to watch unfold, and my heart aches for each and every one of my friends, and their friends, and all the friends of friends I do not know, yet share a common enemy.
Because let’s face it, there’s only one common denominator in all of this, and that’s men who feel so entitled that women are little more than a plaything to toy with when the moment takes.
And the only people who can really change this mindset are the ones who are responsible for it, either through inaction, complicity, silent knowledge, or – like me – past mistakes that we don’t see as mistakes until it’s too late.
He’s Just Being a Teenage Boy
How many times have you heard that? Or variations of it?
Boys will be boys. He’s just finding his way. He’s just learning about hormones and what it is to be a man.
Too many, I’d wager. Far too many. As a woman, I bet you’re sick and fucking tired of that shitty excuse being paraded every single time a guy gets caught with his figurative hand in the pie.
As a guy, I can pretty much guarantee you’ve heard that as an excuse for your indiscretions. Hell, I bet you’ve heard it so often, from people who should know better, that it became your stock defence.
Except it’s not a defence. It’s not okay.
And it’s not an acceptable excuse for your shitty behaviour.
When I was 13, maybe 14, I heard that a few times from my stepdad. We lived on a council estate in the Scottish borders, and come the evenings after school, or the weekends in-between, me and my friends would hang out and try and impress girls with our bravado.
Riding bikes with no hands, hanging off the monkey bars with one foot, etc. All good fun, all harmless flirting – until it wasn’t.
When the girls didn’t show interest, we’d chase them. We’d laugh, and they’d laugh, and it was fun.
Until it wasn’t.
Until we – a group of four boys – caught up with one of the girls, and we’d “cop a feel”. We’d hug them, and kiss their cheeks, and say “You’re our girlfriend now!”
And everyone would laugh. Except, really, only the boys would genuinely laugh. Sure, the girl would laugh too, but it was different.
A laugh that said everything:
I’m playing along, because that’s all I can really do, but this is not OK.
THIS IS NOT OK.
And, of course, we were excused by our dads/stepdads/men in our lives, and told it’s just for fun and part of growing up.
It’s just what boys do.
BUT IT’S FUCKING NOT, AND IT NEVER SHOULD BE!
When did we decide that? How did we get to the point where for boys, it’s just part of growing up, but for girls, well, clearly they were asking for it?
And why did no-one speak up and say it was wrong?
It was only after I was talking to one of the girls that played in the park alongside us, a few weeks after our game of “chase”, that the truth came out.
How she was terrified. Not just of us, but of what she’d be called at home if her dad found out.
Because, yes, boys will just be boys, but a daughter becomes a slut because she’s the one that got caught by the pack?
Fuck. That. Shit.
Do Better, Starting Now
I hadn’t thought of that time as a teen until this week, and all the #MeToo examples came crashing through like a hurricane of pain.
Because, truth be told, I – along with my friends that summer – had been conditioned to believe we were just having fun.
It’s not real if no-one gets hurt, right?
Except it is real and the victim always gets hurt. ALWAYS.
Do you honestly believe no-one gets hurt when you’re in their space, in their face, in their safe zone, and you’re laughing while there, because that’s just “boys having fun”??
If you do, you’re a fucking moron. I know, because I was that moron.
It took a girl I’d chased and made truly afraid to show me that. How can that be correct?
How can the person we pain need to be the one that shows us it’s not right? Not acceptable? Not “fun”?
Simple – it shouldn’t be. Because it’s not their job to.
It’s ours, as so-called “men”, to do. And not just today, and not just for us.
But every day, for every man, to teach every boy as well as each other, that this can never be right. This can never be excused away as just boys being boys.
Because when was the last time you heard “oh, that’s just girls being girls, who cares if they’re grabbing that boy’s crotch”?
We have a choice. We can look at ourselves, and admit we were part of the problem (and still are, if we remain silent) and speak up about it, and fix it, and support women that are still going through it, every single day.
Or, we can remain silent, safe in the belief that we were never “like that”.
Except, if you take the latter choice, I’m going to call you out on it as a liar.
Because, much like almost 100% of my female friends’ feed has a #MeToo example, I’m willing to bet that almost 100% of my male friends has been responsible for that at some point in their life.
And if you haven’t, if you truly haven’t, I salute you, and hope you pass that on to your kids, your male friends, your male peers. Because you are truly one of the very few men who has never mistreated a woman friend, lover, peer, in some form or other.
For the rest of us? Don’t stay silent. Speak up, apologize, and fix this shit, starting today.
Teach our sons about respect, and restraint, and the fact that no means no, with absolutely zero wiggle room. And teach them about equality and being the kind of man that stands against what is very clearly not okay.
And teach our daughters they do not have to dress a certain way, nor do they have to act a certain way, because that’s “just what girls are meant to do”.
Teach that, and more. And teach it daily. Until one day, we don’t need to draw up lesson plans like this, because it should have been common fucking sense from the start.
It’s the very least the better half of this planet deserve.