I nearly didn’t post that hash tag for a number of reasons but not because it wasn’t me. Mostly, or in a large part I would say it was because these days my version of calling you out is to dish what is thrown at me, right back at the person who dished it. You want to comment about my tits I will comment about your dick, or agree with you about how great they are and clearly let you know that they aren’t yours to play with and never will be, you get the idea. If you dish it out you’d better not whinge when I pitch it back. I do this because , at least in my mind, it levels the playing field and lets you know your words have no power over me. I will not as a general rule ignore it, I will not be quiet and let it ride with no rebuttal.

I want to break this down a little. I wasn’t a popular kid. I was teased a lot. I never really thought of it as bullying, but that’s what it was. In those days it was almost always verbal amongst girls or when you were a girl, things have changed a lot as far as that goes. As a result of that teasing I developed a coping mechanism – words. Often bigger words and smarter sentences so I could laugh to myself when the bullies responses missed the mark.

When I was younger the teasing was pretty universal, girls were as bad as the boys. As I got older girls/women somehow recognised their words had little effect or simply decided I wasn’t worth the effort. Boys/men seemed somewhat more oblivious or entitled. Even when I was married and watching my hubby at a gig, guys would approach me and ignore my words of ‘leave me alone’ and ‘I’m not interested’. One night I had to go as far as to tell the pest quite clearly that if he didn’t leave me alone I’d have the bouncers throw him out. His response was something along the lines of ‘bitch!’. I didn’t care about the insult, I owned it because I got what I wanted, to be left alone. The point is though that I shouldn’t have had to do that.

Here are just a few highlights of how this has affected me, it is by no means a complete or comprehensive list.

I was at work once when a co-worker put his hands on me, even after I told him I was happily married and not interested. I pushed him away and told him if he did it again I’d lay him out, or words to that effect, and I spent the rest of my shift making sure I was never alone with him. Again something I shouldn’t have had to do.

Working close in a bar one night, and a male patron tells a very heavily pregnant me, that he’d show me his dick if I let him get another drink. I’ve always wondered what the bouncer saw on my face that night because that patron was rushed out of the bar so quickly I don’t think he understood what was going on. A comment like that should never be acceptable.

Again working in a bar a young guy thought stalking me would be a fun idea. Nothing I said made a difference. What did make the difference was one of the men I worked with. He took him outside one night and five minutes later bought my stalker back in crying, to apologise to me. I never had another problem with that particular person.

As a little positive note, thank you for those men who have stood with me, or got out in front of me.

This kind of thing has been in my life from a very young age. I was incredibly fortunate, my mother paid attention. An off handed comment from me at about the age of 6 led my mother to believe my best friends brother had been inappropriate and she refused to allow me to be over at their place unsupervised. Personally I have no recollection of this but my mother certainly did.

When I started dating my now husband, his ‘best friend’ said to me ‘I won’t take you away from him’, like I was some object to be stolen without a will or a thought of my own. My response in this instance was to inform him I was in no way interested in him and if he tried I’d chew him up and spit him out before breakfast. What gave him the right. (As a little side note I believe I made him cry on possibly more than one occasion because of things he said or did.)

Harassment takes many forms and to my mind bullying and harassment has gotten so much worse since I was a kid. The things my eldest daughter has been subjected to make me so mad and so angry. Sexual harassment has been added into this. The things that some of the boys at school have said and done have meant I have told her that I will stand beside her all the way should she have to use physical means to defend herself or someone else. No it’s not ideal but I will not have her believing she has to sit back and take this crap.

My girls and I all do self-defence, the sheer number of women’s self-defence classes should let us know just how wide this problem stretches. I’ve even gone as far to walk my girls through certain senarios because I’m that concerned about this. My children should not have to know what to do in the event someone tries to attack or rape them. They shouldn’t come home and ask what to do when a boy touches them or makes a sexual comment to them.

I realise there are those who still hold onto the victim blaming culture. I can tell you that there have been times I’ve dressed to accentuate my assests, I do occasionally like to look good but that doesn’t equate to permission. When I was young I dressed that way because as a bullied and somewhat fractured young woman I was simultaneously wanting approval, and society taught me approval comes from sexual appreciation, whilst trying to wrest control of that from the men and boys, to put myself in the driver’s seat. It was to my mind, a variation of the word wall I spoke about in the beginning, it was a way of changing the balance of control.

We build the defences we can and we push a great majority of these things aside and just get on with life. We do this because hitting your head against a wall of those telling you it’s nothing, it doesn’t matter, or to just get over it, gets tiring, not to mention headache inducing. The point though is we shouldn’t have to.

I find it incredibly sad that it has taken the fall of a celebrity to give this movement so much power but by goodness we need to use this momentum while we can to affect the changes we are so desperately in need of. It starts in our homes, work places and schools. It starts across genders. It starts with women not sniping at each other and to stand united. It takes men to understand that, for every time you didn’t believe, didn’t step up for a woman in the multitude of situations you’ve seen, didn’t help when they asked, or dismissed their concerns, that it did damage.

I consider myself a strong woman who certainly knows how to fight her own battles. You know what though? It is tiring. There have been times I’ve wished I simply didn’t have to stand up to a guy whilst other men stood around enjoying the show or ignoring it completely.

We need to come together, the good, the light that is in humanity, I have to believe we can put our egos aside and stand, arm in arm, in the face of inequality (subtle harassment) and the more blatant extremes – words, actions, and all the variations in between, and stare it down. To say NO MORE. That behaviour is no longer acceptable.

United things can be changed, not the past but we can learn.

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