Note: I wrote this post way back in April, then never hit publish. I’m not sure why, exactly, but I suppose the subject made me a little unsure. I don’t feel unsure any more, so here it is. Better late than never?
How old were you when you first felt like a woman?
Ask around and you stumble across a depressing truth: for many of us, it is the first time we’re exposed to sexually-motivated harassment, discrimination or abuse – often before we’ve even entered adulthood. Feeling the letcherous eyes of builders take in your newly growing tits beneath your baby-fresh face is like a ritual hazing for new initiates to womanhood.
Yesterday a new hashtag started trending on twitter – #WhenIwas. Women worldwide began completing the sentence, primarily with examples of the types of sexual behaviour they were subjected to before they were 18 – and it makes for bleak reading.
Below are my own tiny additions to the twitter-storm.
#WhenIwas 16 a man regularly came to the shoe shop I worked at & told me to try shoes on for him while he got red & breathed heavily.
For context, I was a pretty, skinny little teen, and often dressed in skimpy outfits.
That shouldn’t matter because I was clearly a child – but of course, it did.
I’m telling you this after you’ve read the above tweets because they should stand alone. It doesn’t matter how old a woman is or what she is wearing: she has the right to not be touched or made to feel afraid.
It’s a shame, really, that nobody ever stopped to question the hyper-sexualised behaviour of a young girl. Every adult or professional I encountered was too busy judging or perving to give it a second thought, so I had to figure out for myself that the wrong sort of attention can be just as bad as none.
There are, of course, many worse stories to be told. Stories that happened within the confines of supposedly loving relationships; stories that are too raw or personal to put in the public domain.
This tweet by my friend Freya from nishaantishu says it all, really.
I wonder how many times women have written and deleted a tweet for the #WhenIWas hashtag. I’m on three times and I still can’t do it.