Sometimes things get me angry. I see certain situations and feel passionate, bewildered and confused, but most of all angry.
Recently I was on the bus and witnessed a drunk man shouting and swearing at people in general, but specifically intimidating a young girl, and I acted upon that. I picked a fight. Why? Because I saw injustice, someone that needed to be told that their behaviour wasn’t acceptable and I was met with shock and indifference by the people around me because I stood up and spoke out.
When I was a young girl in my teens and twenties, and not so confident as I am now, I was intimidated in this manner on a daily basis. An older man in particular used to whisper insults and threats to me, intimidate and scare me, make me feel helpless and weak and useless. I suffered this, without complaint at the time, as I thought it was just what happened, and I was scared to do anything about it. No one stood up for me, no one intervened, and I thought this behaviour was normal. I am now in my 40s and I’m afraid I cannot stand by and watch it. So I intervened and although I am satisfied with my behaviour in this matter, other people did not respond well. Why? I am yet to figure that out, but I do not regret my behaviour and I would do it again. I will not stand by and watch a man bully a woman on public transport and pretend that it is OK. This kind of thing can be read on a daily basis in the media, but there is conflicting information as to what we, as women, should do about it and how we should feel.
As women, we are frequently told on one hand that we need to look a certain way by the media and fashion industry (think sexy and appealing), that we are supposed to act a certain way by society (demure, but confident) and that we are strong, independent empowered beings who can look after ourselves and ‘don’t need no man’. On the other hand we are told that we are physically weaker than our male counterparts, that we need to be alert to danger, not get too drunk in case we render ourselves unconscious and leave ourselves open to danger. We are told not to walk around by ourselves in the dark or go down dark alleys and are constantly bombarded with statistics backing up these assertions.
Now, I’m not sure if anyone else is confused by all of this, but I for one, can see that we are being fed conflicting information. So, the question remains; who’s right? Am I empowered or weak? Am I supposed to be ‘dressing to impress’ or am I better wearing sensible shoes? Am I OK to act normally and go out and have a laugh and drink what I want because ‘it’s my right’, or should I limit myself to one glass incase I get a little frisky and give off the wrong signals? Because I really can’t be or do all of these things at the same time.
According to the magazines we should be confidently single, but learn how to “bag that man”, don’t appear desperate, but make sure you are married and have your first child by 30 and don’t forget to also maintain your career and break through the glass ceiling!! I, for one, just get tired by reading it and am glad that I am past this particular judgemental stage in my life.
This behavioural trait of mine, the apparent need to ask questions all the time, I’m assured by some mainstream newspapers, makes me an argumentative bitch and also a feminist. I am, actually, proudly a feminist (and an argumentative bitch) despite the bad press that ‘feminazis’ get these days. I will stand up for other women, where I see wrong doing or misogynistic behaviour, and I will be vocal about it. I’m also not afraid to be physical if needed; my fiancé has taught me a few useful tricks for just this kind of situation should I ever need to use them, and I have recently started studying two martial arts, just for good measure. I refuse to live in fear anymore and don’t see why anyone else should either.
I also believe that, if men want to help with this cause, they are more than welcome to join. Just because they don’t have a womb doesn’t mean that they can’t understand that misogynistic behaviour is wrong and pitch in and help. However, some feminists don’t seem to agree with me, they see men as the problem and therefore hold them all to account, just for being male. According to many memes I see, all men should be held responsible for misogynistic behaviour and if they dare say, “well, I’m not like that” they get a cascade of #notallmen in an attempt to silence them. The only thing that is accomplished by this, as my fiancé puts it, is that they will simply shrug.
The shrug is a dangerous thing, do not underestimate it. If, as women, we try to alienate half the population by telling them that it’s all their fault, despite the willingness of many men to help, then we will soon find that more and more men, instead of helping, will simply shrug. They will no longer care. They will not be willing to help because they’re damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
According to any men I have spoken to about this, they are more than happy to help. So we should all agree that, in this case, the opposite gender can help with this cause, the people on the other side of the fence can see our issues and contribute to righting these wrongs. If we all work together, and try not to alienate people, then these issues will be sorted out quickly and make everyone safer. So let’s share this responsibility, let’s work together and let’s try to sort things out for the next generation and hope that the foundations we build today, will make the future society stronger and more equal.