Yesterday on Twitter, a handle called @EverydaySexism created a hashtag: #wheniwas which soon began trending and flooded Twitter with responses. The hashtag offered women a platform to speak openly and share their experiences of sexual harassment, molest, or worse, assault.
I was among them.
Just because I have the good fortune to have not been raped (I should say “yet”, I guess, given the rampancy of it), I believed I hadn’t experienced sexual harassment of any kind. But looking at all those tweets pouring in from women all over the world hour after hour, about their memories as little girls being groped, touched, and teased (if not worse), I began to respond with my own experiences:
I hadn’t thought about these things for years. Writing began to unravel secrets I did not know I had.
This avalanche of information made me understand that it is a rare woman who has not experienced sexual harassment of some kind at some point in her life. It is that commonplace. It’s so “normal” that most women do not even consider it a big deal. We have been taught so well my our mothers and their mothers before, to simply shut it out, ignore the offender, and get on with things. When I stop to think about that, it horrifies me. We are actually teaching our little girls to accept abuse and violation. No wonder we continue to thrive in a culture where old adages like, “boys will be boys”, “she was asking for it”, and “she had no business being out after sunset” – are received without a bat of the eyelashes.
The irony of all this tweeting was that I (maybe other women too) received a vicious backlash from men who had read the tweets and decided we were delusional women who probably had rape fantasies, among other things. Nothing like talking about sexism to piss off sexists.
Do visit the hashtag #WhenIWas on Twitter, and follow @EverydaySexism. Keep the conversation going. It’s important we don’t stop talking about. It’s important we discard the utterly ridiculous shame and guilt we carry around as women. It’s important our daughters, and thereafter their daughters, have a different story to tell from our own.