Clementine Ford’s expose of the sexually-charged harassment she received online from a high level employee at Meriton Group earlier this month has opened up yet another debate about the inexcusable and unrelenting harassment women experience on a daily basis.
Ask any woman, of any age, anywhere in the world, and she will have a nice story of sexism to send your way. My first experience happened when I was 12. A friend and I were walking down to the beach when a car full of young guys slowed down, beeped, and wolf whistled. I was dumfounded and stared back at the car in shock. At the time, I had no idea that what I had just experienced was “cat calling,” something that would become an-all-too-familiar occurrence as I grew older.
Today, I am no longer the naive 12-year-old walking to the beach. I’m a 20-year-old woman. And somewhere between boys talking straight to my boobs in high school and the fact that men didn’t stop calling me “girly” or “sweetheart” once I passed puberty and lost the pigtails, the naivety that once blissfully shielded me from these daily instances of harassment has all but dissipated. The wide-eyed prepubescent girl totally unaware of the men staring at her blossoming body—which my mother often forced into a cardigan—has now developed into a woman who forces smiles and pulls up low-cut t-shirts to avoid the leering stares. Frankly, all this everyday sexism has left me bitter.
That’s why Clementine Ford’s defiance against a man who called her a “slut” is so potent. The response was severe—she received a tirade of abuse from men who blamed her for making a man lose his job. I mean, come on! If the implications of this weren’t so serious, it would be laughable that there are men out there who actually think that a woman holding a man’s own words and actions accountable would be anything but morally just.
All this got me thinking why I too often force a smile when men blatantly flout sexist remarks at me like it’s 1959. In fact, just the other day at work, an older man, in what seemed like a joking manner, referred to me as a “dog.” And what did I do? Did I point out that it was unacceptable? Did I defend myself? Did I explain to him how he is perpetuating the oppressive nature of patriarchy? I did none of the above. I simply smiled, looked down, and kept my mouth shut.
Well, enough is enough. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of daily sexist remarks. I’m tired of ranting to my family or friends instead of the aggressor for fear of seeming “rude.” As Clementine has so fiercely pointed out, these remarks are not “nothing”, they are not “casual” or something to just “get over”—they are the tip of the iceberg of a deeply engrained mindset of how acceptable it is for men to talk this way to women. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept, and far too often I have kept my head down and stayed silent when I should have spoken out.
The backlash Clementine received should not act as a deterrent for woman to speak out, but rather should reinforce the urgency of raising your voice against these daily and inappropriate incidences in the hope that one day we can reach a point where 12-year-olds can walk to the beach in peace. Until then, we have to treat every incident like Clementine has and take these men to the cleaners.
Main image courtesy of buzzfeed.com.