Today, 11th October, marks the ‘International Day Of The Girl’.
The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges that girls face , while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
100 years after some women gained the right to vote and at a time when girls persistently outperform boys at school, some may ask do we in the West still need to mark this day?
The answer to that is simply yes. And here is why…
Last week whilst mocking the testimony Dr Christine Blasey Ford gave against Brett Kavanaugh, the US President Donald Trump said ” It’s a very scary time for young men in America”. He then gave his concerns for young men in America being falsely accused of sexual assault. The President was then asked if he had a message for young women, to which he replied ” Young women are doing great”…
Sadly, Trump’s lack of respect for women is well documented: during the 2016 election campaign, at least 15 women accused Trump of misbehaviour. Ranging from sexual harassment and sexual assault to lewd behaviour around women.
They came forward in the wake of a 2005 ‘ Access Hollywood’ tapes that was released in October 2016, in which he was caught saying ” When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything”.
The fact a manwho bragged about sexually assaulting women was subsequently elected says that this remains a dangerous time to be a woman.
Coincidentally, last week, a lot of attention was given to some American research into the answers that men and women gave when asked about the precautionary safety measures they take before going out.
Here is a summary of what men and women said;
I, like many others I expect, discussed this with men I know. They were sceptical that women really took these precautions. Yet women’s conversations were awash with how accurate the list was. And so I realised that a gulf exists between the way that women live their lives and the way that men perceive how women live.
From childhood, girls are taught to think ahead, and prepare, lest they be a victim to a male predator in some way or another. For example the following rules are often taught:
To go to the toilet in pairs;
To never walk down an alley;
To keep curtains closed when home alone at night;
To not let a drink leave your sight;
And a whole host of other things that we just don’t teach our sons.
We know, as women, that should we become victims; we will be quizzed as to whether we took appropriate precautions. Presumably to determine whether or not we are ‘ the right sort of victim.’ Don’t believe me? Look at how female victims are defamed by the press or in court:
Let us not forget the most significant rule we bestow on our daughters: to always think about how their clothing impacts everyone else.
Every week the tabloid newspapers and magazines treat us to their ‘analysis’ of what various celebrities have worn. Women are expected to ‘cover up’ in various buildings around the world and are constantly told they their top is ‘too low/ high’ or their skirt is ‘too short/ long’ etc.
We also know that any time a women is a victim of any sexual assault she can expect some sort of judgement about what she wore and what ‘messages it sent’.
Men, gladly, don’t experience the everyday harassment that women can expect wherever they go. And by this I mean:
The cat- calls;
The men who come and sit next to women on trains and ask personal questions;
The men who shout things like “state of that” when a woman walks past;
The men who think that it is ok to comment on waitresses bra straps;
The men who think it is ok to talk over women when making points during meetings;
The men who like to reduce women in high places , where they may be the only woman there, as ” the bird”.
All these are REAL examples I got from a group of friends in a brief conversation this week. I don’t think it crosses decent men’s minds that this goes on. But it does go on. It is the backdrop to the lives women live.
A significant, but not unusual example of this occurred last month when Ariana Grande (25) was given the honour of singing at the funeral of Aretha Franklin.
The occasion was somewhatovershadowed whenBishop Charles Ellis III (60), who was officiating the ceremony decided to take the opportunity to grope Ariana.
Later he apologised for his behaviour saying :
“It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast … I don’t know, I guess I put my arm around her. Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but, again, I apologise. I hug all the female and male artists. Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love.”
And so he returned to his job with no consequences at all. As #RespectAriana began trending, the usual cries of “why did she not say anything” and “why was she wearing a short dress to a funeral” started too.
Later that same week, Maureen Lipman was given space in several newspapers to drone on about how women dress, saying:
“All this bondage clothing – dressed a bit like a prostitute would have dressed. But if you speak to a real feminist, they’ll say, ‘It’s my body.’ Young female pop stars today, for example, are saying: ‘It’s my body, and I’m empowered to show it to you.’ But then: ‘Don’t touch it, don’t come near it, don’t flirt with it.’ And that is a bit of a shame because flirting is some of the best fun you’ve ever had in your life.’’
Lipman then went on to defend Roman Polanski and Woody Allen!
Now, have you ever read an article where elderly male actors feel the need to refer to the dress choices of young male artists?
In fact have you ever read an article anywhere where anyone points out the failings of a man’s choice of outfit?
Then there is Lipman’s use of the words ‘real feminist.’
What do we suppose she means by that?
I’m a feminist and I could not care less what anyone else is wearing, whether it be a burka or a bikini.
It seems that the patriarchy now wants to decide what being a ‘real feminist’ constitutes too.
This week Penguin books reacted angrily when their pop-up shop in a branch of Top Shop was cancelled just before the shop opened, with the display already set up.
Any guesses what the book was about?
It is a collection called “Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, and Other Lies” launched in support of the charity ‘Girl Up.’
Can we even guess why Phillip Green decided this was not a good fit for his brand?
No, I can’t think either.
But, as every girl knows, dressing conservatively does not mean that moronic men will leave you alone.
In fact, one in three girls in the U.K. has been sexually harassed in public while wearing a school uniform, and two thirds of girls have said they have experienced unwanted sexual attention in public.
The figures come from a report by children’s charity Plan International UK; which said that many girls feel that street harassment “is all part of growing up”. The saddest thing is that with our culture being the way it is, it is difficult to argue that their perception is wrong.
The truth is misogyny continues to run through our culture. As women, we adjust our lifestyles to fit with the expectations and restrictions placed upon us.
We need to take decent men with us on our fight to smash the patriarchy.