When I woke up this morning to write this post, my motivation was very low. Every single thought which ran through my mind can be summed up by “well really, what’s the point”. What’s the point about making a fuss over the harassment my girlfriend and I received on the beach one afternoon last week? What’s the point about writing 1000 or so words on the way sexual harassment manifests differently across many different generations, and the fact we experienced three different forms all in the space of about an hour and a half? What’s the point of writing another piece where someone will call me a feminazi (thanks for that guys much appreciate) and say it was what I was wearing that provoked the actions which took place and stop whinging and get back to the kitchen, but then I remembered, that’s exactly why I need to write this piece. It’s also exactly why we as a society need things like the #metoo movement. Because the reason the actions which sparked the frustration, hurt and anger of the #metoo movement took so long to come to light, is because so many women, like me, woke up and thought “but what the f*** is the point, it’s just going to happen again anyway, there’s nothing we can do”. Wrong. There is something we, you me, all of us can do. Now, back to the context.
My girlfriend and I wandered down to the beach one afternoon last week. Not that it’s important but for those playing at home who seem to think it is, it was windy as all hell which meant jumpers and a whole array of warm clothes, (just to get that out of the way). First and foremost, we were approached by a man in his late 50’s early 60’s. He seemed harmless enough, sure, but when a 60 year old man walks halfway across the beach “just to say g’day” those builtin alarm bells start making the noises we’ve been taught to listen to since we were little (little girls that is). Words like “so do you come here often,” “where do you live are you local,” “are you studying, working or anything like that?” filled the space between us and were all pretty well met with little to no response from our part. Honestly I just think he was curious about the whole “wait wut, girls who hold hands like boys and girls hold hands, I gotta get in on some of that”. But whatever his motive was, being approached my someone old enough to almost be my grandfather was a little suspect for an unsuspecting Wednesday afternoon, but we let it go.
“Oi show us ya tits!”.
“Wait, did you hear that”
“Oi wanna f*** I love you”
“Ok yeah I definitely heard that”
This is when the whole thing really started. Initially we brushed it off I mean this is Newcastle, boys yelling out of car windows is something that happens a lot (a lot a lot) but when we looked up to see three boys maybe 13 or 14 yelling at us from the water, we started to pay attention. Not only were they yelling at us, but they proceeded to throw sand and rocks and yell abuse at every single person who decided to decided to enter the water. And I mean everyone from the 75 year old woman just going about her weekly afternoon swim, to the young mother waving at her baby and husband sitting up on the sand. But it was us they focused the majority of their attention on. For the next half an hour we tried in vein to run with the whole ”ignore it and it will go away” routine but to no avail.
“Oi I love you”
*dry humps ground*
“Hey, show us your tits”
*Grabs chest waves tongue about like the guy from human centipede 2*
“Oi. Hey. You. Yeah you. Wanna have sex?”
*Pulls down pants and flashes the entire beach*
For the next. Half. An. Hour. We sat there, said nothing, laughed it off. Which is exactly when they thought they would ramp things up a notch and start throwing sand. From about 15 minutes away. Repeatedly. And yes, before y’all get up on your high horse “it was just sand, lol why didn’t you just get up and leave it’s nothing to cry about”. But the thing is, why should we have been the ones to have to get up and go? Why should we have been the ones to let three stupid idiot boys dictate our afternoon and also, what would you have done?
What would you have done as an individual, as a friend, a partner, or what would you have done, as a bystander? Would you have been like the boys in their late twenties who stood 20 metres away and simply did nothing? I personally don’t have an intimidation factor, not in the slightest. It’s not like either I, or my girlfriend could just stand up and look these kids dead in the eye and they would head for the hills. But these 20-something year old guys, could have. I eventually did get up, I also lost my cool a little bit (having sand thrown at you can really have that effect on a person) but no one else said anything. The irony of the whole situation was, the fact that when one of us did decide to go for a swim (purely out of stubborn determination) the boys of course didn’t say a flipping thing. I mean, not whilst we were in the water that is, they were happy to call my girlfriend a Milf as she walked back to get her towel though. (Presumptuous but ok).
This whole incident for me, apart from being a ridiculously weird and quite unsettling afternoon, is a comment on so many things. It’s a generational comment on the way so many man perceive women. Women don’t sit on the beach hoping to be approached by men asking for their star sign like the start of some really awful B grade porno. We also don’t sit on the beach reading hoping some idiot tween will comment on the way we look and think it’s ok. We also hope, that guys our age, would have the tenacity and for want of a better word balls, to use their position of privilege and stand up for those (in a particular way that at the time), who could not.
To combat another comment which I’m sure is coming, this is not just a matter of boys being boys. That phrase is outdated, bullshit and downright dangerous if you ask me. Take a look at the President of the United States for example. He was once just a boy being a boy and now he’s grabbing pussy. Because like they say, #timesup. I’m done with just sitting back and not speaking up. I’m done with feeling intimidated when I step into an elevator and the only other occupant is an older male. I’m done with feeling as though I shouldn’t speak up, or I shouldn’t say something, for fear of retribution or being labelled a whinger. What I will say though, is maybe it’s about time we take some energy away form teaching young girls things like;
“Don’t go out alone at night”
“If a boy teases you he likes you”
“Omg he’s hitting on you, he’s creepy but that must mean you’re beautiful”.
“Oh that guy just catcalled you what a keeper”
Ok the last one is totally false but sometimes I think that guys think it’s something we say all the time? It’s not. Catcalling is stupid. Anyway why don’t we channel that energy into teaching boys, from a very young age things like;
“Treat women with respect”
“Everyone is human, don’t be a dick, be nice”
“Consent is important and no actually means no”
So this is me, speaking up and in the words of Camp Cope, “We will not go out in silence, we will not go quietly”.