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There has been a wave of #MeToo across social media; many people have no idea what it’s all about. So here’s my #MeToo. I debated whether or not to post this – I’m here to talk about health, not the unspoken sexual harassment that women and girls face on an almost daily basis.

But it is part of health. For ourselves, our family, our wider community, and our planet as a whole…

It’s part of how we view ourselves, how we teach our sons and daughters what’s ok, and what’s not.

#MeToo

The hashtag #MeToo has been shared, on Facebook mostly, as a quick way to establish that sexual assault and harassment is not confined to the rich and famous, nor to the poor and vulnerable. It’s the every day women that we know, love, and probably are.

I would almost guarantee that every woman reading this, and every woman you know, has been on the receiving end of this abuse. It’s everywhere within our culture, and it’s not ok.

My experiences

I decided that I would share a few of my experiences in date order. Some of the experiences that really stick out for me, that are ingrained in my brain. There are many more that I won’t write about, and there will be countless more that I’ve forgotten. This is the worrying thing, and the reason (I believe) that the hashtag has gone viral.

Walking home from school

At around 13 or 14 years old, I remember regularly walking home from school with my friends, going to the Spar and buying our 10p Mr Freeze ice pops. Grown men, of varying ages, made vile comments – “wouldn’t mind you doing that to me love”, or “ooh look at those lips”. Some preferred the direct approach “I’ll give you something to suck”.

Was it because I hitched my school skirt up? Did that make me a slut? Or was I just supposed to expect those kinda comments? Maybe it was actually funny like the wolf-whistles from builders that we see on TV as a ‘normal’ part of life.

#MeToo

Waitressing in a function room

Aged 15, telling the boss that I was actually 16, I started a job in the function room of our local football club. It was the usual crappy minimum wage job, but it gave me a bit of independence and some pocket money. The mid 50’s manager of the football team was well known for being a letch. My Mums boyfriend at the time worked with him and had warned me to ignore anything he said.

So when he came at me with the drunken leery jazz hands outlining my body shape and saying to his mates “oooh if I was 20 years younger, I would”, I was ready for him. “You’d still be 20 years too old” I said.

He’s a really nice bloke – he’s sound, I was told. Just a bit of a perve. He thinks he’s one of the lads still.

Oh, ok. My bad! I was probably a bit sensitive at 15.

#MeToo

Waitressing in an expensive restaurant

Doing my GCSEs at 16 years old, I wanted a job with maximum money for minimum work. I decided it was time to find an expensive restaurant where the tips would give my wages a welcome boost. I found it and I loved it. Gorgeous Italian food, really lovely people to work with, and really sweet customers too.

Until one day there was a huge table that I had to squeeze around to serve and clear.

One man accidentally brushed my boob as I was leaning across to grab something. Then he accidentally touched my bum. And then he full on copped a feel, and I realised that nothing was an accident. I told the restaurant owner, who said that I was overreacting. He told me to go back out and smile – these customers were spending a lot of money and I wouldn’t get any tips by talking to him.

Next time he groped me, I accidentally dropped his plate of food in his lap.

He got a free meal and I got sacked.

#MeToo

Freshers week at university

Wednesday night was ‘Score’ in the Student Union – following sports afternoon, it was an appropriate name for the night, but the pun also came in. When one guy grabbed my boob, I told him not to do it again. He did. I told him if he did it again, he’d get a smack. He went in with both hands for both boobs. I punched him square in the jaw and split his lip, before asking the bouncers to kick him out.

The bouncers were awesome. This wasn’t my first freshers week, so they were well used to seeing me drunk and disorderly at this point. They told me that I needed to deny hitting him if anyone said anything cos it’d be me who got into trouble!

Fucked up, but probably true.

#MeToo

Now what?

These are just a few of my experiences, from before I even left my teenage years. I could spend a whole day writing out more.

When women are sexually harassed and assaulted, the same questions are asked, and the same comments passed.

  1. Was she drunk?
  2. Did she lead him on?
  3. What was she wearing?
  4. What did she expect, when she accepted that drink?
  5. Why didn’t she walk off?
  6. Why didn’t she say something?
  7. She was probably just being sensitive
  8. She’s lying – he is a nice guy with a family
  9. She knew what she was getting into

These are the same comments I’m seeing all over the place whenever a woman speaks out. It’s time to stand up and speak out. We need to talk to our boyfriends and husbands, and open the dialogue.

Teaching consent to our children so we don’t need another #MeToo

We need to explain consent to our children, which starts with us being respectful as parents.

It ALL starts with us.

When we force our kids to finish what’s on their plate, to wear that t-shirt they don’t want to wear, to kiss that relative that they don’t want to kiss, we’re telling them that their feelings don’t matter. We’re teaching them that consent is irrelevant.

We need to teach our pre-school kids that their bodies belong to them, and them only. That nobody else is allowed to touch or kiss them without permission, and that they’re not allowed to touch or kiss other people without permission either.

We need to stop offering our school children rewards to do something they don’t want to do.

We need to stop teaching teenage girls how to protect themselves, not accept drinks, and watch what they wear.

We need to teach our teenage boys how to grow up to not be arseholes.

This whole #MeToo campaign has the potential to make a real difference. If we address it, discuss it and really consider how we raise our children, then we will be able to make a dent in their society.

Nobody wants their kids to be the ones recalling these stories in 30 years time. Let’s use this to make a change now.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash