There have been many discussions recently about the fear for their physical safety that women feel a lot of the time.
Whilst all women know exactly what that feeling is, there seem to be some men who are struggling to accept that this is how we feel.
Despite us actually telling them that this exactly how we feel.
We know that statistically, it’s not very likely that we will be attacked on our way home, but we also know that it does happen, and the risk is there.
It’s a worry.
We check our route. We plan our journey.
We wonder what we have in our handbag that we could use to defend ourselves? Which shoes should we wear? Can we walk fast enough in the ones we have chosen? We prepare ourselves. Keys in one hand. Gripping our phone with white knuckles with the other. We are ‘on alert’ the whole way home. Or we avoid going out alone when it’s dark, so we don’t have to worry about any of this.
Why are we so worried?
I was thinking about this recently and thought ‘well, yes, there’s definitely a couple of occasions when I have felt at risk’. But then the more I thought about it, the more I realised that this is something I have experienced on numerous occasions throughout my life. It is something that is part of my life.
It started at school, around puberty, with boys who thought it was funny to grab the girls; on the bottom or breast and then boast about it with their mates. Congratulating each other on how brave they were. I’ve been groped on a crowded bus on my way home from school.
My mother was followed home from a friend’s house when she was a teenager and attacked by a man. He pinned her to the floor and tried to assault her but luckily, she shouted loudly enough for someone to hear her and they chased him away.
I know of three friends that have been raped. One on a date, one by a family member and one a number of times by a group of young men she didn’t know.
These are extreme examples, and we know they are rare (although they aren’t appearing to be all that rare, are they?). How many of my friends have experiences that I don’t know about because they don’t feel able to share them? I do wonder about that and fear the number may be higher than it is.
My life in pharmacy
When I started work as a professional person, you might think that these experiences ended, but they didn’t. I’ve worked as a pharmacist for over 23 years now and during that time have been exposed to multiple examples of inappropriate sexual comments and behaviour.
There was a Doctor who used to call in regularly and make suggestive comments. One year he wished us all Happy New Year but then cornered me away from the other staff and whispered that he’d wish me Happy New Year properly if we were alone. No thank you.
How many times have I had to listen to men making suggestive remarks about me to the staff when following me into the consultation room?
Too many to count. It’s just banter, though….
The issue with this kind of banter is that there is a power imbalance. The man making those remarks usually has a greater physical size and strength than the woman he’s making them to and whilst I’m sure he has absolutely no intention of doing anything about the comments, the woman is very aware that if he did, she would not be able to stop him. It reminds us of all the times we have been groped without our consent and all of the uncomfortable situations we have experienced in the past. We are at a disadvantage. We are vulnerable and we are acutely aware of that.
Lewd comments are not banter. They are intimidation. They are not flattering, they are threatening.
Of course, not all men are like this, there are some truly wonderful ones out there, but just ask the women around you to share their past experiences and you will struggle to find a woman who has not had a negative experience of some sort. I challenge you to find a woman who has never experienced that feeling of unease and fear for their safety. Show me a woman who has never felt uncomfortable because of how a man has treated her. I hope there are some out there, but I fear you will be searching for a long time.
Seriously though. Ask them.
Amanda Smith is a pharmacy manager working in England.
If you would like to share your experiences please do get in touch below.