Not all men

I recently came across this article (in Swedish), in regards to the “not all men” debate, about how men, ordinary Swedish (or other..) men, help themselves to women’s bodies. Somehow, the “right” that men (think they) have to put their hands on women, surpasses the woman’s own rights to her own body. How is that normal? How can anyone think that this is ok, truly, really, ever?

The author of the article, an ordinary Swedish man, talks about this skewed, unjust problem, and tells stories about how this all started in middle school, where boys, ordinary boys, chased girls, put their hands on them, looked down their pants. How it then morphed in adulthood and was translated into more violent sexual assaults and rape. The author saw his friends, co-workers, acquaintances, all ordinary men, help themselves in different ways to women’s bodies, and he thought, foolishly, that he would never, could never, do something like that. Until he did. Cause the problem here is not that the rapists, assailants, grabbers are all monsters that hide during the day and come creeping out of the bushes at night. No, it’s that they are ordinary men, who take a step, or two, or a hundred, too far, who help themselves to something that they have been brought up to think, is rightfully theirs.

The stories he told all sound familiar to me, and I am sure, to all of my female friends, however my, our, point of view is from the other side. I too remember how the ordinary boys in middle school all of a sudden started to grab us girls, how they sometimes playfully, sometimes violently, put their hands on our bodies. How we were just supposed to deal with it, to feel flattered by it, how “boys will be boys” was an ever present echo in the air. I cannot possibly recall all the numerous times that my ass was grabbed by an ordinary boy in school, but I do remember a specific instant: a regular day when I was sitting on a table outside the lunch room, waiting for my friends, and this ordinary boy, one of the cute older boys, came sitting next to me, how we talked, joked, and how he suddenly slipped his hand on my butt, like it was inevitable, normal, something that I should feel good about. And the problem was, that I in one sense did feel good since that was what I was supposed to feel; if the cute boy at school put his hands on you, you were supposed to feel proud, flattered, happy. The question of whether or not you wanted his hands on your body at that particular moment, was not even a question at all. Obviously, whenever he felt that some ass-grabbing was due, that was always the appropriate time. So while I sat there, feeling his hand on my butt, I felt nervously happy, but at the same time, very, very uncomfortable. In my head, I tried to convince myself that it was ok, that it was something good, that I should just shut up and be glad about it, about getting this sort of attention. Cause if I told him off, surely, I would be the biggest dork ever. Right? He would then probably tease me, or even worse: never pay attention to me again. And since my “worth”, my raison d’être was (I was taught) linked to the amount of attention received from the cute ordinary boys at school, I could never say no. Looking back now, I wish I had done something, but while thinking this, I get angry, because no; it was not my responsibility to not get grabbed by him. It was his responsibility to not put his hands on me. It was not my fault then, and it was not my fault years later when snorkeling in Egypt, where a guide decided to conduct me away from the group and put his hands on my breasts inside my bikini. It was not my fault any of the numerous times while out dancing with my friends when  someone came and touched me from behind. It was not my fault when I was grabbed on the tram. It was never my fault when some ordinary man put his hands on me without my consent. It’s their fault, always.

And like the author in the article argued: this is such a regular, normal, ordinary thing that happens to everyone, and if you cannot count at least 10 women who have been sexually assaulted in some way, and 10 men who have assaulted a woman, that is because they have not told you about it. It is not because it does not exist in your immediate circle of friends, family, co-workers, acquaintances, it is not because the ones who do that are monsters in hiding, or because “not all men” do that. All men, ordinary men, are capable of doing that, even the nicest ones, even the ones who “would never”. That is why the “not all men” argument has to die out. It has to be buried and forgotten so we can move forward and deal with the issue at hand, the norms that teaches ordinary men that they have the right to women’s bodies, that they may put their hands wherever they want, whenever they want.

This is a man’s issue, a woman’s issue, a human issue, everyone is involved, in some way or another, even those who de facto do not put their hands where they do not belong, if you are silently letting that happen around you, it makes you culpable too.

All men, ordinary men; it’s time to take a stand.

One in Five

Some time ago I stumbled upon this video on Upworthy and I’ve been meaning to discuss it since, so here goes:

I guess this post is kind of a sequel to another one I wrote some time ago (Choices), but this issue really can’t be repeated enough..

When I first saw the video I found it hilarious, probably because I think most of the actors in it are very funny, and the whole situation they are facing is so ridiculous.

But you know, it’s not gonna eat all of us, it only eats like one in five, so..

However, the matter they are trying to spread awareness about is indeed not funny, not at all. It’s sick. And I find the whole issue so unbelievable; how can it not be obvious by this point in time that sexual assault and rape is unacceptable? How can this STILL be an issue? What the fuck is wrong with people?! When will everyone understand what consent means, and the importance of respecting it? It really is not that difficult, or, it shouldn’t be that difficult, but apparently, some people just do not seem to get it..

You guys know the old saying: “Bears will be bears”

In connection with this issue, I was happy to recently read about a news story regarding a Swedish lawyer who asked an accused rapist in court to describe his underwear. When the court asked about the relevance in this, she rebutted with: “It has the same amount of relevance as the thongs my client was wearing.” Her point being that it does not matter what the hell a woman choses to wear, a rape is not based on clothes, it is based on the rapist and we should all stop with the blaming and shaming of the victims because it is not their fault. The only one to blame for a rape is the rapist. I don’t care if a woman walks around buck naked, no one has the right to put a finger on her because of that. I don’t care if a woman flirts with a guy in a bar, that is still not a damn invitation for rape. And I don’t care if a woman said yes at some point and then before the “crucial moment” changed her mind to no. That No is still valid, we all have the right to change our damn minds however way we please and whenever we please. Really, consent is not that difficult to comprehend and also to respect; it is the difference between a yes and a no. Now if everyone could just get that into their thick skulls we could all move forward and focus on other issues. But until then, I am glad that there are people who make videos and speak up about this and shed a new light on it, cause this is a serious issue, it is a violent crime, and it should concern us all. One in five. That means that everyone most likely has or knows someone who has been, or will be, sexuality assaulted or raped. How can we all collectively accept this? The short answer is: we can’t.

Just pretending it’s not there will never make it go away.

No touching

I was on my way home the other night, riding a fully packed tram, standing by the doors, when three guys got onboard. Since there was no way to get further inside the tram they stood next to me by the doors. The tram left the station and as it accelerated one of the guys who didn’t have anything to hold onto bumped into me. Fine, whatever, it happens. He regained his footing, I gave him an “Ok no worries” smile, he winked at me, and then I turned my head back facing the doors and kept listening to the music blasting in my headphones. That would have been just fine, just one of those small unimportant incidents in your life, but the story did not end there. A few seconds after me turning my head back, the guy started putting his hands on and around my waist, grabbing a hold of me. For a split second when I first felt his hand land on me I thought he had lost his balance again, but I very soon noticed that this was not the case. He just took the liberty of grabbing me by the waist, holding on to me. I immediately tried prying his hands off me, and he tried incessantly to keep them there. After some very uncomfortable seconds I got him off me, with some help from his two friends who were there all along, looking, half-laughing. I then moved my headphones off one of my ears and gave one of his friends a look that said: “If this guy does not stop right now there will be hell to pay.” The guy must have understood it since he then got hold of his friend and pulled him slightly away from me. The rest of the journey home I felt uneasy, getting more and more infuriated, and I kept noticing that they were looking at me, finding it all funny. I was angry, but not only that. I was also afraid. The thoughts circling through my mind; what if they get off at the same station as I? What if they keep bothering me? What if they follow me home? What if.. I don’t even want to go there..

Nothing more happened that night, I got off at my station, they stayed on the tram, still, I walked faster than ever, glancing backwards until I was safe inside my apartment. Is this the way it is supposed to be? Should girls and women have to be this scared walking home alone? Should they have to be assaulted just by riding a tram? Of course it could have been worse, of course some may say: Oh come on he just grabbed you by the waist what’s the big deal?! Well this is the big deal: It’s my waist, my body, and my rules. I did not ask nor did I wish to be touched or grabbed like that, not by him, not by anyone. Neither I, nor anybody else, should have to be touched or grabbed by anyone if they don’t want to. Nobody should put their hands like that on anyone unless they have consent.

This was not the first, or the worst, time a boy, guy or man put his hands on me, without my permission, and it will most likely, unfortunately, not be the last. Just knowing this, makes me feel sick to my stomach. When will this type of behaviour die out? When will it actually become unacceptable, unimaginable, for guys to put their hands on girls willy-nilly? Will it ever happen? I want to say yes, but my gut says no.

At least now I know better than to let them, but growing up, this was not the case. In school, through 1st to about 8-9th grade, us girls, me included, not just accepted guys touching us whenever they felt like it, but it was also more or less encouraged. I grew up thinking something like: “If a boy touches me (inappropriately) then that means that he likes me, or at least thinks I’m cute, and that is what’s important, so even if I don’t feel like being touched right there and then, I should accept and enjoy it, cause us girls are supposed to be touched by boys.” Basically, our self-worth could pretty much be measured by the amount of times some boy grabbed or pinched our behinds. This however, did not work the other way around, it was always: Boys touching, Girls being touched, i.e. Boys = Subject, Girls = Object. Thinking back, I understand why I, and other girls had this type of reasoning, because this is how we, all of us, girls and boys, were brought up. This is what our culture, religion and society has ingrained in us. It’s a disease really, and it should be dealt with as such. I wish there was an easy fix, a smart little pill you can take to make it all change, but it does not work like that. Norms and behaviour take time and effort to alternate; it takes time to learn that you can and should say no when you don’t want someone touching you, it takes time to learn that you are not for anyone else, it takes time to learn how to look but not touch, it takes time and experience to understand the difference between a subject and an object, and to further grasp that you, as a person, are always the first of the two, no matter what gender you subscribe to.

Now I know better, I know that I am not a passive object like the majority of women displayed in the media and ads. I own my own body, I have my own rules regarding it, I am not mute, I am not inanimate, I am not here for your amusement or pleasure, I do not give you permission to touch me whenever or wherever you want.

And if you disobey my rules, there will be hell to pay.