“#wheniwas 10- I was followed home from school by a strange man multiple times” “#wheniwas 19 we got rape alarms to put on key chains because rape is expected and you should really ‘be prepared’” “#wheniwas 12 I started getting sexual comments from men on a regular basis. By 13 I couldn’t keep count.”
These are some examples of the #wheniwas campaign currently circulating on Twitter. The campaign, started by EverydaySexism, aims to show exactly how common sexual harassment is in modern society. I’ve already written about the position of women in modern society, but now I’m branching out and going for specifics. I’m also not gender specifying. One of the submissions that stuck out to me most was from a boy, but the tweet was so painful I couldn’t include it.
Society has begun to accept sexual harassment as a part of everyday culture. People being catcalled on the street. Men and women being raped, and that being blamed on them. You should take preventative measures. Should I? Or should we teach the generations not to rape, instead of how not to be raped?
Back when I was younger, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t wear that dress without leggings. I didn’t understand why the man on the street was staring at me, or why my mom had to hold my hand when we passed the woman with the camera. I didn’t understand how I was living in a world full of people just like me, and those people couldn’t have the same level of respect for me as I did them.
#wheniwas 4, I saw gender difference for the first time. “You have to do it, because I’m a boy and you must do as I say.”
#wheniwas 6, I witnessed sexual harassment for the first time. “My friend likes you, will you kiss him?” “No, I don’t want to.” “You have to kiss him, everyone will laugh if you don’t.”
#wheniwas 8, I was first acted violently upon because of my refusal to bend to the will of a boy. He punched me in the stomach because my friend wouldn’t kiss him, and then I wouldn’t either.
#wheniwas 10, I was wearing a dress. It was 40 degrees Celsius. I got catcalled in the street.
#wheniwas 12, all the boys laughed at me because I’d never kissed anyone.
#wheniwas 14, they started to tell me something was wrong with me because I didn’t want to do what all the other girls wanted to do. They asked me for nudes and called me names when I said no.
#wheniwas15, he said he was sorry for pushing me. It wouldn’t happen again. He promised. He loved me.
#wheniwas16, he dumped me because I said no too much.
I’m not sharing a life story of sexual harassment. I’m taking a few of many incidents. I could add to it, but that’s not the point of the hashtag. In the past five minutes, I’ve been able to call that many incidents to mind. No person should have ever lived through that amount of pure disrespect.
It’s not just me. I wasn’t provoking them. I didn’t go to discos, I didn’t wear short skirts. I didn’t ask for messages screaming and yelling because I dared to say no. I didn’t ask to be afraid to walk around at 7 in the evening, and I definitely didn’t ask to be afraid to fall in love. Just in case.
Always be careful.
My mom always taught me to be careful. To step back and take what they’re giving because it’s dangerous not to. I’m not doing that any more. I’m not being careful. I’m stepping up against this violation of my right to feel safe and secure. I’m exercising my right to say no, and I’m ridding us of this idea that it’s just something that happens.
Sexual harassment should not be normalised.
#wheniwas 16, I decided it was time to speak up.