Disclaimer: This post discusses gender-based violence namely male violence against women, sexual assault, sexual harassment, femicide, male entrapment of women, pornography, and misogyny/sexism.
Today is Mother’s Day in the UK. A day used to celebrate motherhood and maternal caregivers. On Monday, it was International Women’s Day. A day used to celebrate women throughout the world. Two days dedicated to celebrating the women around the world and in our lives. Two days that have bookended a week of shocking and disturbing that have cemented that we still have a long way to go as women, both transgender and cisgender. (Note: throughout this post, I will use the terms women and girls. However, I am including transgender women, female-presenting people, and cisgender women.)
This week, starting straight away on Monday 8th, the day of International Women’s Day, a male broadcaster, Piers Morgan, from the UK went on live morning TV to brazenly and openly comment and humiliate the current Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle. Overnight, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey was aired in Europe with it being aired on the Monday night in the UK. It received mixed reviews, as you would expect, and Morgan was one of the negative critics. In the interview, Meghan Markle said there were times where she didn’t want to be alive while she and Harry courted, got married, and she engaged in royal public service, as per her new family’s position. This was due to the rampant and pervasive treatment she received at the hands of the media, thick with misogyny and racism. Every little thing she did was scrutinised to the nth degree. She was compared continually to the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, with everything Meghan did falling beyond short according to the British public. It went so far as to somehow blame her love of avocados for human rights abuses, drought, and murder. Not only that, she and her husband said their family were not supportive of them with racist micro-aggressions rife within their interactions. Harry always had a terse relationship with the media, and potentially the royal family, due to their treatment of his own mother, Diana Spencer. So, it’s no wonder he wanted to get his wife and son out of the UK and away from the royal lifestyle. He wanted to save and protect his wife from wife. He wanted to save and protect his family. He wanted his wife to be able to defend herself, whilst also defending her too.
So, when Meghan was given a position to speak freely (to which she was still guarded), she revealed she was contemplating suicide. Enter stage right, Piers Morgan, who decided that Meghan Markle was lying about her suicidal thoughts and ideations. Yes, he went on live TV and said, with his whole chest, that she was lying and attention seeking.
This is harmful beyond words with so many avenues to go down.
One of the biggest dangers of his straight denial is the brigade it brought of people agreeing with him. Here we saw numerous people on social media and mainstream media echoing his statement. She was nuisance. She was a liar. She was attention seeking. She was attention seeking. Words that many people are familiar hearing and experiencing. Because it is commonplace, unfortunately, to doubt the sincerity of someone’s suicidal thoughts and ideations. It is likely that someone will say you’re lying, and you’re only saying it to make people feel bad. I mean, look at false glorifications of suicide as an act of revenge in 13 Reasons Why. People can still stigmatise suicide as a selfish act, and a way to manipulate people. And, in denying the existence of someone’s suicidal thoughts, you are telling them you don’t care about them and that you think they are not worth believing. You are seeing the supposed bad in them that their already suicidal minds have convinced them of. You are helping their suicidal thoughts to justify the reasons to die. You are showing that you are not someone who will be a supportive shoulder to lean on.
But, here is the other reason why this rhetoric spouted by Piers Morgan is dangerous. Piers Morgan is obsessed with Meghan Markle. He was a fan of her during her time as Rachel Zane in Suits. They seemed to be amicable with each other. She was polite and said she was a fan. And then he continued to communicate with her on social media, commenting on her relationship with Prince Harry, tweeting that he was only interested in Pippa Middleton’s wedding to see what Meghan was wearing… He even directly messaged her to ask to meet up for drinks, which she did agree to, and then continued to harangue her by tweeting his hope for an invite to the wedding. He did not get an invite. And then the abuse began…
The perfect example of a man when he does not get the message or handle rejection. You may think ‘but Meghan ghosted him? He was nothing but nice to her!’ Hello, Piers was married at the time, and is still married. Additionally, how many times have you had to grin and bear a social media interaction with a man who won’t leave you alone, and even more so when you pay him the slightest compliment? How many times has a man gone for a drink with you or anywhere with you saying you were only going as friends, so you felt safe in the knowledge that you won’t have to deal with the oncoming hateful rejection from the man? And then the rejection response appears anyway, as they somehow turned the interaction or meeting back around to indicate you had romantic attachments to each other?
This is when the abuse and harassment rears its head. Men become hellbent on the idea of insulting, bullying and trying to ruin a woman emotionally and socially. He was a large part of the campaign against Meghan Markle. To break her down. Because that’s what men like to do to women that have set a boundary and been independent: break her down and try to dominate her.
Meghan literally moved across the ocean to another continent to escape Piers Morgan and the media’s mysogynist and racist agenda. Just for Piers to accuse her of lying about her suicidal ideations and poor mental health from his studio in the UK. His harassment and bullying literally crossed oceans.
Following this odious attitude towards a woman, the news broke on Wednesday that humans remains were found in the search for missing woman, Sarah Everard, with her identity being confirmed a few days later. She has been missing for a week, after vanishing in Clapham, South London. Her body was found in Kent woodlands in a builder’s bag, only identified through her dental records. A man, a police officer, was arrested in connection with her disappearance and has been charged with murder and kidnap of Sarah.
Soon, the discourse of male violence and harassment against women began. Women in their numbers told and retold their experiences with male violence and harassment. Women discussed the things we are told to do to keep safe: hold keys between our fingers, wear bright clothes, walk in the light, walk in busy areas, talk on the phone, walk quickly, don’t wear revealing clothing, walk by CCTV, try not to walk at night, text as soon as possible when you get home… Women thought about times where they were blamed or blamed themselves when they were harassed and assaulted. Women were angry. Women were exhausted. Women were fed up of being scared and feeling trapped.
Another woman had been killed by a man. Another woman now reduced to a statistic; her legacy now shaped by her murder.
And, like clockwork, out came the Not All Men brigade. The Not All Men brigade are mostly a male demographic whose sole purpose is to insert themselves in the conversation and derail the conversation into a discussion around males being the real victim in it all. You’ll often find these men harassing women sharing their horrific experiences with the rhetoric of “not all men are like this” and “stop painting all men as dangerous!” Missing the point by a full marathon. You know, choosing impeccable timing in being devil’s advocate. Why do we need an advocate for the devil anyway?
I, recently, posted inforgraphics, words, and pictures on social media in response to Sarah Everard’s murder like many other women. Within the day, I received two messages from men, one message in response to my response to the first man. The first man, who I had previously unfollowed after he essentially All Lives Mattered an earlier conversation, asked me if I felt women had taken things too far: calling all men rapists, and aligning it to the very real case of Islamophobic generalisations of muslims. He then said it was appalling what happened to women and then in the same breath: people needed to be careful in how they put across their views. I already had a previous discourse with this man months before, as I mentioned, so I was done debating the murder and abuses of minorities and women. I was not going to sit there and debate semantics when a woman had been killed by a man. So, I politely told him to f*ck off and blocked him. I then posted the interaction on my Instagram story, blocking out his name and image to protect his privacy, as a way to show that this is what women are up against when we try to stand up for ourselves. I was then messaged by a man who I had interacted positively with before. He was disappointed in my reaction and thought I should have carried myself better. He then implied that women were creating anxiety in the world with this. He confusingly said that we were ignoring mens’ abuse, stating he had been bullied by other men (while randomly saying he wasn’t drunk or out alone at night – I feel there is victim blaming there? Maybe I’m being prejudiced?) This man seemed to not recognise that he too was a victim of male violence and harassment, and instead chose to check a woman for her very reasonable reaction to a woman’s murder. So, like before, I politely told him to f*ck off and blocked him.
See, this is how the conversation gets derailed, because, in “not all men”-ing the situation, you are forcing women to censor themselves, and focus on entirely the wrong thing. Why is it that women should have to say “not all men” in order to be listened to, taken seriously, and respected? Why is it that we must watch our semantics, our grammar, when talking about male violence against women? We, humans, developed abstract thinking when we moved into the formal operational stage of our child development. You can easily look at a womens’ statement and realise she is not talking about you. You know full well she does not mean all men, but you have chosen to pick this narrative and run with it solely to derail the conversation. You know you are not who she is talking about, so stop it.
It’s not all men, but all women have to go above and beyond to protect ourselves and limit our freedom.
And, adding to this discussion, there is too often “this is a limited number of men” or “this is the same man” or “it only happened to you by one or two men” so to bolster the Not All Men rhetoric. But, here’s the thing: women have grown up around so much harassment and assault that it has taken us years to realise we have. The more the conversation is opened the more we realise “actually, that wasn’t okay what happened to me.” There has been numerous incidents that have happened to me where I knew it felt off, but didn’t do anything about it because I didn’t understand why it felt off and the full extent of it feeling off. From a young age, I have consumed media that pushed the agenda of women should be broken down and stripped back to fix men. We have digested TV tropes that suggest a woman can, and is the only person to change a man. And, usually this man is selfish, nasty, and horrible, and, at the heart of it, treats her terribly while simultaneously telling her she is the only person he can trust and fix him. Thinking of the lyric: I don’t care what you do to them, just be good to me. Usually, these tropes are pushed at pre-teens and teenage girls so we see the so-called bad boy being a generally awful person and then being changed for the better by the girl while she becomes completely drained by him a la Harley Quinn. And, if she gets caught in the firing line, and is abused by him. Well, that’s what she gets for being with a bad boy. And, don’t even get me started on girls being taught we have to not be like other girls to get respect. Or the Nice Guys…
And, as we get older, and as boys get older, we are indoctrinated with the idea that rough sex is the only way to have proper sex, with pornography touting this idea further with dominating women and being in control of their sexuality for them. As a result, a lot of women are put into positions where they have to perform sexual acts where they are actually hurt. Because pornography, heavily controlled by men, does not deal appropriately with consent and limitations. There are lots of ways to engage in both gentler and rougher sex while communicating effectively and not pushing someone over the edge. And women don’t have to literally lie there and take it because it’s what they’ve been made to think is okay.
Therefore, as I read more and more, and listened harder and harder, and reflected longer and longer, the more I realised I, like many other women and girls, have suffered at the hands of male violence and harassment against women, from when I was in primary school up until now. My friends have similar experiences, but I will talk on them in the same level of details, if at all, because it is not my place:
- In primary school, my male teacher separated me from my class and told me I was getting too big for boots, punishing for me by keeping me in for break and lunch time, because I wanted a boy next to me to stop trying to take the unstable and fragile ceiling tile now with a ruler that he was thrown up at it. He bullied several of my girl classmates.
- In drama class, in my first year, my scene partner who was a boy decided to improvise in the presentation and threw me onto a desk, lay practically on top of me, and pressed his face into my face. I was genuinely terrified, and didn’t know what to do. I felt filthy after. To this day, I can still smell his breath. I did everything in my 12 year old power to get him to stay away from me. My female teacher did nothing.
- On a school Paris trip, I was bullied and singled out by two boys for having hair on my underarms. I didn’t understand why they kept asking me to lift my arms, and I would ignore them, before other kids came up to me, asking about my underarms. I cried the whole way up the Eiffel Tower, and then got my friend to help me buy a shaving razor so I could shave my underarms that very evening. One of the boys told another boy in a maths class a year later and the teasing was reignited.
- Boys I became friends with as I got to third and fourth year would crudely refer to my breasts and other girls’ breasts continuously. One boy would hug the girls and unclip their bra, laughing at us as we tried to scramble to clip the bra back up again. One boy would cup our breasts so much to the point we have to keep our arms crossed over our chests in his presence.
- On MSN, a boy I was very good friends with me asked me out and when I declined he began to call me a slut and described very graphic and very untrue images of me having sex with another one of my friends because I had no self respect. I must have been about fourteen or fifteen, and hadn’t even kissed a boy.
- I tried very hard to Not Be Like Other Girls throughout high school
- In my first year of university, I was sexually assaulted.
- One night, after him continually messaging me and me trying to tell him to stop talking to me, the man who sexually assaulted me waited at the top of my stairs in my accommodation. I lived in the basement part of the block. We had a fire exit which could be easily accessed. One of my male friends found the man outside the stairs and instead of telling him to go away, my friend called me a cold hearted bitch.
- I was groped numerous times in nightclub.
- One night, as I walked home from work as I did the closing shift, the safest route I could go, a group of men passed me as they went to a nightclub. I didn’t look at them. After a few minutes, I heard running behind me. One of the men separated himself from his friends and followed me home, deciding he wasn’t going to go to the nightclub despite me practically begging him to leave me alone, and was going to come up to my flat and have sex with me. He did not leave me alone, tried to kiss me outside my door, and forced me to give him my number after he finally got the message that I wanted him to go away (I gave him a fake number.) I managed to get inside the security door before he did. Every day and night for weeks after, I carefully came out my security door in case he was there.
- I worked in a Freshers team at my uni where I helped Freshers to get settled in. One of the perks was getting free admission to the events. I worked alongside a man who decided he liked me, despite me having a boyfriend at the time, and, as a group of us shared a taxi, he got out the taxi at the same time as me and, no matter how hard I tried, he followed me into my flat and the best I could go to do was make sure he slept in the empty bedroom next to me. He wouldn’t leave. He was so drunk and I was scared yet I was worried he wouldn’t be able to get home himself due to how drunk he was I barely slept as every time I heard him stir I thought he was going to come into my room.
- I dated a boy who, in a very busy house party, came up behind me and shoved his hand between my legs and grabbed my crotch in front of some of my girl and boy friends. I had to laugh it off and excuse him for being drunk. He never acknowledged it for all the time we dated. I never brought it up because I put it off as a stupid mistake and embarrassing on my part. I didn’t realise until recently that it was sexual assault.
- That same boy emotionally and verbally abused me, manipulated me, and gaslit me.
- That same boy belittled me.
- That same boy slammed down a wine glass after he made a mistake and I laughed innocently at it and I waited for the wine glass to smash and go across my face.
- That same boy, when I tried to confront him for what he did after I ended things, said I was toxic, and that I made him miserable, and that I was just as much to blame if not more. This made me question whether I had been emotionally and verbally abused for years after. I, now, can’t have a relationship without overanalysing every little interaction. I, now, struggle to voice my opinion in a relationship or dating for fear of upsetting the man.
- That is the first time I have said those things because not many people below, and are still friends and make excuses for him, and see it as an inconvenience to acknowledge or question it. I am still terrified to post this, because of it.
- I was groped in more nightclubs
- I had to wrench a boy’s hand from my friend’s face when he grabbed her face, as she tried to get away from him.
- On Tinder, a boy matched with me to ask if I was a feminist and then launched into a tirade, stating rapists should have their identity protected and then told me I deserved to be raped.
- In my gym, a man came up to speak to me and then proceeded to chat me up. When he asked my age, I told him (I was 24) and he said he thought I was sixteen and then stopped talking to me.
- In another gym, a man stood behind me when I did squats and I didn’t realise he was watching me until my male friend pointed it out.
- I’ve had countless experiences of men stopping to watch me run, make unsolicited comments, and circling me in their bikes and motorbikes.
- I had a taxi driver ask what gym I went to and then say he was surprised he didn’t see “those thighs and arse” there, because he went to the same gym.
Some of these are more violent than others. Some of them had a greater effect than others. There are definitely more of these instances. It took me years to figure out these were wrong and these were harmful and dangerous. It took me a long time to stop blaming myself. Girls and women around me have had to come to terms with their harassment and the male violence against them. We have been conditioned to believe that we have not been harassed and assaulted when we have. We have acclimated to male violence and harassment, as it’s just the way it goes; boys will be boys.
Six women every hour are killed by men across the globe with most of the culprits being men they know. 118 women and girls have been killed in the past year in the UK. Ruth Williams was strangled to death by her partner after he snapped during the first lockdown. Blessing Olusegun was found dead on a beach and her death remains unexplained rather than suspicious. Meghan Markle has been harassed by countless men with her father being one of them. Me Too and Times Up still has responses flooding in. Actors like Jamie Dornan took method acting to a new level by stalking a woman to get a feel for it and then experiencing a dirty yet exciting high. Sarah Everard was, unfortunately, a woman who did all the right things to keep herself safe. And, she was killed by a man who employed to protect the public.
Sarah Everard was 33. Sarah Everard was a graduate of Durham university. Sarah Everard was a marketing executive. Sarah deserves to be remembered. Her killer does not. Say her name, and remember it.
Please donate to #ReclaimTheseStreets Just Giving page where they are raising money for women’s charitable cause.
Sign the petition to make public sexual harassment a criminal offence in the UK.
Check out The Importance of Being Feminist by YWCA Scotland on Spotify and Anchor FM to understand the implications of the Nordic model on sex work.
It’s not all men, but it’s all women.