So this post is not about my time on the Frontline, however I feel that this story should be told.
The world we live in:
- Equality of access?
- Protection of rights?
Last night as part of my Year Here Fellowship, the fellows and I met to discuss how we could contribute to the question ‘How might we make low income urban areas safer and more empowering for women and girls?’ This is part of a wider research and design project with Open IDEO an online design platform. The discussion threw up a number stories about the daily harassment that we as women face. Now I know that this is not a new revelation, but it occurred to us all to question where the men were in this discussion? Is it not also about educating men about the way heckling and staring makes women feel? As a result of this we decided to do some research asking our male friends and acquaintances whether they had witnessed sexism, whether they reacted to it and if they would have done anything differently.
The responses I have got have been quite an eye opener and have highlighted for me some key issues that I had some awareness of but that I had not really addressed before. Sexism is embedded in our society. As much as we try to deny it, it is still very much a problem. My male counterparts all admitted that they had encountered sexism in some form, whether in the work place, in a different society or in their daily life. However the thing that stood out for me was that when I questioned further and asked about the objectification of women on a daily basis, such as heckling, staring or honking, they were silent. These things which they have no doubt seen happen just completely passed them by… This suggests some level of normality, that it was so insignificant it didn’t warrant their attention. Even I am guilty of allowing such instances to just pass me by without a second thought.
For them and myself to ignore these injustices suggests something about our society. For all feminism did for women, it still has a long way to go. I am not talking about radical feminism as whilst it has its place I feel it no longer works in this context. It is the education of everyone (not just men) about how the objectification of both sexes makes people feel. I do not like being stared at when I walk down the street, but it is just part of my life so I have to deal with it right?
This post is part of the wider conversation about the position of women in society. In doing my research I felt a sense of hopelessness at the fact that this has become such a normal part of life when it is fundamentally wrong. We must question these encounters as it makes us challenge our societal paradigm. There is no quick fix, but just asking the question is a start.