With time to spare in Aberdeen last weekend, I went to Waterstone’s in search of a good book to accompany my brunch at The Beautiful Mountain, my favourite place for eggs and salmon.
I’ve been a follower of the Everyday Sexism project for a long time now and with the book in a ‘buy one get one half price’ deal, I didn’t think twice about picking up a copy.
If you’re not familiar with the website or twitter feed, it goes like this: women (and men) send in stories of sexism that they’ve encountered. These range from catcalls on the way to work, right up to extreme sexual abuse. Having kept tabs on the project for so long, I thought I was prepared for the book. I was wrong.
I found myself shaking, almost in tears in some parts as memories I’d suppressed or events I’d overlooked came up to the surface. I’ve experienced abuse in my life and it’s very hard to read statistics like “1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence” and know you are that one person.
I’ve started to talk about it more and more with my friends and family- the people I saw every day and had no idea it was happening. It was a long time ago now but it still runs very close to the surface sometimes and I know it will be something I’ll probably be dealing with for the rest of my life. I didn’t know whether to share my experience here but then saw this quote:
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better” – Anne Lamott
So here are my stories.
In primary school, the girls in my class would play football at lunchtime in the pitch next to the boys. The headmaster would sometimes referee the boys’ matches but would refuse to referee ours.
Being told by colleagues (and some family) that I’m going to change my mind about not wanting children.
When I applied for a part-time job in a supermarket whilst at college, I asked for the position in the butchery as I was experienced in handling food and had all my hygiene certificates. I was put on the tills as the HR manager didn’t think there should be women in the butchery. When I eventually fought (and won) to be moved, she did everything she could to stop it.
Being sexually harassed by a temporary manager to the point I was in tears and having my boyfriend at the time tell me I was making a fuss over nothing. Higher management changed my shifts so I didn’t have to work with him any more but he was never confronted despite this behaviour in other stores.
Being grabbed on nights out and having the men laugh in my face when I confront them (to the man who genuinely felt terrible when we spoke and apologised- you are a gem).
A catalogue of physical and mental abuse from a partner, which I realised after reading this book includes coercion into sex with him. Very rarely did I say no to him and got my way- we always had sex anyway. I would sometimes cry quietly throughout or wait until afterwards and cry in the bathroom. I didn’t think anything of it. Occasionally during arguments, he would also sexually assault me and threaten to rape me.
Bumping into an old university friend on a night out. He was very drunk and picked me up with my arms pinned to my side and stuck his tongue in my mouth. I couldn’t move and had to wait for it to be over.
Staying the night with a trusted male friend after a gig. He said I could have his bed and he would have the sofa. He came up during the night and got into bed with me and tried to put his fingers inside me. I managed to fight him off and sat up all night on the sofa, scared he would try it again. I left as soon as it was morning.