Feminism

I have never discussed feminism on my blog before because that’s not what this blog is really about and I’ve been worried about the backlash from any opinions that I hold about it. So, before I start this post I want to say that you are welcome to audibly disagree with me and comment on my experience but listen to and consider my points of view before you begin any scathing comments. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I will 100% take into account any arguments that come up.

Why have I decided to talk about this now when feminism has been such a hot issue for decades, even hundreds of years? Well, a tweet set me off. A lady was tweeting about mental health in academia and pointing out that suggested quick fixes don’t necessarily work; a whole separate issue that I won’t go into! I clicked to read the whole tread and people’s comments which were very supportive of her points of view.

The comments began with two men agreeing and also offering their own opinion about the issue. This was closely followed by a feisty woman replying with something along the lines of ‘God, I’m so sorry that two men have jumped down your throat with their advice’. This then led to these two men apologising and the owner of the thread having to rectify it all with a statement that they really had no need to apologise to her.

This is my issue with extreme feminists; they find a way to weave a feminist issue into everything they see and this time it led to what I think is sexism towards these men who offered their opinion, making them feel apologetic for no reason. I’m worried about people like this woman and I’ve heard many similar comments about men that shouldn’t have been said; I just don’t want things to get to the point where men have to apologise for their existence because belittling anyone is simply wrong. I’m also worried that some feminists find problems where there aren’t any and if they hadn’t said anything it wouldn’t be a problem. This obviously doesn’t apply to every situation; there are so many examples of situations where feminist principles are absolutely necessary as you will see below!

You may think that this rant comes from someone who has never experienced sexism and this is certainly true in my academic life but I’ve experienced plenty in those summer jobs used to top up my bank account between academic years at university and there is one that sticks in my mind.

I spent one summer working in pub and this opened my eyes to the world of sexism and sexual harassment at work. I won’t say what pub it is because there is no need. Although I’ve spoken about this to my friends and family I’ve never written anything down about it. Here goes.

The environment that I worked in was incredibly male dominated but this wasn’t always a bad thing; the boys who worked in the kitchen were brilliant and they actually kept me positive through many a stressful Sunday shift! Most of them were my age and there was a fantastic level of banter between us sprinkled with a tiny amount of sexism but I felt like I belonged. As I got to know the people who worked there better, I started to see the real personality of two people in particular.

One of the waiters, a thirty- year old man, developed a strange attraction to me and after two weeks of being there he would constantly ask me strange questions like ‘do I make you horny?’ to which my face instantly went red and I struggled to respond. Of course I should have instantly said no but I’d had no experience with this sort of thing before and it had sprung out of nowhere! As the summer progressed, he would demand hugs off me when he was upset and then casually feel my bum after which I pulled away in embarrassment, unsure what to do. I constantly told him to stop doing it but he would ignore me and do it anyway. I soon felt like I was whining and started to sigh every time he did it instead. Sometimes he would mix it up and pretend to tie his shoelace then feel my leg instead. A couple of times he came up behind me in the in the glass wash room and pretended to undo my bra through my shirt. Writing this is almost making me recoil in disgust at the memories. Sometimes he would comment on what I was eating at the pub, reciting the phrase ‘once on the lips, lifetime on the hips’ every time I put my hand in the bag of sweets that one of my duty managers had brought in. I shrugged it off.

At the beginning of the summer, before the waiter had started touching me up, my manager had noticed the way the waiter was talking to me and pulled me aside; ‘if he gets too much then tell me and I’ll have a word with him’ was what he said but I laughed it off and said, ‘oh don’t worry, I can handle it!’

Unfortunately, this statement had less and less meaning and I forgot about this lifeline and soon felt that going to him would be petty or have no effect whatsoever, so I just dealt with it on my own.

Another element of this was the waiter’s dad who worked evenings in the kitchen and here is where it all makes sense. At first I saw his dad as a lovely man who wouldn’t hurt a fly but all that ended when he felt my bum for the first time. Like father, like son. This time though, I had had enough and sternly told him not to do it but again, I was ignored and the kitchen was no longer a safe place from having my bum groped.

At the end of the summer and the end of my final shift, I was sat with everyone and plucked up some courage to say something about the waiter’s behaviour over the last three months. The waiter wasn’t there and I just said, ‘can you make sure that he doesn’t touch up the next waitress as much as me please.’ I know this is a weak and meaningless statement, I should have been berating everyone for their lack of staff discipline but I somehow felt like I was in the wrong for mentioning it and all I got was awkward mumbles.The final straw was my duty manager’s response to my request. She was drunk at the time but together enough to know what she was saying.

‘Well you shouldn’t have let him then should you!’

Jokingly I responded with ‘so deep down I must be a slut then,’

‘You must be.’ Was her serious, haughty response. That was my que to get up and leave, never to return to that pub again.

You might agree with my duty manager and you might not but the reason I stayed so silent about it all and basically let it happen was that I was completely and utterly embarrassed by the situation. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell my parents about it let alone my managers because I imagines that everyone would think I was stupid for not standing up for myself and putting a stop to it. Truth is, I didn’t know how to handle it and at the end of that summer, when I realised what I had allowed to happen, I cried. I was sad about my helplessness, my lack of initiative to do something about it and my stupidity for letting it happen when I should have at least shouted at the waiter and his dad if not slapped them square on. But no matter how much I wished that I was a tough cookie, I knew that I would never have been able to slap them and I’m ashamed at my weak attempts to stop them harassing me.

The silver lining to this story is that I now have more backbone than ever! I don’t stand for any nonsense and I know that I would never let this sort of thing happen again; I’m no longer such a pushover. Admittedly it’s not the most ideal way to learn this lesson but I now know that this is not something to be embarrassed by; it’s something that needs to be talked about and nipped in the bud as quickly as possible! I should have got help.

This long story demonstrates the need for feminism but doesn’t permit men to be belittled. This story is not me saying that all men are alike; the diversity that is often celebrated in women should also be celebrated in men.

I also think that education is the key, in a way I believe that if I’d spoken to the waiter and his dad about how disgusting they were making me feel every time they touched me, they might think twice about doing it. Then again, this might not have made even a shred of difference to my situation and they would probably have carried on regardless despite my visible distress.

Someone once said that everyone should be a feminist and I think this is true, if I had been more of a feminist I wouldn’t have let any of this happen to me and if those two men had been feminists they would have respected me and stayed away. But taking feminism too far is something to watch out for; preaching feminist values in the wrong situation could make people switch off to the issue completely and no one wants that!

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