Moments of being a woman
Men, please listen as l start at one.
- I was 16 and overheard some male classmates talking. They were asking each other who they wanted to date and were mentioning names. My name was thrown in as a joke. They all burst into peals of laughter and gagged when my looks were mentioned. They talked about the measurements of my breasts, how I wore long skirts and had disgusting acne. And in that moment, I felt beaten.
- I was walking down a suburban street and passed two men. “She’s pretty,” one said to the other. “Come! Come! Come here!” they yelled out. As they whistled and beckoned, I kept my head down and quickened my pace. In that moment, I felt less than human.
- I was walking to my next class at uni and I politely refused to give my number to a guy on the pathway. He proceeded to call me a bitch. A cow. Stuck-up. In that moment, I felt small.
- When I was 20 years old, a young male was talking to me about careers. Around 15 minutes into the conversation, I mentioned that my career was starting strong and I hoped to advance. However, I was disheartened by the lack of pay. “There is no wage gap,” he responded. “The problem is that women don’t try hard enough for their careers.” In that moment, something within me simmered.
- I was sitting in an Uber when the driver asked me if I had just finished work. I said yes. “Women don’t need to work. They just need to cook and clean,” he replied. In that moment, my voice was silenced.
- Trump was just elected and Sydney had felt its ripples. It was a weekend, and I was playing a tabletop game with a few people. One commented on a female NPC. “Grab her by the pussy,” he laughed. Another gave him a hi-5. In that moment, fear crawled under my skin.
- I was trying to explain to someone that as a daughter, I was limited, simply because I’m female. He replied, “stop getting so emotional. You’re just overreacting because women are always so emotional.” In that moment, I saw red.
- I was sitting on a three-seater on the train. I was next to the window and a man was on the edge. My stop arrived and I asked him politely if he could step out and let me exit. He was not a small man, nor was he skinny. There wasn’t enough space for me to exit without touching him. He looked me up and down, then motioned for me to go through. He openly perused my body as I squeezed past. In that moment, my soul shrivelled up.
- I was 14 and sitting on a train. A man sat near me. He then began to masturbate while looking at me. When I looked up and realised what he was doing, he smiled, winked, and slowly waved his penis at me. In that moment, I fought the urge to vomit.
- And there is this one time that still gives me nightmares. There are books I can’t read and movies I can’t stomach because of the memories that begin to creep, then grow and swarm my mind. But I remember the moment afterwards — when I felt no scrubbing would ever be enough. But maybe one day, I might have the courage to speak of it to help others.
I have had men look at me with glazed eyes, lick their lips, try to kiss me, reach for me, attempt to touch me and grope me. I have been called bitch, slut, cunt and cow. I have been labelled power-hungry instead of driven. Rude instead of outspoken. Stubborn instead of strong. Bitch instead of confident.
These are my moments of being a woman. These are my moments of reality. I hope this makes you more than uncomfortable, prompting you to peer inside and decide if you would stand up for the woman next to you on the train, at uni, or on the street. That you would donate to causes dedicated to helping the abused. That you remember how there are countless women with more moments like mine and similar moments like mine… But moments that affect us all the same.
I’ve watched my friends become hollow
“I was so afraid”.
and held fuming ones back.
“He touched her!”.
I’ve begged some to call a helpline
“I… I think I’ve been sexually assaulted”.
and held the hands of those suffering flashbacks.
“I was frozen. Why couldn’t I move?”.
In the end, its been too many times that I’ve sat across friends as they finally whisper what’s chipping away at their souls.
“I shut my eyes and begged whoever was out there for it to end”.
Honestly, sometimes I tire of my gender. I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t need to. But I’m exhausted from being so afraid, feeling anger, and having to explain.
And yet, after building up the courage to share, what do I often see? A gut reaction to defend. That immediately after sharing, there’s a moment that I’m expected to comfort you and say “No, not all men”.
I started at one.
But this list never ends.