Eyes Open

An inevitable part of fatherhood is striving to ensure that your children’s future is a bright one. Today I realised that, without a very substantial change in how the world presently works, my girls have looming out of the future at them fear and upset that they will find it almost impossible to avoid.

I am ashamed to say that this comes as news to me. I know that is easily said, but I really am, at this very moment, gripped with shame.

I follow an account called @everydaysexism which is linked to a site which allows women to submit the own experiences of the sort of sexism they regularly encounter. Today they have focused on casual public sexual harassment. If you want to read the material, search on twitter using the hashtag #shoutingback. At 9 am this morning, had you asked me if women encountered harassment on the street I would have readily acknowledged that they did. Of course, I would have said, some women might, if unlucky, find themselves in uncomfortable situations from time to time. I had no idea.

Half an hour of browsing through the tweets made four things very plain: First, it is a universal experience. The overwhelming weight of testimony was moving, terrifying and eye-opening. Second, it is a frequent thing. Women described harassment as a day to day experience. Third, its nature was of the utmost seriousness. It was not a creepy wink from a passerby but frightening abuse from men in vehicles; men invading personal space at bus stops at night; 13 year old girls being molested on trains; drunken men angry at rejection … Fourth, the effect was profound – many of those tweeting talked about living with fear constantly. Experience had taught them to see men as dangerous. This plain-speaking blog summarises the message in many of the tweets (http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/)

Shame on me that I could have got to my age, surrounded by women I love and have been ignorant of this. Shame on me. This is not the world I want for my daughters. It is not the world I want for anyone. I will do my part. I will not let harassment go unchallenged.

Originally published in 2013