When I decided to wear nail varnish to say both I support women and I utterly condemn rape in any form I wasn’t aware of what was going to be brought up for me.
When I went to have a steam and swim yesterday I felt very exposed as all I had on was shorts and nail polish. Bright red nail polish. I felt uncomfortable with some of the looks I got and energy coming my way. I combatted this internally by acknowledging that I am standing up and being counted for something I believe in deeply. The safety and respect of women.
The looks directed at me took me to a place of wondering. I allowed myself to go deep inside, to open my channels to explore what it was like for women to have covetous looks directed at them and a vision of a gang rape came to me and I felt the terror of the victim. There was more than terror as I felt a helplessness. And tuning into the men I felt a cruel triumph and utter dehumanising of the victim. And I realised this goes on every day. Women become objects. Men lose their masculinity in a rage filled attempt to be men.
Later two young women are talking amongst themselves, one saying that on an occasion when there had been so much steam when she came in she stumbled over a man a lot older than her she hadn’t seen. He took her hand to steady her. Then continued to hold it for a minute after she had sat down. What disturbed me as much as this violation of her safety is when I said I was sorry this had happened to her she really wasn’t able to say it wasn’t ok. Holding a young woman’s hand uninvited when she’s in a swimsuit is harassment.
This all makes me very sad and angry. And confused. Confused because I truly believe that women have the right to be safe, to not be harassed, to not be objectified. Yet I know the legacy of my childhood still lives in me. A legacy that was born in a brothel.
From the age of 8-14/15 my father owned a massage parlour. It was a brothel. Apparently full sex wasn’t allowed which makes it an ok business according to my father and therefore not a brothel. Sure, and pizza isn’t pizza because you use cheddar. What it taught me is women were there for my pleasure and to do as I said. Not true. In my family women aren’t respected unless they’re entertaining, beautiful and making home- and that’s not respect. So I carry some issues. I do struggle with objectifying women, expecting women to answer my every need, to make me feel better. But I struggle with this and don’t act it out. And sometimes I don’t even know what the ‘rules’ are. Is looking ok, glancing at a woman I find attractive ok? I know ogling isn’t. I know rape isn’t. I know sexual harassment isn’t.
I know that my statement hasn’t made much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Make that negligible. But it has brought to me a wish to do more to bring this issue into the male consciousness.
A girlfriend once quoted to me, by who I can’t remember, and this may not be verbatim…
There isn’t a woman alive who hears footsteps in the dark and isn’t afraid.
I can’t change this. I’m not in the public eye to get a great campaign going. But I am willing to speak up where I can, when I can. And maybe, just maybe, a few more men will realise what their footsteps can evoke.