I was 12 when I realised the way I moved through the world was going to be different to that of all the boys I knew.
I was 12 the first time a man yelled out at me “show us ya tits!” I was 12 when I was grabbed and groped by a grown man while I was swimming at the beach. I was 12 when the boy lining up in front of me at the teacher’s desk abruptly swung around and literally “grabbed me by the pussy”.
Since then, like all other women I know, I’ve been catcalled, whistled at, told to “just smile why don’t you?” I’ve been grabbed and groped while I’ve been at the bar, on public transport, or at a party.
I learnt early on how to defuse a situation, how to smile nicely – but not too nicely – at the bloke hassling me on the train, all the while thinking “oh my god, I hope this isn’t going to be the day the horrible thing happens to me”.
And yet, I consider myself LUCKY that I’ve made it 42 years of age without being the victim of a serious sexual assault. I’ve never been raped, never been subjected to domestic violence. And I know how lucky I am, because in this country, women are not always so lucky.
I’ve had friends – as every woman has – who have endured awful sexual assault, or they’ve escaped serious domestic violence situations.
Every woman can say “I know a victim”. Yet, you ask any man if they know a perpetrator and they’re likely to say “no-one I know would do something like that.” Sorry mate, it’s statistically highly likely that you DO know someone who would do something like that.
I’m lucky. But it shouldn’t be just “luck” that gets a woman through to her 40’s without being a victim. It shouldn’t be something to celebrate either – as a country, we’re holding the bar pretty low if I think I’m lucky to have escaped.
Australia needs a serious conversation about toxic masculinity, about entrenched sexism, about how women JUST WANT TO BE BELIEVED AND TAKEN SERIOUSLY.
Honestly, I’m just fed up. Aren’t you?
When courageous women like Australian of the Year, Grace Tame and former Liberal Party staffer Brittany Higgins come forward with their stories, every woman applauds them at the same time as our hearts break for them. Because we know, deep down, it could be – or has been – us. Or our daughters, our sisters, our nieces.
Women are tired of having the system stacked against them. We’re tired of having to tell these stories over and over. We’re tired of seeing perpetrators get away with it. And not just get away with it, but make it to the top tiers of our society.
I have plenty of good men in my life – my Dad, my brothers, my husband, my sons and my nephews. And again, that makes me “lucky”.
Let’s start raising our boys so that every woman is as “lucky” as me. Let’s start raising our boys to look at women as equals, or just as goddam human beings! And let’s teach them that being a feminist is a good thing. Do you believe in equality? Guess what, you’re a feminist. Everyone should be.
It’s almost International Women’s Day and I honestly can’t believe we’re still having these kinds of conversations.
Let’s all – women and men – raise our voices for equality, for change, for the good of everyone in this country.
I’m lucky. But that should be the rule, not the exception.