Wednesday, 15 June 2016

This is not about women, this is about us all

I should be editing my 'designing research interviews' section of my methods chapter but instead, I'm sat here reflecting on the monstrosity that is everyday sexism. I had my first real encounter of online trolls and abuse today just because I dared take to twitter with my feminism.

Yesterday I took my car for its MOT, and I encountered what I encounter every single day. In fact, what most of us will encounter every single day, multiple times a day, and the worst part is, is that it brushes over us, like the air we breathe and like the ground we walk on. It has become so normalised that it brushes over us. We become desensitised and unaffected. This just is not OK. I won't even say that the small encounter I experienced that I defined as everyday sexism was a 'small thing' because it wasn't. It was about a small issue (the gear stick on my car) and it was a small conversation (about 30 seconds whilst I was paying the mechanic my MOT bill). But it was not a small thing; it was an incredibly big thing, characterised by structural gendered inequalities and power. This was my issue, and this is why I tweeted. I would argue it isn't exclusively my issue either - I would argue that it is everyone's issue.

I dared take to twitter with my story because I believe in sharing stories. I was not 'asking for it', as a number of these twitter trolls seemed to believe I was doing. Nor was I inviting sexual connotations within the hate tweets and nor was I inviting judgements about my intelligence or worth. Unbelievably, when a woman chooses to write on social media about an issue that is important to her, she is not 'asking for attention’; she is genuinely using her intelligence and her experience to write and communicate, because although they highlight uncomfortable truths, these issues (yes, the issues that are important to women) are actually important. 

Throughout the day, I have lost count of the amount of Twitter notifications I have received. One abusive tweet received 131 likes - and that is just one of them. They are still coming in. I had to charge my phone twice at work, and I wasn't even actively using my phone. This was all down to the tweet I posted last night, stating the following: 

'mechanic: 'well you won't know anything about cars but....'. Well actually I knew everything about my car that you just told me #everydaysexism'. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful to said mechanic for doing my car's MOT. But I was not thankful or receptive to his assumption that because I am a woman, I would not know 'anything' about cars. And no, I truly don't believe that he would have said the same if I were a man. So today, via the portal of twitter, I have been told to get back in the kitchen and pull my knickers up, I have been called an idiot, a tit, a moron, a 'bad' feminist, a bitch, attention seeker, I was asking for it, I lack intelligence... Some even feel pity for this mechanic for having to deal with a 'client like her'. That isn't the worst. The worst are the men who take great pride in tweeting about the things they would like to do to me. I have blocked these ones.

I am fine, but that isn't the point; the point is, is that this is not OK. None of this is OK. Online abuse is never OK, nor was the gendered assumption that I don't know about cars (whether I do or not, is irrelevant. It is the fact that regardless of gender, some know about cars and some don't and some know a bit...) anyway. I digress. 

I’d say that around 95% of said twitter abusers were male. This is not, and never should be about othering males. This shouldn’t be about creating barriers between males and females and it should not be about perpetuating a ‘them and us’ culture. But look at what happens if one feels threatened…. Walls come up, defences come out, and vicious, vile and quite honestly offensive words and sentiments are used, usually against women. Because whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, women do not exist in society in the way that men do. The pay gap does exist, we have additional hurdles to battle through in our careers, we walk home at night with keys clutched between our fingers ‘just in case’, we are subjected to strangers who think we are put on this earth to please them, we sit in job interviews (as I did 6 months ago) and are asked why we are single (and then expected to provide an answer). Gender inequalities are all around us. This is not news. But my point is, is that this is not about me and this is not about women, this is about us all. This is about a cultural change that desperately needs to happen. Goodness help any woman who chooses to use her voice and her intelligence to stand up and speak up, and goodness help the others (usually men) who feel that their masculinity entitles them to belittle the women who challenge their masculinity. But of course it is more than this – it is about the fact that we use gender to categorise each other and judge each other, and importantly, we use those boxes as a measure of our own worth and our own expectations of ourselves and of other people.

It is infamously said that boxes do not keep others out, they fence you in. Today has tested my tolerance. I have been angry, but my eyes have been opened and I am not offended because this is not about just me. This is about us all. What I know is that this needs to change…..