Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Friday 20 October 2017


when I looked this good I was clearly considered fair game
For the past week or so, many women have used the me too hashtag. I’ve used it myself, as a status update on my FaceBook page.

I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman who hasn’t been cat-called, touched or talked to inappropriately, or generally harassed by men. I know many who have been sexually assaulted or raped.

These women are standing together, and I stand with them. Some men seem shocked by the numbers of their family members, friends and acquaintances who are using this hashtag. It’s as if they just don’t see it. Of course, many of them do see it, they simply see it as a normal part of the society we live in. "Boys will be boys"

I’m not as young as once I was, so I’m not grabbed, touched and catcalled as often as I was in my teens, twenties and thirties. That doesn’t mean that I’m not still made uncomfortable by some men’s behaviour.

I’ve been out and about twice this week. On the first occasion, a man I hardly know, and who hardly knows me, decided that it was OK to discuss phalluses with me. Hmmm… a little odd, not distressing, or even particularly discomforting, but, you know, not a subject I would have chosen to discuss with him

The second time I went out, I needed to take a taxi. Firstly, the driver got out of the car and opened the front passenger door. Oh dear… I said I’d get in the back, opening the rear passenger door myself. Because I was already a little uncertain, I didn’t start a conversation. He did. He paid me a compliment, and I steered the conversation away. When we’d arrived at our destination, the driver got out of the car and opened my door before I had a chance to do it myself. I would normally pay a driver while still in the car; he didn’t give me that choice. He also didn’t open the car door as widely as he might have, so he was standing close as I stepped out, with my bags held firmly in front of me.

As I got out of the car, the driver told me that he’d noticed me walking past his taxi office on a number of occasions. I live on the same street as the office… Not for nothing, he now knows my address.

The driver was in late middle-age, well-presented and probably harmless. He might have thought he was being helpful, companionable or even charming. He really wasn’t. Mostly, he was just being creepy.

I won’t use his company again, and I’ll make sure I’m picked up in a public place, and not at my home. I’ll make the adjustments. I shouldn’t have to.

If silly shit like this happens every time I cross my own threshold, I wonder how truly horrible it must be for my younger, more beautiful sisters, when every text could be a dick-pic and every interaction might be grabby and threatening, or worse.

As a young woman, I mostly shrugged the whole thing off. I wish I’d put more of those young, and honest-to-goodness not so young men in their places, but nice, bright, polite women didn’t do that. We smiled and got away… mostly.

In the end, women aren’t safe around men, and until the good men begin to censure their grubby brothers, we will never be safe around them.

Honestly, if it weren’t for #metoo, I wouldn’t even have registered these two incidents; this stuff is just part of my everyday life.

We cope. We have always coped. We shouldn’t have to.

Neither should it be up to us to be counted. Think about it… How often do we see the headline

                                                     MAN RAPED WOMAN!

That’s right… Never! We take the passive form,

                                                         WOMAN RAPED!

I think there’s a lot to be said for the active form, but the patriarchy is so embedded in our culture and our language that we just don’t think twice about it. We don’t even notice it.

I’ve used the me too hashtag, but why isn't there an equivalent hashtag for men, taking responsibility. Sometimes perfectly decent men make mistakes, get carried away or simply don’t realise what they’re doing. Seeing so many women post the me too hashtag might have had more of an impact if men adopted a hashtag too. #ididthat, maybe.

In a better world, wouldn’t men admit that they’d done something stupid, apologise for it and decide not to make the same mistake again. Some might simply want to admit that they hadn’t censured another man for harassing a woman.

The Daily Star published a still of the incident
I was watching Strictly: It Takes Two the other night, because I’m only human and I do like some crap tv. Ian Waite, who clearly has a longstanding relationship with Zoe Ball, lifted her skirt. They were laughing and chatting and he wanted to demonstrate her leg shape in a dancing demonstration. I was horrified when he lifted her skirt, and, frankly, so was she, but she laughed it off.

The following day, I watched again, and Ian apologised for his inappropriate behaviour. He could have apologised in private, but it was a public act and he apologised in public. I thought it ironic that the incident should happen at the very same time that the me too hashtag was growing. I also wondered whether Auntie Beeb had received a number of calls and e-mails about the incident.

The me too hashtag is great for women, and for our solidarity. It’s time for men to stand up, too, to take responsibility for themselves and for their brothers.

I guess we just have to watch this space, and hope for change.

1 comment:

  1. absolutely agree Auntie :) wb. I have missed your blogs. xx