Going out for a night out when you’re a parent is a rare treat. When you’re a parent in love with another parent, it’s an even more rare treat, because you have to have two happily babysat children, enough money you’ve not spent on nappies, and enough energy that actually walking outside in the evening doesn’t fill you with horror.
Last night was that such evening.
I won’t lie, I felt good. I don’t get dressed up often, I don’t feel sexy often, but The Boy was very appreciative of how I looked and I felt good. We headed out into the evening, no nappies, Mr Men books or packets of raisins in our bags, and we walked to the restaurant.
“Put some clothes on, you slag” was shouted at me by a man driving past, and suddenly I didn’t feel good anymore. I felt embarassed and ashamed. In that moment I felt old, and awkward, and like I should just go home. Because some vile man felt it was his right to comment on my outfit, because some stupid idiot felt calling me a slag for wearing a short skirt was reasonable behaviour, my confidence plummetted and I felt wretched.
It’s outrageous. It is outrageous that a man who has absolutely no rights to comment on my body, my looks, my outfit or my sexual behaviour felt he had the right to make me feel like that. It is disgusting that a man felt it acceptable to shout abuse at me in public. It’s offensive that I could be called a “slag” for anything at all, let alone walking to dinner with my boyfriend in an outfit I felt good in.
What is perhaps more offensive and horrendous is that it’s not unsual. Ten years ago, when going out at night dancing and drinking wasn’t so unusual for me, I was used to abuse being shouted at me. My friends and I would regularly be called all manner of hideous things by passing men, simply because we dared be women, out in public, wearing clothes we wanted to wear. Abused for just being women.
It is not an over-reaction, though to many men it would be called that. Abuse of women is a sliding scale, starting with being called a slag in the street, and ending in violent rape. The fact that the top of that scale is not only accepted by society in general, but even expected, is an example of why sexual abuse on the whole is so prevelent in our society. Because we don’t say no from the start. We don’t as a society condemn this disgusting attitude immediately. The more we accept, the more we expect, the more it can happen and the worse it can get.
We need to start recognising that verbal abuse is the first step towards physical abuse. That normalising verbal abuse is the first step towards tolerating physical abuse. It is not acceptable. It is not okay. Men can walk around in anything they want without women leaning out car windows and shouting abuse at them, so women should universally be given that same right. We do not accept it anymore.
Words have power. His power that evening was to nearly ruin my night, nearly make me go home, and he made me doubt myself. But he didn’t ruin my evening, I didn’t go home, and I soon felt fine again. My vengeance was that old “living well”. The Boy and I ate dinner, whilst he offered me reassurances and anger on my behalf, then in time I shrugged off my sadness and we headed to town. We went to a bar, we watched live music, we drank, we danced and we met old friends and new people. I felt good again, I had fun again, and that guy didn’t get a chance to ruin my evening again.
“Put some clothes on you slag.”
Men seriously think that is acceptable. They think it’s appropriate. They think it’s funny.
It is not funny. It shows you up to be the immature, sexist, mysoginisting adolescent you clearly are. So next time you’re passing a woman in the street and she is committing the most offensive crime of wearing whatever she damn well chooses try and remember this; we will not stop. We will wear what we want, we will go where we want, we will have sex with who we want, we will be what we want. We will claim the right to do all those things just like you have the right to do all those things, and one day we will be able to do it without abuse, and the path to that day is now. Then it will be you who is made to feel like shit for the choices you make, because my choice to wear a short dress was nowhere near as deserving of abuse as your choice to abuse me.