real life

"The sickening verbal abuse that woke me up to a sad truth."

Wednesday was International Women’s Day and I didn’t know about it until I woke up in the morning and saw my Instagram feed flooded with people acknowledging the powerfulness and importance of women.

It was a good way to wake up.

The following day I woke up and there was an article in my Facebook feed, one of those ’(Insert random number) reasons why…” This was about the things women do everyday, most of the time subconsciously or as a learned reflex to situations, that men don’t have to worry about.

One of the statements was this, “Staying silent when being verbally harassed out of fear if you fight back it’ll turn violent.” This struck a chord with me because the exact same thing had happened to me the previous Saturday night as I left a nightclub.

As a young female, I’ve never been one to outspokenly declare myself a feminist. I’ve always shied away from the connotations that go along with it – women not wearing bras (even though I do this often out of comfort), slashing men, not shaving armpits – all those stereotypical generalisations which are quite frankly, archaic.

verbal harassment
I felt the familiar feeling of dread in my stomach which happens when walking past a big group of boys. Image via iStock.

I have been lucky enough to have grown up in an environment surrounded by men who love and value women. Both my mum and dad have instilled in me a fieriness that means I am not one to be walked over easily.

My parents have raised my brother to be kind, respectful and gentle, and the way my parents have always treated each other, even throughout being divorced for the majority of my life, have been exemplary models for how we should treat, not only men and women as individuals, but people in our lives.

As I left a nightclub on that Saturday, I was on my way to pick up my boyfriend who had left a party and was on the phone to him as I left. This, as I realise now, was out of protection because as I walked out of the nightclub I could see out of the corner of my eye a group of boys slayed across the walkway a bit further down.

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To get to this nightclub, you have to walk up an alleyway off a main road and I didn’t want to walk down this by myself.  I walked quickly, making sure not to make eye contact with any of them but I was aware of where they were at all times in my peripherals. There were easily 10 of these boys, and I say the word boys because that’s exactly what they were. They were not men, because the men I know do not treat women like this.

What about International MENS day? on Mamamia Out Loud. 

I felt the familiar feeling of dread in my stomach which happens when walking past a big group of boys, something that is innately familiar to me from being a high school student and catching trams home from school, encountering large intimidating groups of boys, sweaty in their school uniform, sometimes calling out to girls out from the windows of the trams.

Walking down the alleyway, that familiar feeling of dread made me pick up the pace more. I was still on the phone to my boyfriend at this point but honestly had no idea what he was saying as all my focus was being acutely aware of the boys’ movements as I tried to ‘act cool’ and stay normal as I responded to the phone.

As if on cue, as soon as I was about 3 meters from them, the verbal spat began:

“Your mum’s hotter than you”

“I bet you, your mum has a better pussy than you”

“You’re not even hot”

“Think you look good in what you’re wearing?”

“Oh my god, look at that ass”

“Why won’t you look at us?”

“She’s scared” (sniggering laughter)

verbal harassment
I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that not speaking up, not saying anything is not. Image via iStock.
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And these were only some of the statements that I caught in the onslaught of yelling that occurred as I walked through them. Some of them I didn’t catch, and some of them, I probably didn’t want to hear. I didn’t feel scared, I didn’t say anything back, and I held my head high as I walked through them but inside I was a fireball of rage. I have never felt that kind of anger, deep in my core. Who did they think were? In what realm of reality did they EVER think behaving that way, speaking that way, would ever, ever be appropriate? It’s not.

I was so torn between walking away and turning back and giving my own onslaught of abuse back. I’m sure these boys had mothers, sisters and cousins - imagine if some group of boys did to them, what they had just done to me?

The ironic thing was that the security guards from the club would have been less then 20 meters away, but they didn't do anything. In their absence of action, they condoned that behaviour. In us not doing anything, we condone that behaviour.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I know that not speaking up, not saying anything is not.

I know if you sat down a group of millennial boys and gave them a questionnaire with scenarios about how to treat women and how not to, many would accurately be able to tell you what is appropriate and what is not. But introduce alcohol and big groups, and that knowledge goes out the window. Women become sex objects that are there to be used. It’s disgusting.

Now, not every single boy is like that. Not every single boy behaves that way. I know that. My father, my brother, my boyfriend, my uncles, my cousins – would never treat women this way. I know that.

A Rare And Extremely Special International Women’s Day Edition on Mamamia Out Loud. 

But enough do, that something is going wrong.

As young girls, it’s OK for us to be feminists. To stand up for ourselves and call people on behaviour that we deem unacceptable.

We shouldn’t have to pick up the pace if we are walking with a male behind us. We shouldn’t have to time when our exercise is going to take place based on the level of the sun. We shouldn’t have to walk with our keys in our hands, just in case.

And I shouldn’t have had to walk down an alleyway, to a waiting Uber to be met with an onslaught of verbal abuse.

I did nothing. But I will never do nothing again.

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