In the news this morning I came across a story about a 22 year old woman who has photographed, named and shamed the drivers of a roofing company that heckled her so badly on her way to work that they left her in tears. She shared the images on Facebook and has been in touch with these mens' employers about what they did.
After reading this story, I did as I always do and wish I didn't, I read the comments on both Twitter and of course the Daily Mail. I was relieved to see that a lot of people have come to this woman's aid, a fair few of them even say they've rung Aqua Roofing themselves to have a go. Which is great and as it should be; Courtney has now even said that following on from a phone call she had with their employer, one of these three men has been sacked and the other two are under investigation.
But what I am totally shocked by, is the amount of people who are still claiming that she is overreacting and attention seeking by doing what she's done. They say it's 'girly', that it's 'banter' and a few of them actually seem to find the whole thing pretty funny. And it's not just men. Women too, of a different generation just cannot seem to see the problem here. This is a conversation that I have with people of my parents' generation regularly, that drives me up the blinking wall, because they, like so many others, are sure that this is a COMPLIMENT. To their minds, those that aren't facing it every day I mean, it is NICE that men are giving you attention, that as girls we should be flattered, that it's just a thing that builders do.
But actually, it isn't nice. It never has been and unfortunately stories like Courtney's are not just common, they're regular as sun rise. I don't remember the last time I walked to work and didn't get heckled at least once. And no, I'm not walking along in latex, or with my 'jugs wobbling' or in skirts so short I could easily 'flash my snatch' in their direction. (Not that it should matter). I walk to work, in October, in as many layers as I can find. As Courtney did. As daughters do. As EVERYONE does. So the claim that we're asking for it by 'dressing up all pretty'? It's void.
What happened to Courtney frightened her so much she burst into tears. Or to put it another way, she was harassed to the extent that she was scared. Wouldn't you if you were on your own and called a 'fucking whore' by three strange men? Does that seem fair? SHOULD that be normal? Not in a world that I want to live in, thanks.
I live on a busy-ish road in London, in between the road and a school. As a result, when I am here during the day, at 3.15 I hear all sorts going on outside the window, and second to the screams of giggling girls, do you know what it is I hear the most? The tooting of horns from passing vans. Of lads having a bit of banter.... with underage girls. Is THAT still funny? When the girls in question are no older than 16? Still banter?
In Laura Bates' Everyday Sexism book she explains what girls, of ALL ages, are facing every day and that is a book that I implore you all to read. Because the day that I read that was the first time that I realised that I did NOT need to sit and take this. That it's not normal to feel threatened before I've even eaten my breakfast. That it's not normal to have men that I don't know grab their bollocks and shove their crotches in my general direction as I walk past. That it's not normal to hurry past men on the street only for them to all stop their conversation and stare at you as you walk past.
It's not a compliment, I can't say it enough. I won't miss it when it's gone, as mum and her peers keep telling me I will. I know, with 100% certainty that the day I can walk to work without the fear of being mentally undressed by however many men up ladders will be a truly good day.
I am really pleased with what Courtney's done and I LOVE that she has had the confidence to not only name and shame the fuckers but to follow through with it. Perhaps next time the knob that lost his job thinks about leering at a girl on her own, he'll stop, hopefully frightened that after hundreds and hundreds of years of being treated like property, women are finally feeling brave enough to fight for the last few mile stones to get us to equality.
PS. The last time I got heckled by a bloke to the point of extreme discomfort, I had just picked up one of Bua's particularly smelly poos so I stopped and asked him nicely if he really thought this was the best time to annoy me. It did shut him up but if I'm honest the confidence for that kind of move only comes about in a blue moon!