Stop Street Harassment

Respect our GIRLS.

Take yourself back to your schools years. Ladies amongst you, do you recall having to pull down your skirt because you felt extremely uncomfortable with the glares that you would  received from fully grown men from across the street? Who would have thought that wearing a bog standard grey pleated skirt with 40 denier tights would cause such attraction and attention at the age of, let’s say 14 perhaps?

Today, the BBC released new statistical information published by the children’s charity, Plan International UK in where one third of participants (1,000 girls) expressed that they had experienced  some form of sexual harassment when wearing their school uniform, whilst two thirds of the cohort expressed that they have experienced unwanted sexual attention in public. Let us not forget to mention that girls as young as eight years old have also experienced or witnessed such actions. It baffles the mind that girls of such young age encounter situations like this in their day-to-day lives. The morning commute to school should comprise of girls nattering about their crushes or expressing their hate for their Physics Teacher who set a four page worksheet homework task the night before, not worrying about whether an individual from the opposite sex is gazing up their skirt or slyly observing their curves underneath their garments. Whether it be a 37 year old man or a 15 year old boy, this act of slimy behaviour leaves girls with that lump in the throat feeling, that feeling of disgust and that feeling of almost fear.

With recent scandals regarding sexual harassment breaking the internet; from the #MeToo movement to the women speaking up about their experiences at London Tube Stations, it is fair to say that sexual harassment is not as taboo as it used to be. Way back when, women often kept their mouths shut, they often kept such encounters hidden and often dealt with these recurring issues alone. Speak up and you’re accused of falsely accusing. Speak up and you’re told that “it’s your own fault.” Speak up and eyes roll because you’re not strong enough to ‘just deal with it.’ The act of groping, the act of stroking and the act of simply touching a woman with sexual and intimate intentions and without the consent of the individual is rightly classed as sexual harassment. The act of uttering profane and obscene remarks, again is rightly classed as sexual harassment. Once an individual oversteps the line by making one uncomfortable, this is an act of harassment in itself. Not a day goes by without this becoming a regular occurrence for many women across the UK and worldwide; something that should not exist as a norm but, unfortunately does. It is truly a sad day when children as young as eight year old will speak overtly about suffering this harsh reality that exists.

Whilst many have had the privilege of not encountering the unthinkable, sexual harassment which can lead to sexual assault has played a major role in many young people’s lives. Those who are exposed to the nature of rancid and revolting individuals who are sexually smug from making the vulnerable feel wholly minor, are often those who suffer in the long run. Barriers are raised higher than ever before, trust is lost, emotions are tampered with and all are tarnished with the same brush. Physically, girls are left shaken. Emotionally, girls are left confused. Plan International UK’s recent statistics are perhaps not news to us, we undoubtedly are aware that the sexual harassment of our young exists but, at what point do we intervene and ensure that this type of abuse doesn’t interfere with the development and progress of our children’s lives? We must continue to remind children and women alike that speaking up is the stepping stone to eliminating and eradicating this type of behaviour. We must be active teachers in ensuring that both boys and girls are aware of what acceptable behaviour is and what is not. We must allow any individual the right to express their concerns if they are made to feel unsafe in a society that claims to be safe for all to live in. Because, nobody should experience the emotion of discomfort when carrying out their daily business, whether that is walking to school or visiting the off licence across the store.

For more on Plan International UK’s research, please visit:  https://plan-uk.org/act-for-girls/street-harassment/its-not-ok

We Women

Some of us have been lucky enough to live in the capital we call London. A place where the skyscrapers leave us with a strained neck, whilst the sunset down South Bank produces the prettiest of Instagrammable images.  In other news… 

The #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign initiated by the Mayor of London celebrates the progression of gender equality within the city, it looks to educate and inform inhabitants and travellers from far and wide that the city is a place where revolutionaries collaborated to create change. This change being the right to vote. For women. 2018 celebrates the 100 year anniversary where millions of women were acknowledged for their basic right in expressing their views and political stances. The Representation of the People Act was finally here to give women a chance to use their voice. A chance to be heard. A monumental event generating much cheer, joy and relief amongst the British population. After fighting for years and gaining punishments for their actions, women were given their time to shine. But all of this came at a price, of course. It wouldn’t be politics if exclusion of a particular group didn’t exist, right?

Whilst the piece of legislature changed the face of the electoral, it still had a long way to go. Only women who were 30 years old, owned property, were a member of or married to a member of the Local Government Register or were graduated from university were given the luxury to vote. So, indeed it is fair to state that the beginning of the success was still limited however, ten years later, women regardless of status and those over the age of 21 were granted such a privilege. 1928 was a year of the woman; at last, all “adult” females were now able to act upon their freedom of right to communication by ticking a box for their preferred political party. London was a one stop destination for protests; Trafalgar Square was often a tremendous site to see; women and men gathering in unison to fight for gender equality; which is why department stores such as Harvey Nichols, Harrods and Fortnum & Masons have supported the #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign. Smashing their windows and presenting breathtaking and spine chilling visual displays that portray the true dedication and commitment women expressed a century ago.

There was a true struggle in attaining the same rights as men, from the Matrimonial Act of 1937 to the Equal Pay Act of 1970, females across Britain waited several decades before receiving the rights that they were entitled to. The Equal Pay Act being introduced in the 1970’s can be difficult to grasp; did our grandparents and perhaps even parents really experience this indifference and discrimination? Although April 4th 2018 saw the press deconstructing prolific businesses and their gender pay gap, it is promising to see that these three department stores are supporting the progression and status of women in business. Harvey Nichols’ board members comprise of a female majority, Fortnum & Mason’s management team are 65% women whilst Harrods offers specific business courses for females – to be the boss ass bitches they deserve to be. These are three of many who are striving to ensure that equality exists in the workplace and thanks to these companies, women are left with hope for their future. However, recent magnification of the term equality is now driving debate with regards to considering all types of equality and how businesses need to take factors such as ethnicity and age into consideration, before claiming their establishments are fully promoting the “equal” rhetoric. That’s another topic of discussion for another day.

Here’s to our women.

Freedom of Speech VS Hate Speech

“The free communication of thoughts and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may therefore speak, write, and print freely.”

In an era where social media provides many with the bravery to express their opinion, the audacity to appear as overtly racist/homophobic/sexist and the confidence to demonstrate their passions; freedom of speech has come a long way. Whilst the ability to state our thoughts on particular issues and matters stimulates our ever-growing minds, let us not forget the difference between “freedom of speech” and “hate speech.” As obvious as this is, the freedom of speech of a human being translates to being given the access to communicate our subjective opinions. However, the moment an individual invades a person’s/group’s physical, mental and emotional space in a discriminatory way, this is when freedom of speech becomes a toxic excuse for promoting derogatory and undermining expressions.

2017 saw a historical moment for the UK; 51.9% of those who voted in the EU Referendum made the decision to leave the European Union. Meanwhile, the remaining 48.1% of the voters woke up to what they perceived as a living nightmare. Waking up and performing the ritual of opening social media apps led to coming across tweets such as “now fuck off back to where you came from” accompanied by “we want Britain to be back British.” Try countering such remarks and you’re left with “this is my right to freedom of speech.” Here we have a perfect example of “hate speech,” where keyboard warriors are laughably defending their statements. Justifying them and priding themselves in a right that has been abused by a group of dimwits drinking tinnies whilst gaining entertainment from watching their mirrored lives on The Jeremy Kyle Show. For fuck sake. Not a consideration for the sensitivity of their peers, mind you, the term “sensitivity” comprises of five whole syllables; something this particular group of lager louts are not familiar with.

Of course, not all Brexiteers can be categorised and unified as prejudiced pricks. Long before the referendum, the Facebook page Britain First gained much popularity amongst those who stupidly believe that immigration is the sole reason for the decline of their country. Posts preaching narratives such as “get rid of every Muslim in this country,” published on a platform followed by two million Facebook users; users from far and wide. Whilst Donald Trump retweets a Britain First tweet, the group’s Facebook page reaches a grand total incorporating not only ignorant views of the British but, the Americans too. Once again, for fuck sake. However, luckily for us, Facebook banned the page and its leaders earlier this year because, let’s face it, political views should be expressed without far right fuckwits expressing  horrifyingly grammatically incorrect hate. The two million virtual supporters of Britain First will argue the diminish of their freedom of speech as a result of Facebook’s decision however, many will appreciate the exclusion of a page promoting outright discrimination. A sigh of relief amongst the majority of British people who are continuously let down by the ill-educated, vulgar and backward individuals who present themselves as fearless keyboard warriors.

The freedom to communicate is a concept taken for granted, used and manipulated by groups to create a sense of unity amongst people with similar views. In the form of speaking “fictitious facts,” peers are easily influenced by those who claim their statements are “correct.” Jamali Maddix, a British comedian worthy of a seat in parliament, once stated that Tommy Robinson is the far right’s Nelson Mandela. Mandela being an unforgettable political leader, a revolutionary. Perhaps Tommy Robinson won’t be replacing Theresa May anytime soon however, his courageous character has won him a tremendous tribe of followers who believe in his rhetoric. A group of supporters who engage with his speech, who trust his statements and who empathise with his loathe towards the 50 shades of browns who are obviously benefit stealing scum. His right to freedom of speech has somewhat generated a trend for speaking in the same manner, vocalising hate via a simple sentence is now sadly the norm. Normalisation of discriminating comments has to an extent damaged the privilege of freedom of speech.

Regardless of the documentaries that showcase our exceptionally attentive police force who deal with hate crime, unfortunately, hate speech is an ongoing phenomena. Social media, although a brilliant communicative device for personal and business use, can be a dangerous device that provides a home for discrimination in the form of a 140 character long broadcast.