It was a beautiful day last Tuesday and the surf was pumping. As I hastily wrestled my wetsuit on over my bikini in the carpark I was faced with an all too familiar, yet disturbing encounter.
Some 10 feet away, a middle-aged man began his banter to a group of young guys getting changed. Increasing his volume and directly facing me to ensure that I heard he began: “She looks like she’s struggling. Shall I go and give her a hand. What’d you say fellas, should I go and get a piece of that? Get amongst it?”
Having been in this situation a million times I’m confronted with the same dilemma every time. Do I respond, feeding the antagonist and igniting the potential for more of the same, or do I simply ignore it, feeding a deep-seated shame about my inability to stand up for myself and have a voice?
My frustration mounts as I realise that either way, I’m screwed. I chose the latter, even after he physically tried to block me from walking down the track to the beach with my board. By the time I hit the sand a feeling of despair, anger, sadness and tiredness engulfed me.
This may not seem like a big deal to many but, as a female in this society, a lifetime of this constant battle is just bloody exhausting.
With the appointment of Trump, any hope I might have harboured that we would some day be free of this relentless vilification abandoned me.
With Trump declared the next leader of the Free World, I along with millions, was overwhelmed by emotion. It has taken me a day to make sense of the plethora of confusing feelings.
A wise friend of mine likened the feeling to one of grief. How accurate she was. At first shock, followed by disbelief, bargaining (there must be another way), to anger and topped off with sadness and despair.
What differs amongst us all is what it is we are grieving. For some it’s the loss of financial security. For migrants and minority groups I imagine it’s the loss of security and freedom from fear. For me, it’s the loss of hope that, I, as a female can one day be free from the constant, vile projections and objectifications I deal with daily.
Facebook and Twitter were going berserk with statements from overjoyed men declaring their delight at no longer having to tow the line with their political correctness. The sense of freedom they felt at being liberated in their freedom of speech and behaviour.
If you think for a second that this will not directly affect you, you are wrong.
What adds depth to my sadness is that 50% of Trump’s voters are women. This directly implies that they paid little to no regard to his ongoing derogatory and inappropriate behaviour towards women.
Why? Because we are so accustomed to it that we don’t see the problem. If we do see it and go to the lengths I am right now, we are labelled dramatic man-haters.
To the contrary, I have wonderful men in my world whom I adore. I have sons I have raised to respect women and daughters I have raised to respect themselves. So what does this mean for us?
Children mimic the behaviour of their parents, pulling up at the boundaries imposed by them. Adults and societies at large mimic the behaviours of leaders, pulling up at boundaries implied.
Keeping this in mind, there appears to be no boundary within this new government that is going to keep me or my daughters safe. In the words of Trump himself, men can just “grab my …… and ‘[I] won’t even stop you.” No, I’m not being dramatic. I’m repeating the exact words from the now, most powerful and influential man in the world.
Once again, as women, we are left with two choices. Responding with fear of reprisal and dismissal or staying silent. The latter evokes a subtle but powerful acceptance of this behaviour.
There is, however, a third option. I may have neglected to finish the car park story.
That delightful guy paddled out in to the surf after me and I took great delight in dropping in on his every wave. As the frustration transferred back to him I revelled in my subtle revenge.
Our actions, as women, our strength as women and our unity as women are our greatest asset.
I have always said that the greater the opposition, the harder we fight and the more we strive. With this in mind, it may be time for us to really show what we are made of!