How do you walk home at night?
‘How do you walk home at night?’ The amount of times I’ve been asked that question still bewilders me.
Growing up in Colombia, a young girl learns how to be wary when stepping out of the house, at any time. But being cautious doesn’t stop them from coming at you, you deal with it, because it is ‘normal’. Because boys will be boys.
I belong to the 63% of young women, 16-24, according to researchers from the Trades Union Congress and the Everyday Sexism Project that have reported sexual harassment. In my opinion, that number is much higher. Because whoever you are, wherever you come from, if you’re a woman, you have experienced sexual harassment. I am you.
Sexual harassment is a condition of being a woman
We’ve been honked at on a run. We’ve been whistled at. We’ve seen men making vulgar gestures at us on the tube during the morning commute. We’ve heard unwanted sexually explicit comments waiting for the bus. We’ve been followed walking home from the tube station. We’ve been grabbed in the bum walking up the club stairs. We’ve been touched sexually by colleagues, or ‘friends’. And through all that, we’ve just wanted to be invisible.
We feel scared. Uncomfortable. Sad. Heartbroken. Dirty. And angry. Because it is not okay. But we don’t dwell on it. We get on with life. We are more than our sexual harassment experiences. And we don’t stay afraid. We keep walking home alone at night. We justify it to ourselves, and others, with little excuses that somehow make it okay. We just become statistics.
It takes a fat rich American movie producer to get caught for it to matter. Never mind the daily harassment of women around the world. Never mind that Tarana Burke, a black young woman started the #MeToo movement over 10 years ago. Never mind that it is a form of unlawful discrimination in the UK under the Equality Act 2010.
The ease a man feels walking home at night, men like Harvey Wienstein, is unknown to me. I’m not saying men don’t get harassed too, but the magnitude of it for women is much greater. Sexual harassment is a condition of being a woman. And my womanhood doesn’t exist as an invitation. I just want to be. Without fear, without pain, without having my guard up every time I walk home alone at night.