An open letter to men

Harry Weinstein and Terry Richardson are names which have blown up every digital and print platform over the last four weeks. However, where these have dominated the sources we fixate ourselves on every day, the issues they’re bringing to the forefront are actually ones which the average woman faces each and every day.

I’m not bringing this edit to you as a raging feminist. In fact, I probably wouldn’t class myself as a ‘strong’ feminist at all. This isn’t to say I don’t agree in equal rights and opportunities, it’s to say that personally I appreciate male vs female roles. I look forward to being a home maker one day, I believe that the man should always pay for the first date and I intend to take my husbands surname.

Regardless of labels, one thing that dominates I think any woman’s life, especially in a big city such as London, is the prejudice towards women both in business and even simply when walking down the street. The sad thing is that many men don’t even realise they do it; society has quite literally conditioned them into conducting this behaviour.

The first time I experienced prejudice in the workplace was during my first full-time, paid job in London. Working in a small digital agency in Shoreditch, I set up my very first meeting with a top UK news publication. I prepared for this for about a day, practicing my points and generally feeling totally anxious as a newbie to professional life. The meeting went well and by the end of it I felt a beam of pride that I’d smashed it. This beam, however, came crashing down when the client finished the meeting by asking me out on a date. Everything I’d worked for and my sense of pride for converting this meet suddenly became devalued once I began to question if he only reacted positively because he fancied me and had an ulterior motive. What’s worse is that being of a gender that isn’t, as a rule, exposed to this sort of behaviour, he probably had no inclination to how at fault he was and how much it affected me. My very first professional meeting as a 22 year-old woman.

Following on from this role, I worked in-house marketing for a large brand. The team at the time the CEO joined was all female. He was a male CEO cliche. A bit smarmy, wife and kids living in another city, thought he could charm his way through the office. On his first week, he asked me to stay late to finish some work off with him. During this late stint at work with just two of us in the office, he made several discomforting remarks about saving my email image as his desktop picture and made a sexually suggestive comment about the clothes I wear. I was 23 and he knew full well that there was nobody above him I could talk to, or that in fact I would even if I could. He then hired another man underneath him who, every day, persisted to wink at me and make revoltingly sexual comments. On my last day at the company he whispered in my ear that he would ‘f*** me so hard I’d never forget it’. I walked home crying, not because I was upset, but because I felt so totally enraged that another human felt it was OK to speak those words to me, and also at the fact that I simply did nothing.

Aside from professional misconduct and sexual prejudice, any woman in any UK location will tell you that they are heckled on a weekly, if not daily basis. Not being able to walk down the road without feeling a group of men burning their eyes into your back is one of the most discomforting feelings there is. Worse is being grabbed, stroked or having something whispered in your ear, whether in a bar, club or just walking down the street. Last week a man grabbed my bum and I called my boyfriend because I felt unsafe. When my boyfriend answered the phone another man muttered something in my face at which point I lost my cool and began yelling at him, feeling safer with my boyfriends voice on the other side of the phone. The man looked shocked and didn’t respond. He’s probably not used to retaliation, just like I’m unfortunately not used to giving it.

This sort of behaviour happens every single day and where men need to understand that it is happening by them and all around them, women need to stand up and defend themselves to make these people aware that it is not welcomed or acceptable. It’s not just Harry Weinstein and Terry Richardson, it’s a huge proportion of men within any industry in the world.

Female empowerment rant, over and out ✌️

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