Not All Men – A Creative Response
Not be all men rape, but all women are afraid. The unfortunate truth is that every single one of my friends has had an experience, where we felt –at the very least – uncomfortable, but more often than not unsafe. I can’t walk home alone, but I can’t take a taxi either, if I get an uber at least I’ll have a record of who drove me home, but that does not ensure my well being. A ‘friend’ can walk me home, but how well do you ever know anyone? Taxi drivers expecting payment in sexual favors, and men believing they have a right to fuck you because they got you home ‘safe’, are common occurrences and become brushed off as the norm, because somehow its my fault for ending up alone. Stupid girl. I am polite to men that hit on me, because is he just a bit drunk and friendly or will he hurt me if I’m rude? We live in a constant paradox wherein our safety is in constant threat. It is not all men, but it is all women, and it shouldn’t need to be your mother, sister or lover for you to give a shit.
Two creative responses to the constant threat of sexual assault: A poem by Saskia Anderson ‘Asking For It’ and a fictional speech by Faith Thurnwald following the rape and murder of Sarah Everard titled ‘We Are Angry’.
ASKING FOR IT
You’re sitting on your bed, all alone
Its Saturday morning; the beginning of your weekend
but you think you’ll stay in.
In fact, you’ve been staying in most days now.
Lying warm under your covers
You can remember who you used to be
so vibrant and full of life.
Jumping at any chance to be with people.
Always laughing, always talking.
Believing in the kindness of strangers
and living in a sheltered world.
But that person is gone now.
And she’s been replaced with a lifeless being
a shell of a person
destroyed by her own weakness.
floating without sense of the world around
or perhaps too much sense.
Living in baggy clothes
Watching her frame shrink
becoming more and more in danger
of it’s own fragility.
You can’t remember the last time you were truly awake.
You can only remember feeling tired
Filled with hazy, inexplicable memories of each day that passed.
You don’t do much these days
because being asleep is so much better
than being awake.
Even with the nightmares.
You don’t want to recall anything.
You don’t want to feel what you felt before.
You don’t want to remember what happened.
You spent so much time erasing it from you’re memory
but it’s still there.
It’s underneath the emptiness
It’s in your dreams.
Forcing you to remember
what was said,
what was done
two months ago at your best friend’s nineteenth birthday.
You can remember it all.
The way the air smelt
the way the walls spun.
The way your feet wouldn’t go where you wanted them to
when you tried to run.
You weren’t strong enough
You never thought you’d need to be.
Tears streamed down your face.
He spat at you.
You heard people laughing
You did nothing but lie there
too afraid to speak.
But when you finally did break your silence
there was no relief from the pain.
The police officers
patted you on the back
and pressured you to drop the charges.
Written beneath your statement;
‘Had been drinking. Was wearing revealing attire.’
It’s all your fault.
The look on their faces
‘You’re so foolish’.
Their reaction to your tears
‘You should have known’.
You’re father’s first reaction;
‘Were you teasing him?’
The whispers on the street;
‘She was wearing a short dress’
The rumors from your college
‘I heard she was blind drunk’
The talking of your friends
‘She was wandering alone’
The way you didn’t think first
It’s all your fault.
They said you were asking for it
It’s all your fault.
He couldn’t help himself
it’s all your fault.
Condemned for being weak.
For being stupid.
And now you’re disgusted by the person
they made you believe you were.
You can’t respect yourself
because nobody else ever did.
Once you believed in the kindness of strangers.
But you never lived in a sheltered world.
You only lived in oblivion
of what could happen at any moment.
The world didn’t change
only you did.
They’d always been leering at you
as you walked to get milk at night.
Undressing you with their eyes
stealing your innocence.
They’d always been there
just around the corner.
You’d just never realized.
And these days you only wished that you could find peace
in ignorance again.
But you can’t.
Your world had collapsed in on itself
leaving you detached from mankind itself;
alone and misunderstood.
You couldn’t turn back time.
You couldn’t reverse the damage.
Because you had been raped.
And it was all your fault.
WE ARE ANGRY
We are here today because we are angry, and for good reason. So keep that anger and hold it close in the battles to come. I would rather be the angry feminist than the complicit ‘cool girl’. I would rather live in a world, where the people who are sworn to protect us, are not the ones who inflict such putrid pain and violence. I would rather live in a world where I can walk home without navigating the streetlights like a moth to a flame. But this is not our reality, and that is why we are out today, on the streets of London under threat of a pandemic and in the uncomfortable cold, because this cannot wait. We are out today for Sarah Everard, Brittany Higgins, Grace Tame and countless unnamed victims. Sarah was walking the short distance home, under bright streetlights when she was raped, killed and cut up. Brittany Higgins was unconscious at her place of work in the Parliament House of Australia, when she woke up to her co-worker raping her, just doors from the Prime Minister’s office. Grace Tame was groomed and repeatedly raped by her high school teacher.
When we hear these crimes we become distraught with disgust, and we assume the perpetrator is a depraved and perverted man, hiding in the shadows. This assumption is wrong, and it is dangerous. For these men are not hiding. They are not cowering in the shadows. They are men of privilege and power; they are officers of the law, teachers, and attorney generals. They are men who we entrust with the legislation and enforcement of national law and when they are done with us we end up dead and they go home to their wives.
We are here today because we are angry, and for good reason. We were arrested when we protested the malicious murder of Sarah Everard. The very men who broke Donuts with her killer, pinned us down and cuffed us. With which followed, to add salt to an already seeping wound, a global outcry of ‘not all men’. Whenever we rise up a counterattack of ‘meninism’ or ‘not all men’, seeks to dissuade our voice. There is a war between genders, anger is our Battalion and our weapon of choice is our voice; for we are done hiding in the Barracks. If we are to learn anything from the events that brought me to speak out today, it is that we are not equal. For this war has been raging since Eve was created from Adam’s spare rib and women have been the embodiment of original sin, reaching for the apple ever since. We are still crawling; elbow deep in the mud of violent misogyny. We are still bruised and bleeding from a partner’s love. We are still sweating with the weight of the glass ceiling upon our backs. We are still in the dirt, digging for justice. We are still wading through lurking leers, which follow us like footsteps.
We are here today because every woman I know has a story. Every woman has been made to feel uncomfortable, but more often than not; unsafe. We are not equal until taxi drivers stop asking for payment in the form of sexual favors. We are not equal until we don’t feel the need to clutch our keys. We are not equal until we can put our drink down in a nightclub. We are not equal until the dialogue is not ‘what was she wearing’ but ‘why did he rape her’. We are not equal until the statistics of rape change from one in five women – look around you, who here today will be next? This is our reality and how many more women need to die before it changes?
We are here today because of what happened to Sarah Everard, Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame. For we are not moving forwards but backwards. Every step feminism takes, violent misogyny pulls us back. Before I make the decision to walk home, I will now think of Sarah. Before I make the decision to enter politics, I will now think of Brittany. Before I trust my relationship with a male mentor, I will now think of Grace. We are here today for these women, and countless others, on the streets of London, in the cold – so keep that anger and hold it close, because it is the only thing that will keep you warm in the war to come.