It’s summer. I know this, not just because of the changing of the clocks, the markings in my calendar, or the appearance of blossoms, but because of the entries on the Everyday Sexism Project, my website that collects people’s daily experience with gender imbalance.
The first year it happened, I couldn’t understand the sudden, almost overnight surge in activity and tweets to the project. But when you look more closely at the entries coming in, things quickly become clear. It’s a common phenomenon — what woman hasn’t experienced some form of sexual harassment? — but that doesn’t make it any less disheartening.
I started my website in April 2012 to show how overwhelmingly common incidents of sexism, sexual harassment and assault still are, in spite of the common argument that ‘women are equal now’ and sexism no longer exists. The 60,000 entries that have since flooded in from women all over the world quickly proved how pervasive and severe the problem still is.
What does the change in season mean to you? Many might say a breath of fresh air, walks in the park or even daffodils nodding in the breeze. But for women all over the world, the joys of the season are tempered by wearying frustration as catcalls, harassment and blaring horns go hand-in-hand with the opportunity to spend more time outdoors.
“Two complete strangers to me at lunchtime today: ‘don’t pull your skirt down love, it’s a sunny day, show us your arse’.”
“Walking along a busy road with two female friends, a young man came up and told us to ‘Smile! It’s sunny’”
“Attempted to sit outside this sunny lunch break but got harassed twice in 10 min so I’m spending it indoors at my desk”.
“Walking along the road with my friend on a sunny day, when a man comes towards us leering. As he passes by, he leans in and shouts; ‘Alright ladies, nice day to get naked and be [expletive] the arse isn’t it?’”
“Walking through busy public park at lunchtime. A man on a bike cycles past and says; ‘suck my d**k?’”
It’s a pattern so recognizable, so familiar, that it can be traced across countries and continents, as the nineteen international branches of Everyday Sexism demonstrate.
And it’s happening everywhere.
In the Netherlands:
“I went to the supermarket on a ordinary sunny afternoon, wearing simple clothing. I walked home with a heavy bag and I passed a building. And suddenly I heard behind me ‘zooooo’ (dutch for something like ‘oh helloooooo’ it insinuates approval, in this situation a kind of sexual way). I looked over my shoulder with an angry face, and there stood a guy, probably two or three times as old as me. And I was perplexed! Why should he judge me, is it his duty to give me approval, does he think I need his approval?! I just wanted to go home with my groceries without being judged in a sexist way.”
“Yesterday I went to the hypermarket… Usually when I am outside of a building I put on my headphones and focus on music to not hear any remarks but because I was waiting for news from a friend I was worried about, I did not do it immediately. A man I meet whispers ‘you have beautiful breasts’ – I wanted to vomit, to disappear, I felt dirty for the rest of the day… I wore a simple tank top – neither tight fitting nor low cut – but hey, I really don’t need to clarify that.”
“Every time I go to visit my friend, I know that in the 100 meters from the bus stop to his home I’ll experience comments, or just leering. Be it by young yobs, or older men. The last time it was ‘hot ass’.”
“Today I was lying outside and enjoying the sun before I had to go school. I was lying on a bench, when three boys from my school came walking by and then sat down on the bench beside me… Recently I had been losing some weight and my trousers kept falling down, so I had to keep pulling them up, which one of the boys noticed and then moved behind me and started commenting on my underwear. I then told him that I found him very appalling and then he just started moaning my name. I got very angry and upset, and when I got up to leave then he said ‘Yeah baby, let me see your ass’. I was so upset, because all I wanted was just to relax in the sun…”
“On hols in Cyprus buying oranges, 3 cars individually come to a complete halt just to try and glimpse up friend’s skirt.”
In the United Kingdom:
“It being sunny does not make it okay for you to lean out your car and shout about my ‘nice rack’”.
In the United States:
“After a rough winter I finally got to drive with my car windows down! Sadly, had to roll them up and pretend to be on my phone because I got stuck in rush-hour traffic next to a pick-up truck with two young men who kept shouting into my car:
‘Hey, pretty lady!’ *wolf whistle*
‘Hey! HEY! We’re talking to you good-looking!’
‘This bitch is pretending to be on her phone!’
This went on for fifteen minutes before I was able to access the nearest off-ramp. Added thirty minutes to my drive home.”
And no, it’s not happening to women because they’re ‘asking for it’, or wearing any particular type of clothing — it affects everyone, from schoolgirls to widows, to members of the LGBT community, and happens everywhere, regardless of dress or time of day, as these recent entries show:
“Last week I was walking past a pub with my 6 year old daughter when a man looked at me and said very loudly ‘wow you have huge tits!’ I am a 45 year old woman and have been getting this most of my life but was even more disgusted that he seemed to think it was ok to say that in front of my 6 year old girl.”
“It doesn’t seem to matter what I wear, whether it’s sweats and a hoodie or a short dress. I still get guys shouting at me to ‘suck their d**k’ out of their cars. Do they expect me to run after them screaming, ‘Wait! Come back! I didn’t get to suck it’?”