(Content warning: Discusses gendered violence, sexual assault and harassment, though doesn’t go into detail on the Sarah Everard case or any other)
This week has been five thousand years long.
The pressure on women to relive their worst experiences publicly – when we’ve had this same conversation so many times and nothing changes – or others might think you don’t care. Failing to live up to my own “strong woman” expectations, because this week I couldn’t handle it. Reading about all the precautions that all women apparently take, feeling guilty for not doing so, ironically feeling like it would therefore be my fault if anyone took advantage. And when did this become about men falling over themselves to reassure everyone they’re one of the good ones, handy tips about crossing the road to look less intimidating, rather than about accountability for men – and indeed police – who kill?
There’s so much I’ve wanted to say but couldn’t. I want to say that many women follow all the rules about “women’s safety” to extremes – don’t drink, don’t go out, live in T-shirts and jeans – and get assaulted by their own partners anyway. I want to say that if I couldn’t run in the dark early mornings with headphones I’d never leave the house, if I had to cover up in summer I’d never leave the house, many disabled women can’t take all possible safety precautions but we’re here and we deserve safety too. I want to say that it isn’t just about strangers in the street – in many cases, the offender is known to the victim. It’s some of those same “one of the good ones” men who still feel entitled to their desires, for whom basic politeness seems to be taken as sexual consent but lack thereof is taken as provocation for violence. Men who treat women’s fear and anger as a joke. A culture that thinks it’s okay to pressure women (and everyone else) into sex but also into drinking, into nights out, into hugs – you name it, it’s probably considered rude to say no, and acceptable to take advantage of the fear of saying no.
I want to say that autistic women are taught to distrust our instincts, please others, never say no because that would be against the rules – but if men in our communities cross a line, to let it slide again and again because you never know, they might not understand. (You’d think the solution would be “develop sex education that meets the needs of autistic people”, but why do that when you can just put the entire burden on women who by definition struggle with social communication?) I want to say that I literally just tweeted about this on Monday, can I not just share that again instead?
It comes so soon after the highest-profile coverage of racism, misogyny and suicidality you could possibly imagine, which will have been difficult for many. Turns out Piers Morgan’s vendetta against Meghan Markle started with not being invited for a second drink. We ask why women don’t say no, when saying no could cost you your life, literally or figuratively. More importantly on my end, it’s coincided with difficult family stuff which probably isn’t for the internet yet. We have lives outside of social media, lives others couldn’t possibly know about.
I usually find International Women’s Day uplifting – but instead, in the pandemic, it felt more like pressure to have something to say, to be confident and outspoken and strong when that’s not how I feel, to have hard conversations on social media knowing it won’t have much practical impact. World Autism Awareness/Acceptance/Discourse Month is usually a little bit like that, so who knows how that’s going to feel – but that’s for another blog!
It’s a lot, all at once, in a time that was already A Lot. The stream of women re-traumatising themselves on social media feeds is brutal, but online is the only social thing that exists right now, and the offline world is also brutal. Technically, I might have written a blog or two here. But to do that, I had to step back for a few days first. And some voices will continue to go unheard, because everything is so much.
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