On July 27, ‘It Happens Here Newcastle’ announced a call out on their Instagram page for students, citizens and residents to take part in a local campaign against misogyny. The campaign aims to make misogyny a hate crime in Newcastle Upon Tyne, holding perpetrators accountable for their harmful actions and in some cases face prosecution.
The campaign will begin interviews between August 1st and 5th, inviting any individuals willing to answer questions about their lived experiences in the city – such as catcalling, groping, and stalking among many more. These will then be used in a video which is to be sent with an open letter to the City Council requesting misogyny is made a hate crime here in Newcastle.
So, what exactly is misogyny, and why is this campaign such an important stepping stone to battling it?
Misogyny – ‘dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice of women’Definition by Oxford Languages
The above definition pops up instantly on my laptop, yet seems a far cry from what you will find so many women experience on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. The truth is, misogyny is not always a dislike of women. Misogyny can show up in a way of greed for men who feel that their attraction for women invites them to display it in the most crude ways possible.
Approaching the ‘prejudice’ and ‘dislike’ mentioned in this definition, you will see misogyny showing up within inequalities such as the gender pay gap. Or perhaps, looking back on the 20th century, through preventing women from engaging in activities such as running a marathon. Yes, you really just read that. In fact, American runner Kathrine Switzer was the first woman to take part in the Boston marathon in 1967. However, this resulted in a ban of women competing in marathons against men after Switzer was almost pushed off the track by a male competitor. Women were then unable to participate until 1972.
Aside from politically ingrained examples as these, misogyny appears to dress up and present itself through every aspect of women’s life to this day. And perhaps most significantly for many, this comes in the form of unwanted sexualisation within our every day lives. The following are reasons I believe this campaign is one that needs to achieve it’s goal not only in this city but everywhere.
I don’t think I know one woman who hasn’t been victim to at least some form of unwanted sexual groping of the body in their life
It saddens me to say that misogyny is something which has always accompanied me throughout my teen years. At almost 21, only the other day did my friends and I experience a catcall in the student housing area of Jesmond. An experience which I wish I could say hasn’t become a part of what I have always seen as ‘normal’ over the past 10 years. An experience that makes your body tense up, casts your eyes to the floor, yet which also is to be expected as you carefully think about how you dress in the morning or evening.
Although, the whole ‘cover up then’ line is a simple way of silencing those who experience catcalling, which I can prove from the fact all items of clothing worn by my friends and I covered our skin – God forbid perpetrators see bare skin and have no choice but to voice their desire for it.
I’m glad to say one of my friends spun and stuck her finger up at the moving van, but also sad to say that this is the only defense women have currently. Only three days later was I walking along alone to have another car drive by, beep and jeer at me before I repeated the gesture my friend gave and took back a little of that power that jumps out of your skin each time it happens.
Even if it’s in the street, sometimes if you don’t respond you might have abusive slurs hurled at you for not appreciating their comments and stroking their ego. Is it sad that I tense up in expectation of a catcall when I hear a car with thumping music drive by me these days? Because I do.
On the arguably more unnerving matter, I don’t think I know one woman who hasn’t been victim to at least some form of unwanted sexual groping of the body in their life. Multiple nights out can consist of being grabbed inappropriately by men who think they are allowed to touch your body and who’s mates blame it on how much alcohol they all consumed at pres.
‘He’s just really drunk sorry’
‘He didn’t even touch you’
‘Sorry sorry, accident’
If it’s only paranoia, then how come so many girls share these experiences? How come we are taught to be more paranoid than normal in order to actually survive?
For a woman out in the city, make sure to be cautious of those who will feel the invite to slap your behind as you dance with your friends, older men to lurk in the corner of the bar slurring about how pretty you are as they run their eyes up and down your body, a brush of a hand over a breast or behind as you wait to buy a drink, and on your way home make sure you have a group to walk with or a male friend to protect you.
If you walk alone you’ll have to glance over your shoulder every 5 seconds to make sure you become aware of the person following you, or have to walk past a pub overflowing with men on their tenth pint who might decide to shout about how tight your dress is in between whistles.
I’ve heard people say to my friends and I, ‘you’re overthinking it’, ‘nah, I’m sure he didn’t mean it’, ‘I mean, you were wearing that outfit to be fair what did you expect’. All of which were in response to acts of groping, catcalling, and being suspicious of having been followed through town. If it’s only paranoia, then how come so many girls share these experiences? How come we are taught to be more paranoid than normal in order to actually survive? Many of us will be luckier in having experienced only light forms of such behaviour.
It’s like saying it’s a compliment to have a gender pay gap. That is how absurd it sounds to be told to appreciate these experiences
I say ‘luckier’ because it isn’t lucky at all to have these things happen to you. Some will say for you to take it as a compliment that you are ‘pretty enough’ or ‘sexy enough’ to receive attention from males you don’t know. That is like saying it’s a compliment to have a gender pay gap. That is how absurd it sounds to be told to appreciate these experiences.
These behaviors are the unwanted side-effect of simply being a woman, like drinking and having a hangover, we drink to have a good time and are willing to accept the next day we will feel rough. In the same way we dress to feel good, we know – and are told to accept – that ‘boys will be boys,’ in how they react to us. How much does it take then, until boys being boys turns into more violent acts of sexual assault, stalking, and rape?
If you’ve read the above – skim-read, read the first line and only one paragraph, or flicked to the end – I don’t care as long as you see how important this campaign is for Newcastle. Boys being boys can eventually turn into another woman’s life being destroyed. And even if it never reaches that point, misogynistic behavior and systems are chipping away at women’s lives daily. For now we might be stuck with just holding our fingers up at drive by cat callers, but maybe soon we can hold perpetrators of all misogynistic behavior accountable in Newcastle and elsewhere. For good.
To get involved with the campaign and find out more info go to their Facebook page here.
A recommended read : Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given.
Last modified: 28th July 2020