This is a letter to you all; I may not have known your name, but I knew you.
I smiled and waved when you cat-called me on my way home from school. I thought that if I was nice to you, I could be your girlfriend. You see, I’d always been told that ‘finding a man’ was an important and inevitable part of being a grown-up woman.
I knew that I could only be successful if my success was routed in your mans’ [sic] world. I did what I could to get in: science, beer, football. Knowing the same things as you would give me the key to the door of success: proving that a woman could do what you could do was the only way to be worthy.
I behaved as badly towards you as you did towards me and my friends: I objectified and swore, and did what I could to make you look stupid. By being even more crass and lewd than you, I was telling you that abusing me wasn’t worth your hassle.
I thought it was sweet when you were concerned about me when I was out at night without you and you asked me to be home nice and early. I let you protect me from the people you didn’t like and I tried not to be friends with them. When I disagreed with you, I didn’t speak up in case it upset you.
I did learn, too.
I knew that taking my date of birth and home address from the membership database was massively unpleasant, however well-intentioned, and I told you that. When you tried to kiss me at the end of a night out, I reminded you that we weren’t on a date and I didn’t want to kiss you. I told you that you were more at risk of violent crime walking back from mine than I would be walking home on my own.
But I can’t hide from the mistakes I’ve made with you, mans. Those mistakes haven’t hurt me or you, instead they’ve hurt my sisters: sisters who have been scared because you thought that wolf-whistling at children in school uniform was ok; sisters who felt inadequate even though they’re successful in their worlds; sisters who had their hearts broken because you kicked them out rather than disagree with them; sisters who thought that your abuse was their fault because you wouldn’t hear them telling you to leave them alone.
Your behaviour isn’t my fault, I just spent way too long letting you think it was ok.
We’ve all spent way too long letting you think it was ok.
It’s time to step up, mans. Recognise that what you’ve done, however well-intentioned, has frightened and worried us. Recognise that the (sometimes misplaced) fear we have of you is caused by something. Recognise that we have had enough.
And yes, caring, thoughtful, peaceful mans, I mean you, too.