I am fairly desensitised as a human being.
I lost most of the feeling in my arse after my epidural. I can cheerfully skull ALL THE VODKA and still engage in semi-reasoned discourse. Since watching all seven and a half thousand episodes of Game of Thrones, I’m fairly certain that if every female customer at Wetherspoons on a Saturday night was topless, I simply wouldn’t notice.
You see… some desensitisation is good. Equally, having a thick skin saves us from all kinds of pickles. It means that we don’t hide under our duvets for a fortnight when the checkout girl asks when the baby’s due (this happened to me recently. I smiled serenely and waved my bottle of Picpoul de Pinet at her, winked and said, “No, darling, I’m just FAT”). Together they make sure that we can run the gauntlet of life without permanently looking like the ‘shock’ or ‘despair’ emojis, and for that I am eternally grateful. I literally do not need any more expression-related wrinkles; they play havoc with the eyeliner.
On the other hand, thickness of skin and desensitisation is a shit-storm of a combo that has allowed a country fucktonne of the most heinous acts to go unreported and unpunished. They lead us to resign ourselves to all sorts of crap and, in the worst-case scenario, tolerate the criminal. They feed entitlement and justify repetition.
You all know what I’m getting at here. But I’m not even going to type his name. He doesn’t deserve the well-worn characters on my sticky, crumb-covered keyboard.
What’s important to ‘Me too’ is that we stop idly accepting the unacceptable.
Rape is rape. End of.
Inappropriate conduct is not confined to the repulsive extremes of public masturbation or flashing. Sexual assault is a spectrum and not always accompanied by physical violence. Domestic abuse isn’t the sum total of bruises and broken bones.
- The cheeky pinch on the arse by the boisterous boy at the bar
- The friend of your Dad who insists on ‘a cuddle’
- The invasion of personal space on the bus, where getting too close is unnecessary
- The open comments on your looks from strangers, whether positive or negative
- The boss who says “let’s discuss your promotion over a glass of wine”
- The partner who stops you from seeing your family
Nor are are they a joke. We don’t need to ‘lighten up’, ‘cheer up’, ‘be grateful’ or believe it’s because we are loved, appreciated or approved of. We need these unsolicited, entitled, power-grabbing, insecure sex offenders to fuck off and leave us alone. That women have not had the voice to say “no” is terrifying and it has become catastrophic. We fear the power these men have over us in every area of our lives. We fear public embarrassment and being seen as ‘difficult’. We fear the potential for fear.
We fear. Daily.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent most of my life being frightened of what might happen if we all suddenly. stopped. co-operating. It could end up in a bravery shit soup, where some of us crack open the Prosecco and high five each other on our collective strength and marvellous cleverness. Others would lose battles, lose face and be fucking devastated. Some women risk losing everything. And some may die. That is no exaggeration of the spectrum of risk, simply by challenging what has always been. Simply by taking ownership of ourselves.
In my privileged world, we are teaching our little daughter that no one has the right to touch her or treat her in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable. We repeat the mantra “If it doesn’t feel right, then it ISN’T right”. But parents aren’t cool and our young and impressionable daughters, who rightly want to find their own way, need a voice to listen to that doesn’t try to plaster them in kisses in front of their friends, proudly turn up to school Halloween discos dressed like Dead Britney Spears or scream “I LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK!” from car windows. We are their fiercest protectors, but we are not the role models they need in that critical and sensitive time when they start to know their own bodies, sexualities and personalities.
This is why Hollywood counts. And YouTubers count. And performers count. And every fucking woman with a fan base and a slew of social media profiles counts. ‘Me too’ is only the beginning. It has to be followed up with bigger, stronger messages. The women of Hollywood, THE most sexualised, criticised, idolised and vilified examples of womanhood in our world, are starting to speak out. They must keep talking. One voice can be loud. Many can be deafening.
Let’s not be desensitised anymore. Let’s shed our thick skins. When women speak out, hand them a fucking megaphone. Amplify their words and so they reach bedrooms, offices, playgrounds, coffee shops, parks, universities, sports centres, shopping centres, taxis, dentists waiting rooms, pub gardens and every other place that women and girls can possibly be – everywhere. I never want my little girl to hide in her room, screaming inside and crying alone because someone abused her the way that Rose McGowan and millions of other young women, myself included, have been abused. She’s growing up and, frankly, that’s quite enough to cope with.