Unless you have been living in a newsless vacuum for the last couple of days you are no doubt aware by now of the seemingly surprising revelation in the Donald Trump campaign trail. Namely the unearthing of a video that reveals Trump, in 2005 discussing the fact that he can do what he likes to women because he is famous. That he doesn't have to control himself, doesn't wait, but simply kisses them or "grabs them by the pussy".
Reassuringly the majority of commentators seem to have accepted that that would be sexual assault. In fact even a significant number of Republican politicians seem to appreciated that fact, and have accepted now what many of us have been aware of for some time. That a Donald Trump presidency would be a danger to their daughters and wives; as well as to the people of colour, Mexican's, Muslims and other minority groups we already knew he was a danger to.
Personally my fear of a Trump win has been growing for some time, alongside my fear of the growing hate across the world. The increase in membership of far right groups, the lack of a co-ordinated effort to help refugees (including abandoned and lone children), the increase in hate crime in the UK itself. But I have to accept that I am at least somewhat removed from the full throttle threat of Trump by the existence of the Atlantic Ocean.
What I am sadly nowhere near as removed from is the existence of Nigel Farage. Apparently the man is like a bad smell that you just can't seem to shift. He keeps coming back. He has supported the Trump campaign throughout, the two seem very pally, and now he has defended Donald's sexist and misogynistic language as simply "alpha-male boasting", as "the kind of thing, if we are being honest, that men do. They sit around and have a drink and they talk like this." If this is true I appreciate his honesty, but I also expect an acknowledgement that we had better do something about it and fast.
Mr Farage, whether I like it or not is a popular man. A man seen inexplicably, as everyday, as a person who says what we are all thinking, who doesn't mince his words. People like his honesty and the fact he doesn't talk like most politicians. This man has a wide influence.
So is he right? Do most men advocate sexual assault, (we have already accepted that is what grabbing somebody "by the pussy" without consent is) in conversation, in locker rooms, pubs or wherever else they may gather without women?
I am not suggesting any naivety on my part, as a 42-year-old woman I have heard conversations like this. I know it happens, but just how common is it?
At a rock festival this year I overheard a man speaking to his peer group. I was in a queue for food and didn't look up to see who the speaker was, but the man in question openly and loudly suggested that he was there "to get some under-age pussy", just, he said, "like every bloke there". Now I can't help thinking if I was one of the blokes in question I might not want to be included in the lighthearted suggestion that I too was at Reading Festival, not for the music and holiday atmosphere, but for the promise of statutory rape. Yet none of this chap's mates made any attempt to correct him.
Obviously it's not the first time I've heard horrible things like this, but the reason I remember it so well is because it isn't something I hear all of the time. Perhaps I am simply not listening, clearly I am not the intended audience. But if you're telling me that it is so common can you not see why women have every right to be both angry and fearful of that fact?
As a woman when I hear a man write off sexual assault as normal I assume he is a danger to me. Had my 14 year old daughter been with me at that festival you can bet your life I would have looked up when I heard what I heard. I would want to take a mental picture of that man's face, to label him as a predator, as somebody who was a danger to my daughter and her friends, as somebody to avoid.
If I hear a man normalise sexual assault, I at least suspect that this is to justify his own behaviour or that of other men he knows. I don't assume all the men in the group who don't speak out or who laugh along are also as dangerous, I cannot judge that, but I wonder if they know that their friend might be. I wonder at how many times they might have watched him shout obscenities at women in the street, how many times he might have manhandled women in bars or clubs, how often they've turned a blind eye to women's protests or ignored their efforts to escape.
What annoys me most about these comments from Nigel Farage is that I know a lot of the people who will agree with him are the same people who are likely to be against feminism. The men and women that do not appreciate that sexism still exists, or accept that anything needs to change. Those who angrily retaliate to the lived experience of #yesallwomen with #notallmen. They appear not to understand or appreciate why women might be angry or feel the need to fight for a better, safer world for themselves or their daughters. These people angrily insist that most men are not a danger and yet when we hear this language used out in the open in this way, they acknowledge that it is commonplace and wonder at our surprise or naivety.
Nigel Farage and Donald Trump are not just any man in any private locker room, they are powerful men of influence who may be able to enforce law and who already influence our culture. When words like this are used and not acknowledged as being dangerous, women are put at greater risk. Risk of assault, of rape, of not being asked for consent and not being heard when they say no.
If you are saying this is commonplace then why do you not understand why we need change? Why are you not angry and fearful for the 50% of society put at risk by this attitude?
You are telling me that more men, not less, are happy to advocate sexually predatory behaviour? If so then you are telling me that my fear of sexual assault and rape all these years is a well founded fear, so why are you so angry and resistant when I share my own experiences and those of ALL of my female friends?
If Mr Farage is to be believed we have a very long way to go. If he is supported in this and heralded still, as a man of the people, then it seems we are getting further away from a society safe for women not closer to it.
It seems you know where we stand Mr Farage, and it is in a dangerous place. So why aren't you fighting for something better? And if you don't intend to then at the very least do not get in our way when we strive for a fairer and safer society where women will not need to be afraid simply because they are women.Suggest a correction