When I was a teenager, having drank far too much wine, I got into a difficult position with someone that took advantage of me. I didn't know how to handle the situation, through inexperience, through drunkenness and through fear. Afterwards he cried as he couldn't believe he had done the dirty on his girlfriend. His guilt had nothing to do with me but all to do with what could happen in the future and how that could impact him.
A few years later, walking through a packed nightclub someone grabbed my butt. By this time, I had had enough of men taking advantage, rage took over, and I thumped him straight in the face. I was furious. My friends, who were mostly men, rushed over to see what had happened and started apologising to the man in question. Apparently, he was the "kind of man you don't get into a fight with" and was definitely the "kind of man that thought he was allowed, without consequence, to grope women". While I don't advocate hitting people, not one person stood up for me, they all instead smoothed things over and he walked off rubbing his own cheek in disbelief about what I had done.
Yesterday Taylor Swift won a court battle against a man who groped her while having a photograph taken. When she spoke out about it, he lost his job so wanted to sue her for damages. He clearly didn't see the issue with what he had done to her, instead he chose to focus on the repercussions of his actions; what happened to him.
HIS actions. HIS consequences.
But still he blamed her.
What stood out for so many women reading about this case was the great comebacks Taylor gave to every question asked by David Mueller's lawyer. When asked why you cannot see the assault (as this is what it is) in the photo, because her skirt isn't ruffled, she simply replied
"Because my ass is located in the back of my body"
When asked what she felt about what happened to the man since the attack she calmly replied
"I'm not going to allow you or your client to make me feel in any way that this is my fault. Here we are years later, and I'm being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are the product of his decisions - not mine"
She refused to be blamed, to be made to feel guilty, to apologise. Because no woman should apologise for this kind of behaviour or the aftermath that he encounters. She stood up and showed everyone that this is not acceptable.
We are definitely Team Taylor in our house. The sentiment to Shake It Off works so well in many parenting situations; my 7 year old daughter has even told her father, when he was worried about something, that "the haters gonna hate Daddy, so just shake it off".
But this was not a shake it off moment for Taylor, nor for me back then. I don't want my daughter to shake off this kind of behaviour which is now deemed as normal. Yes, it is now normal for women to get groped by men without their consent. Having asked my female friends on Facebook in an anonymous poll, 99% said it had happened to them. On the train, out shopping, in a club.
But not right.
How did it become normal? When did it become normal? Is this learnt behaviour and if so who are they learning it from? Their friends? Where do they learn it from? As parents we focus on telling our daughters that their bodies are their own and no one can touch them without their consent but how many of us tell our sons that they are not to touch? How many parents sit down and discuss consent with their boys? And how many teach their kids to accept the consequences of their actions?
Taylor Swift refused to back down. I, in that nightclub, albeit without the great comebacks, refused to let it go. She wanted to send out a message to women "that they will decide what will be tolerated with their body". I want my children, both my daughter and my son to learn the same.
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