Not infrequently have I banged on about the potential power of social networking as a force for do-goodery. Not infrequently have I banged on about the tedium of social networking in the hands of most of its users. Conflicted as I am I’m finally a big fan of Twitter, having introduced a blanket ban on friends who might want to tell the world about their old washing machines, their new washing machines or their tedious marriages. Limiting my follows to political types, right ons, social workers and general contrarians, I have a feed of wishy-washy, liberally, pinko-commie news, ideas and arguments.
There are some cracking accounts for doers of good. NoMorePage3, obviously, although to date there remains the same amount of Page 3s as there always has been (one). YesYou’reRacist, YesYou’reGaycist and YepYou’reSexist are essential public service feeds calling out racist, homophobic and sexist tweeters who protest too much, proving “I’m not racist, but” is the most nerve wracking start to any sentence ever. And there’s the Everyday Sexism project, asking female Twitterites to tweet examples of the sexist bullshit they put up with when they’d rather be going about their business unmolested; in some cases quite literally.
Everyday Sexism’s Twitter feed, website and Huffington Post blog should shut every last pie hole belonging to men who think they’re now the endangered species and women who think feminism’s a done deal. They highlight the tedious, blokey banter that’s still knocking about, the “Get in the kitchen” kind of stuff, the “Barbecuing’s a man’s job” kind of thing, the “Someone’s hormonal” kind of bollocks. They highlight the lecherous behaviour that’s still doing the rounds, the gawking at cleavage, the wolf whistling at passers by, the winking at girls and wanking on streets. They highlight the creepy, threatening behaviour that’s wrecking the place, the lascivious looks that says women are decoration, the sexualised banter that assumes they’re up for it, the stalking that says they’re property. And they highlight the everyday sexual assaults you wouldn’t believe are still happening. Every day.
Interesting as this is, you’ll naturally be wondering what effect it’s had on me, being as how I am essentially the wind beneath your wings. It’s been a revelation, a genuinely surprising account of how many men are still dragging their knuckles and how many women are hassled and bullied and scared and abused. I’m fairly sure I’m not a big lechy bastard or a big intimidating power tripper but I’ve checked some of my behaviour, I’ve had a think about how I present to women. I noticed recently, in the communal showers at the swimming pool, how Mrs Zero chose her spot carefully, avoiding the corner where she’d be between two men. When I take a spot now, I make sure I don’t create these kinds of awkward spaces for women, going next to other men unless the place is deserted and I’d come off creepy sidling up to some random wet guy. Similarly, when I go to a spin class like the middle class wanker I’m slowly becoming I avoid the bikes next to lone women in case they worry I’ll spend the class cracking onto them. I won’t, obviously, because I’m off the market, I’m not that creepy and I wouldn’t get far with this combination of face, personality and body odour but, point is, I’m more sensitive to how women might feel about behaviour that is, but might not look, entirely benign. And yes, Jeremy Clarkson will be rolling his eyes and complaining how you can’t say boo to a female goose nowadays but then if he were our template for gender politics we’d be making the world in his image, storming the WI, handing out blue jeans and cocks.
You’ll be wondering now what you can do. Women, you can share your experiences, telling other women they’re not alone and telling men to knock it the hell off. Men, you can knock it the hell off. And everyone, you can follow and like and promote Everyday Sexism and vote for it in the Shorty Awards to let more people know it’s around. Do this. Do all of this and the day will come when we won’t need this kind of project any more, when women won’t have to tweet about their experiences because they won’t be experiencing them any more. And on that day, when equity comes at last to humanity and all are free and equal, you can finally tell me about your washing machine and your marriage and whatever you’ve made in your slow fucking cooker.