It's a strange time to be a woman.

 

Am I the only one that feels that way? 

 

For years we've fought hard to be treated as equals to men. And I have always agreed. We should be treated equally. Equal rights, equal opportunities, equal respect

 

But we are not men. We are not the same as men. We are women. And it suddenly seems clear that what we should really have been striving for all this time, is to be celebrated for that fact and not be demeaned and belittled for it, as women have often been in the past, and still are.

 

We should never have to make excuses for the things which are perceived as our weaknesses, namely our physical attributes and strength, and instead should celebrate (along with men) the differences between the sexes and be taught to embrace and again, that word, respect, those things that make us different from men. 

 

But there have always been men who abuse those differences and the recent revelations in Hollywood are just the latest example of how women have been forced to obey powerful men because they had no voice to speak out. Who would have listened?

 

At best they would have been viewed as troublemakers and most probably not worked in their industry again. Talented women who may never have pursued their dreams because they were forced to submit to abuse in order to further their careers. At worst? Who knows? Perhaps there are women out there who did try to speak out...women who may never have a public platform to voice their experiences. 

 

The saddest part of these recent headlines to me is the fact that it does not shock me. As women, we have become used to this kind of behaviour. Even those of us who have not directly experienced what might be considered sexual abuse will have met with some form of inappropriate behaviour from a male at least once in their life (most likely many more times), and believed that although it felt wrong, we shouldn't bother speaking out about it. Who would listen?

 

 

From the secondary school teacher who made frequent references to 'booby' creases made by the girls on our artwork, to the times I've been groped in the street by passing strangers, I personally have encountered many men who believe it's okay to objectify women or treat them as sexual objects and as women we've been trained to accept this as the norm.

 

I never complained about the teacher because everyone giggled along and to speak out would have labelled me a 'troublemaker or 'awkward'. Better to feel a little uncomfortable, as most of the girls did, than become a target. And to whom would I have reported the opportunist gropers? We all knew at the time that our voices would not be heard by anyone in authority. 

 

Obviously, the powerful men of Hollywood (along with, let’s face it, men of power within so many other organisations) took this to extreme levels and used that power to force women into doing dreadful, unspeakable things, simply because they could. And they could because for so long we have learned to stay quiet. Because men have told us to. 

 

Don't rock the boat. Don't be hysterical. Don't be weak. Don't be such a girl.

 

For all this time our physical weakness has been used against us. 

 

It's time for that to end. 

 

Women, we know, are powerful beyond physical strength. We create, carry and nurture babies. We fight, we inspire, and we feel. We compete on a level footing with our male counterparts in every walk of life. And, it seems, we can keep secrets and withstand pain without shedding a tear to the world. We have an inner strength, we are toughened by experience.

 

But rarely do we abuse our positions. And that's the difference. 

 

Of course, we cannot and should not generalise. These are exceptions and not every man in a position of power abuses his power. But it has long been 'accepted' that men of power may treat women as objects and that those women are powerless to speak out against them.

 

Will anything change now Hollywood has spoken out? As a mother of two young girls, I sincerely hope so. 

 

Even at ages 5 and 2, I teach my girls that they are in charge of their own bodies. That it's okay not to cuddle or kiss if they don't feel like it. That they can say 'no'. I hope they never feel that no one will listen to them if they need to speak out about a sexist teacher or random groper. I hope society learns to respect my girls by the time they are women.

 

But I can't help feeling that much of the responsibility lies with the parents and influencers of boys. Men's attitudes need to change and this must be taught. Teach your boys that girls are their equals and must be respected, teach them how to listen and to understand the feelings of others, not just girls, but other boys too. Show them by example.

 

It's time to end this cycle of abuse. Maybe this generation can change things.

 

And then perhaps men can be men, women can be women and we can all just be proud of who we are.

 

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