Understanding the “N” word!

Recently in the news there have been many reports about alleged abuse of women, mainly relating to sexual and domestic abuse. The reports made me think about attitudes to women over the years. 

When I was young, I was brought up to respect people, especially my elders. I thought about how this attitude affected me in my life.

The first memory that surfaced was attending a meeting not far from my home. At the end of the meeting, a man old enough to be my father offered to walk me down the road to my house. I politely said No. He insisted and I still said No. That didn’t matter to him. He decided he was going to walk with me anyway, all the way telling me how wonderful he was! When we reached the end of my drive he asked if I would go out with him. I politely said No! He continued for some time to pursue me with unwanted attention, even though I continued to use the N word…No! 

At work I’ve had men being nasty when I rejected them politely, saying silly things like, you must be a lesbian because I didn’t swoon over their advances, to comments that there must be something wrong with me. Oh pardon me if I you behave more cess pit than Brad Pitt!

I was offered drinks and when I said No, I got the response I’ll get you one anyway! No! I said No! The drink would come and then I wouldn’t drink it which caused annoyance. I told you No! Why are you getting annoyed? 

It also seemed acceptable to some men to think they could grope you. No! One time this happened when I was at a function and the person obviously thought he could get away with it, which he did because I didn’t want to spoil the person’s night. He knew this and took advantage of it. He was told if it ever happened again he would be feeling very sore in a sensitive place. Another time at a works night out a male attention seeker wasn’t happy I wasn’t doing his bidding. He wanted me to join in a drinking game and I politely said No! As we were leaving the pub he grabbed me from behind going up the stairs and held me in a bear hug. I dug my stiletto heels into his foot and he let go! 

I have been on nights out and functions where I have been asked to dance. On many occasions when I politely said No, I needed a rest, maybe later? No was ignored and I was hauled onto the dance floor against my will. Why didn’t I cause a fuss? I was taught to respect others and be polite and invariably when this happened it was at a place where I knew many people and I would have caused embarrassment. On one of these occasions at the end of the dance I moved back towards my seat. My dance partner grabbed my arm and held me and said he wanted to have a slow dance with me. I said No. A lovely male friend of mine saw what was happening and intervened.

Throughout the years I have had many other encounters but have you noticed a thread? The word No, politely used. You might say No but it seems this can be ignored. Politeness seems to be taken as acceptance or weakness. I am sure many women can relate to my comments and have had their own experiences of male dominance.

I had hoped that reaching 2021 we would have moved on as a society from the belief that men are superior and have some God given right to do what they want. No! There’s that word again! 

Recent events show that some men think women are inferior to them and they can do what they want with them with no consequences. Women are still used and abused in the same old way. Plus, as an added bonus for the neanderthal male there’s Social media where men can put women in their place, or try to, from the safety of their keyboard. Nicola Sturgeon constantly has streams of abuse with a lot of name calling, portrayed as a Nazi etc. How dare you be a strong leader, you are a woman! The comedienne and actor Janey Godley constantly receives hate speech from some men. How dare you be so funny. You are a woman!

How do we stop this? Let’s get the law involved. Maybe not. Look at the recent handling by the police of the vigil held for Sarah Everard in London. It was wrong the vigil went ahead in view of the pandemic but images of policemen throwing females around wasn’t a pretty sight. There have been calls for changes in the law. To do what? Do we need a Sarah’s law? Changing the law will not change men’s attitudes and it’s attitudes which need to change. If money is going to be spent and we genuinely want things to change, that money should be spent on education. To teach what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. The days of the Old Boys Club are past!There are three words I would like you to note from this diatribe! “No”, “polite” and “some”. No means No in any circumstance, polite is good but not to the point where you are made to be uncomfortable because you are, and lastly some. Some. Some men. I want males reading this to note that word and you are not all being tarred with the same brush! I have had some bad encounters with the male of the species in my life but consider myself very lucky in having a lovely dad, husband and male friends in the organisations I belong to. I thank you for being you.

Mary Bird