Women do not complain enough

Wednesday, February 24

By Héloïse Patin

Women do not complain enough. If you think women complain too much, first of all you are wrong and clueless, second of all continue reading. I am going to try to put some sense in your head. We do not complain enough, you just are not aware of the extent of the problem. We started talking in 2016 about harassment issues. 2016. My mother started to hold her keys in her pocket as a defense mechanism when she was only a teenager because she felt unsafe.

We cannot complain whenever something wrong happens to us because that would imply constant complain, every single day.

To give you some data (yeah! statistics!), in my dear native country, that is, France, a survey indicated that out of 600 women, 100% of them have experienced sexual harassment in the subway. It means that you could ask any woman in Paris, they will have a horror story, which takes place in public transports. In England, according to a survey in 2016, 85% of women have faced sexual harassment in public spaces and 45% have experienced non-consensual touching in public spaces.

Sometimes, my male friends try to understand how us women feel like. They cannot. Of course, men can feel unsafe somewhere dodgy or infamous. However, they cannot feel what we experience in a crowded subway, when foreign hands touch us and we feel powerless. At this instant we are lonely, despite being circled by other capable people, who could help but choose not to.

I know men will unfortunately never fully relate. I know it because 7 out of 10 men to whom I told this kind of story asked me “Why didn’t you do anything?”, “Why didn’t you say anything”?. The questions I would have liked to be asked are “Are you okay?”, “Do you want to talk about it?”. I would have loved to be told “I am really sorry for you”, or “did anyone say anything, did you find the courage to do or say anything?” and not “why did you not do anything”. You should not ask why, you should not feel the right to judge me as if you knew exactly what you would have done in this scenario. This is how I know no one can relate to that kind of experience when they have not been through something similar. I hope one day no woman will relate at all.

Why did I not do anything? Let me sum up the situation.

At first you think that he did not do it on purpose, that he is compressed in the subway just like you are. Then you realize. You look around, searching for some sort of support, in vain. You turn to see a face you will later try to forget. You try to move, maybe find another place, protected by someone older, someone safe. Sometimes it works. Sometimes you cannot move. You start thinking that you could get out on the next stop and wait for another train but it seems complicated, it is rush hour. You start thinking that you could try to do something, say something, kick the guy yourself or alert someone. The subway is indeed full of civilized people. Not all men are pigs; one of them could defend you. There are also women in the train who could help you. But then you remember you have your music; maybe you could imagine being in another place without this man touching you. Then, you realize that someone is seeing what is happening. Someone sees this man touching you, and yet they do not react. You realize that this person will do nothing, that nobody will do anything.  You feel weak, vulnerable; incapable of saying anything. You stop trying to move because it is hopeless; this man will continue without fear. You tell yourself you just have to wait for your stop, and wait until the last minute to get out to make sure he will not follow you. After that, even if you know he is long gone with all those people in this awful train, you will rush to get out, you will rush in the stairs, you will rush in the subway’s hallways. Then, you will arrive at school just like any other day. Despite common opinion, these incidents happen at any time in the day, even at 8AM. Later on, you will go through your day. Nobody will know you have just been the victim of an act of sexual harassment. You are a young woman, and you will have to learn to have this kind of assault happening at any time of the day and still go on with your life.

Some people say that women exaggerate the importance of those incidents, that the latter were probably wearing provocative outfits, in a dark empty place late on the evening and did not say no explicitly and could have said something. In reality, you were a 16-year-old wearing jeans and a sweatshirt in a packed subway in the morning before going to school. In reality you tried to move but it was impossible, you were terrified and you could not say a world.

Society needs to stop telling us to calm down, to put things into perspective, to shut up. Instead, society should teach men to respect women and the notion of consent. I can easily, years later, picture this event with a stranger that I will certainly never see again. Now imagine when the face you try to erase from you memory is with you in school, at work, in your friend group, at parties or in your family. Women do not complain enough.

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