Today my professor talked about how we should react in a terrorist attack. Yeah, it’s come to that; our teachers are now making it their responsibility to inform students and staff alike of precautions, because our educational institutes are severely lacking in the “take care of your damn students” department.
And while I understood the reason for it, all I could think about was how, in my first year at university, a large number of girls were harassed and videoed by a group of boys at our Spring Festival. Many of them reported the issue to higher authorities, and you know what the reaction was?
A seminar. For girls. On how we (yes, I was amongst those harassed) deserved it for not wearing a scarf over our heads, for daring to think we could go to a festival and actually, you know, have fun without having random boys form a circle around us, call us sluts, make a video of our embarrassment and near-tears and put them up on the Internet.
We knew the names of those boys, remembered their faces, could even rattle off the names of their girlfriends (oh the irony) and yet they faced no disciplinary action. Which was basically a message to every boy in the entire university: hey, you can be a misogynistic pig to any girl you want; the university won’t do a damn thing about it! Because you, by virtue of being a boy, are obviously a much better investment (despite showing that you do not respect basic human dignity) than girls! Because all girls are good for! Is housework and sex!
So many of the girls who spoke out about the harassment – many of them first years, like myself at the time – withdrew their complaints after being informed that we basically brought unwarranted harassment on ourselves for daring to exist where men did. They stopped walking alone; they went the long way to avoid the departments with more than 50% boys (which is all of them except ours); they dropped their friendships with the boys in their class. The girl who was with me at the time went from being a close friend to an acquaintance, because she feared that someone might see us both together and link us to the video.
I don’t recall any proposals for teaching girls self-defence, or giving us the contact numbers for the authorities, or encouraging giving women access to arms, or telling us to attack our harassers, or 50-minute lengthy and nuanced discussions on prevention and detection of cat-callers and misogynists.
Funny how some forms of terror are so easily accepted. But who cares, right? We’re just women, after all.