At the moment it seems like every day unveils a new story of male predators, victims of abuse and trigger warnings.
I have been silent up until now – I have been following the #MeToo hashtag where women, and men, all over the world are telling their personal stories of abuse – ranging from being groped and intimidated, to sexual abuse and rape. Joining together under the hashtag has provided some online solidarity for victims and abuse survivors — but it is difficult and uncomfortable reading.
At the moment I have a t-shirt hanging up on my wardrobe. It is from Topshop and is embroidered with the phrase “Je T’aime” – I love you in French. The picture is fitting for the stories I want to tell today. I was wearing this t-shirt when the stories of Louis CK hit our twitter feeds, reigniting the outrage bubbling against Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Kevin Spacey and others. I am outraged – as, i’m sure, are you.
A few years ago my husband and I were travelling on a short flight from Ireland to the mainland. As we gathered up with other passengers in the airport lounge we met our fellow travellers. My husband is an observant person and, while I would rather stick my nose into a book, he is often found people watching. After a short time we realised that a stag do of about a dozen young men were waiting to get on to our flight. It was more than obvious that they had already started the party and several of them were well on their way to being drunk. They were loud, boisterous and we all silently prayed that our seats would be as far from them as possible. While waiting in the lounge my husband spotted a lone girl, approx age 17, travelling alone. Some of the young men in the stag party noticed her too. She had her earphones in and was stuck into a book and seemed oblivious to the revellers behind her. When it came to boarding time my husband and I, normally first in the queue hung back. He made me wait because he was watching what was happening, letting the stag party get on the plane and then stepping between them and the unaccompanied girl. We acted a a buffer between her and the drunk men and once we were on the plane and realised her seat was far from the lads we sat down.
The flight was fine, we were only bothered by the hostess getting buzzed a few (dozen) times by the stag party and some loud lairy behaviour. When getting off the flight my husband again placed himself between the men and the unaccompanied girl. At the baggage claim we lifted our suitcase and again hung back until the girl had lifted hers and exited after her. Again she was completely oblivious, we have never seen her again since, and the stag do disappeared into their awaiting minibus.
So what is the point of this story? It is one small example of how my husband and I were able to do a decent thing for a stranger. Our fellow traveller probably didn’t realise it, we didn’t have to say anything but we purposely kept and eye on her and made sure that she was safe at that moment in time.
My point is that many of us have done exactly the same thing. Amongst the stories of abuse, unwanted advances and attention I want to thank the men who have quietly and decently stepped in on my behalf:
- Here’s to the guy who asked two drunk men to leave a shop that I was working in alone one evening.
- Here’s to the man who took down all the nudie calendars and posters in a male dominated office before I began to work there as the first female in that workplace.
- Here’s to the male colleague who didn’t take their break because a creepy regular customer had called in for a chat with me and they didn’t want me to be on my own.
- Here’s to the male friend who stayed as I locked up the shop and walked me to my car, after a man had come in and asked for my number. After I politely declined to hand it over he lurked outside the shop until closing time.
- Here’s to the colleague who intercepted phone calls from someone in the construction industry who took it upon himself to call me twice a week to ‘chat about my work’ and ‘invite me out to his building site’.
- Here’s to the anonymous young man who sat with me, the only girl, in the AutoCAD computer room at uni and shielded me from a dozen of my male classmates who were watching a viral porn clip, on all their computers at once.
- Here’s to the colleagues who rushed out to a site to address a problem with my project only to find out that there was never a problem. The person just wanted me to come out so that they could watch me ‘climb a ladder’.
- Here’s to the guy who handed in his final coursework and waited until me and my friend were finished because he didn’t want us to have to walk back to halls at dark unaccompanied. He waited for five and a half hours.
- HERE’S TO THE GUYS WHO HAVE DONE THE DECENT THING WITHOUT EXPECTING ANY REWARD.
- TO THE GUYS WHO HAVE SILENTLY WATCHED OUT FOR WOMEN IN THEIR LIVES AND BEEN A BUFFER BETWEEN THEM AND OTHERS.
- HERE’S TO THE GUYS WHO HAVE TOLD THEIR MATES TO “TONE IT DOWN”, THAT “THEY’VE HAD ENOUGH” AND THAT THEY SHOULD JUST “LEAVE HER ALONE”.
Here is to the decent men – one of which I am married to. Instead of telling a #Me Too story I want to give a shout out to the men in my life (some who I know and some who I don’t know) who are good and have been protective, thoughtful and decent to me. Je T’aime. #JeTaime.
Tag a person in your life who has been decent to you – not because they need to be rewarded for doing the decent thing, but because the news at the moment is so dark. We need this. We need this in the same way that we need the Me Too hashtag. In the same way that we need to see justice for victims and punishment (rather than ‘treatment’ and ‘therapy’) for the abusers.