If you’ve heard the news over the past couple of days, you’ve probably heard about the case of Poppy Smart.
You might not have heard her name, a couple of things I heard on the way into work this morning just referred to her as ‘A Young Woman’ who complained to the Police about being wolf-whistled at by some builders.
A couple of the radio stations I was listening to even went as far as doing a bit of a Vox-pop to see whether their listeners were of the opinion that it was ‘all in fun’ and ‘a bit of a tradition’ rather than misogynistic, hurtful and abusive. In amongst all the little old ladies saying how much they wished that cheeky chappies were still whistling at them like they used to when they were pottering about town wearing the seamed nylons that they got off that nice American Airman in 1943, and the middle-aged men saying how it was just how people (men) showed their appreciation towards a woman that they found attractive, there was this one chap from Lichfield I think, that said it was completely unacceptable, he was an ex-builder, and when the reporter heard that, he tried to make him into the villain for not actively doing anything about it.
In fact, one particularly well-read sounding listener had the opinion that it must be acceptable because women wolf-whistle and leer at male strippers... Cleverly forgetting the fact that this only happens during the times when they were earning vast sums of money waving their bodies at unfulfilled women, rather than just walking down the road on their way to work.
So, not mad at all then, that's lucky.
The main thing that shocked me was that both Poppy and the Police were vilified for taking it seriously.
Let’s just go back over that again… A young woman has been accused of wasting Police time because she felt that she was the victim of sexual harassment.
And the Police are being accused of wasting time and money because they had the audacity to investigate a potential sex-crime. One of the people who complained about the Police trying to ensure the continued safety of a young girl was the potential Conservative MP for Shipley, West Yorks, Philip Davies… Nice call there Phil, Big clap from all of us here at ‘The Dandy’ – Seriously, read the guy’s Wikipedia page HERE – He truly is a Prince among men, or do I mean evil, divisive scrote? I always get them mixed up – And for some reason he’s divorced, I honestly can’t imagine why. But it certainly won't be because he's currently living with another female MP.
To an extent though, if I were to really give a crap about seeming to be unbiased, I could say that I kind of understand that being wolf-whistled at isn’t being raped, it isn’t being stabbed or having your kids set fire to by a terrorist… And I can sympathise with the people (both men and women) who’ve said that she should just accept it as a compliment, or part of modern life, or that if she didn’t like it she should walk a different way.
But, I really don’t… I couldn’t care less what the ill-informed, knee-jerk, reactionary masses think. I didn’t start this blog because I’m shy of sharing my opinion with the world in general.
Firstly, Poppy (I hope she doesn’t mind me calling her Poppy… Perhaps Ms. Smart would be more polite…) wasn’t just wolf-whistled at on a couple of occasions, it was systematic, day in, day out, over an extended period of time. When she made it clear to the main perpetrator that she wasn’t interested and asked him to stop, he descended the scaffolding and confronted her face to face, stopping her from leaving.
If that’s not harassment, I don’t know what is.
I’ve worked on building sites all over the country for a fairly large proportion of my life and I know that wolf-whistling (and cat-calling, and general abuse towards women, obviously effeminate men, fat people, schoolgirls, Asian people and, in fact, pretty much anyone who’s not a builder) goes on all the time. It’s all abusive, none of it is good natured – It’s a power thing, these men (because it’s still 99.9% men on most building sites) think that they are more powerful, they’re in a gang, they’re physically higher up on the scaffold, they’re ‘hard’ from doing manual labour all day every day. They also don’t register the target of their abuse as people… They’re ‘things’, they’re ‘a cracking arse’ or ‘a f*cking queer’ or ‘a filthy p*ki’.
I remember that I once worked for a company that was involved with the government’s ‘Building Schools for the Future’ project… We’d be on secondary schools’ premises pretty much all of the time, either putting in an entirely new building, or upgrading an existing one. In amongst all the standard signage telling you that entering the site required you to have PPE (Hat, boots, hi-viz), and that if you didn’t sign in you wouldn’t get paid, there was a really big one that said that if there were any complaints from the staff about you, if you were found to be ‘looking’ at the children or engaging them in any conversation other than that required for you to do your job (So you could happily ask them to move out of the way if you were carrying some plasterboard) – You would be removed from the site, never to return – And rightly so.
Of course, you also get those people who give it the old ‘You can’t even pay a woman a compliment any more without her thinking that you’re trying to have sex with her.’ Well, I’m sorry, but you can. If you think someone’s pretty on the street and you just can’t keep it to yourself for some reason, smile at them – Don’t leer at them, make the two-handed groping gesture and shout “Lovely jugs – Give us a go on them!” at the top of your voice. If you know someone well enough to talk to, and you think that they look nice, tell them... But say “Have you had your hair done, it suits you.” Not, “Is that lipstick new, it makes you look like a filthy strumpet.” And offer them a place on your lap.
It’s not rocket science, you just think about what you’re about to say… You ask yourself “How would I feel if someone said that to my wife/sister/daughter/mother?” – If your first reaction is “Well, obviously I would punch them to death” – Then maybe that’s the clue that tells you that it’s inappropriate. Maybe you shouldn’t say it.
I’m no angel, by any means… I’ll say that at some time during our acquaintance, I have called 90% of the women that I know, ‘love’ or ‘darlin’ or ‘sweetie’ or ‘girlie’. I’ll even go as far as the occasional ‘wench’ or ‘Tuppeny Who-er’, but only to those who know me insanely well, to those who I know, for sure, will not be offended by it, (Actually, if I've got it wrong, and you are offended by it, please tell me… I could be sat here thinking how wonderfully deconstructed I am – What all the time I’m coming across as a right git)
So, when it boils down to it, if what you’re doing is making someone feel uncomfortable, it’s wrong, don’t do it. If they are made to feel uncomfortable by your objectification, if you are treating them as an attractive object (and in the case of another human being, you’d be petulant to think that the attractiveness was anything but sexual, you can’t tell if someone has an attractive personality from halfway up a set of scaffolding) then it’s sexual harassment, which makes you a micro-phallused deviant, and not in a good way.
And if that sexual harassment is directed towards a schoolgirl… That implies that you find a child sexually attractive…
And there’s a special word for people like that you know.