Yesterday, I went to Comic Con.
If you have never been to a convention it will need an introduction. It is a completely surreal space in which you queue with Superman on your left and Batman on your right. A place in which a dragon, is the most normal mythical creature you might bump into, and in which everyone, regardless of age, disability, sexuality, gender or race is excited, passionate and well…loud!
Its a colourful, fabulous and very strange safe space.
While in the outside world you might suffer from social anxiety, here you are Supergirl, and while you might not fight Daxamites – you will fearlessly talk to people you have never met before.
So I was horrified when the ugly hand of the real world intruded into our safe space in the form of three moronic men.
Three guys who were joking about the girl in front of them (who looked amazing in a Harlequin cosplay)
“mate, mate, grab her ass go on”
at which point he gets out his phone to film the assault.
Thankfully, a friend of mine overheard and stepped in the way, while the shift of the crowd saved the girl from an act that would most likely have ruined her month, let alone her day.
So how do we stop it, how do we make it so that bunch of three guys wouldn’t dream of suggesting that they assault a random women. It’s something I have thought about for a long time and really I think it is pretty simple:
- no one should have any doubt that groping is assault: Its not a joke, its not a small act, it is potentially life changing. Every time that person who has been groped walks back on their own from work, from a party, they might remember how unsafe they were made to feel, and whatever happened that evening, they are left feeling scared and vulnerable.
- We achieve this by talking about it at school, by inviting in speakers who have experienced assault to explain exactly how both it and the accompanying sexist language and jokes made them feel, so that we can stop the process of normalisation.
- We no longer live as by-standers, we stand up. Whether your a man or a woman, you have an obligation to step up when you overhear someone planning to commit an offence. It’s not easy, and it does not come to us normally in a culture that has taught us to silently and passively tolerate this behavior, but it’s important.
- If your friends make a joke about assault – if they use violent language when talking about sex, you stand up and you tell them why it’s absolutely not okay. You might feel like your a stuck record, but if one girl is saved the humiliation and horror of having her own vulnerability thrown in her face then your bolshiness was worth it.
I am constantly infuriated by people in positions of power looking around confessedly as rape statistics get more and more horrendous. ‘But how?’ ‘What a surprise!” The culture is prolific, its everywhere and if you cannot see it, then you are not helping anyone.
While the slogan might have been created to increase vigilance against the terror threat, it applies here too:
See it, Say it, Sort it.