By Wendy Syfret
April 21, 2016
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Everyday Sexism‘s latest campaign is drawing women all over the world into a dialog about unseen sexual harassment. Under the hashtag #WhenIWas individuals are telling their own stories of being assaulted, catcalled, attacked and raped. Many of the Tweets refer to instances that occurred when the woman was a child—for some, this is the first time they have spoken out.
Laura Bates, the founder of Everyday Sexism, told Mic the campaign was a way to “see the connections between these things.” That is, experiences of sexism in childhood presumed to be ‘normal’ and a culture which fails to respect women. Laura wants to disrupt the tendency of telling women to not “make a fuss about” abuse deemed a normal part of life.
Reading through the accounts it quickly becomes apparent how normalised unwanted sexual behaviour is. Across pages and pages, women talk about being inappropriately touched and told it was a compliment, blamed for their own assault or assured the action was normal.
The feed has seen drawn some criticism; comedian and writer Kara Eva Schlegl asked (in an article on SBS) if Tweeting personal stories are as cathartic as we often frame them as. While Dr Lauren Rosewarne, a senior lecturer specialising in gender and sexuality at the University of Melbourne told the ABC, “I think we shouldn’t overplay the idea that telling a story is the same thing as therapy or is universally cathartic.” Although she did stress, “I think it’s important that women have an opportunity to tell their stories, to have their stories heard and, for us culturally, to assemble a picture of some of the struggles of being female in our culture”.
For the women who have spend the past days sharing and reading these Tweets, it feels like they’ve thrust invisible stories into the light after years of silence. Ultimately, our stories are ours to tell, or in this case Tweet.