Watched Louis Theroux’ new documentary on Jimmy Savile on Sunday night. Appalling. But here’s the thing. Jimmy Savile’s behaviour was dreadful and abusive, even for the time, but there was a different culture then. Although if, in my mid-twenties, a middle-aged man had told me I was too old for him, alarm bells would have rung loud and clear.
I was at work in Birmingham (UK) city centre in the 1970s and it was normal, just totally normal, for men to whistle at women as they walked past, to comment on female bodies, to say whether or not they’d want to have sex with a woman.(“Yeah, I’d do you, darling!” – well, I wouldn’t “do” you, mate. Not the best chat-up line, really, now is it?) In my lunch hour, when I went shopping, it was common for men to shout stuff in my ear about how I looked. You were expected, then, to be grateful for the attention. Grateful. Yes. I felt very uncomfortable about it all and just ignored the shouters. I’m no great beauty, not particularly outstanding in any way, and wasn’t then either, but because I had a reasonable figure, that’s what attracted the attention.
Women were thought to dress for the men in the workplace. My ex-husband thought so too, so when I wore a smart skirt and blouse for work, he was irritated, because it was clearly, in his head, for the men. But in my head, I just wanted to look nice and smart, and to compete with the other women in the office.
And, like in Mad Men, if anybody made a pass at you, and you turned them down, it could only possibly be because you were “spoken for”. Not because you didn’t fancy them back. You were supposed to be glad. Pleased. Hmm.
Things are better now, but there are still many men who don’t get it. One example is the use of “Ms”. In the dictionary, Ms is the female equivalent of Mr. I have this theory that some men feel they can “chat up” a Miss, have to be respectful to a “Mrs”, and don’t know what to do about a “Ms”, because it’s not clear whether she is “available” or “not”. How about, guys, you treat women as equals, respect women as people? Huh? Nobody knows whether a man is married or not (unless there’s a ring) because you’re all called “Mr”. And we manage just fine addressing you.
And don’t even get me started on Trump.