Everyday sexism, a New York-based feminist publication, started the hashtag #WhenIWas on Twitter to encourage women to break the silence and share their stories of harassment. Women across the globe took to it unhesitatingly, and have been tweeting immensely personal and bone-chilling stories of harassment, violation and abuse.
Women confessed to being harassed or abused at as young an age as five years, when they barely even knew how to make sense of the circumstances; all they knew was that something was amiss, dirty and stripped them of the agency of their own bodies.
Here are some tweets that completely summarise harassment-culture and rape-culture, and prove its ubiquity. Through this diverse selection of tweets, one can learn how the incident has deep-rooted repercussions on a woman’s psyche:
Patrice was dragged in to the culture of silence and despair at 7.
The teacher’s lack of interest in the above case, and the society’s instinct that Mojo is a liar in the story below, perhaps taught them that this was going to be a regular part of their life, and they must accept it as the status quo.
Anna MM Vetticad, a prominent Indian journalist, shares that she simply acceded to the state of affairs without an inkling of hope that things can be changed. Van Badham seconds that thought – she was numbed and desensitised into believing that sexual harassment is normal.
GirlInterested had the courage to speak up, but not only the society but her harasser justified his act by first, stating his male entitlement, and then taking the liberty to judge her desirability. He went on to describe his abuse as an act of charity, as if to state that women yearn for unsought sexual attention. Alicia’s best friend confirmed the theory. Growing up with the same conditioning, she didn’t know any better herself.
As a girl, Paige was never even taught the concept of consent. They may not have thought it necessary.
It doesn’t always come from strangers. Ana Mardoll was violated by the boy she loved and trusted. When she spoke up, the school resorted to victim-blaming and shamed her instead.
But this, by far, was the most heartbreaking confession. Chloe was shown that the world is no place for women, by the one man who is to protect her from the horrors of it – her father.
A reassuring trend that is clearly coming through is men tweeting in support, and urging other men to expose themselves to the stories that accompanied this hashtag.
When some men tried to troll and write off the gravity of this situation by fooling around with the hashtag, other men were quick to let call them out, and tell them – “this isn’t about you, so for once, just listen.”
When a silent revolution like this takes place on something as public and wide-open as the world of social media – it reinforces the idea that speaking out and showing courage is the “normal” thing to do. That one mustn’t be ashamed to admit something in which they had no part to play, and that you will find sisters in solidarity from every corner of the world who wear the same scars and, yet, show valour and soldier on day after day.