‘Expectation is the root of all heartache.’ Or so I read on a quote that an online user so helpfully made into a graphic for us all to repost and never remember again.
There are things I’ve come to expect in life. I expect for either my bus to be late or me to be late for my bus. I expect to be in severe pain the day after spin class. I expect my first sip of morning coffee to taste like joy and magic in a 5oz cup. These things I expect because I regard them likely to happen. They’ve happened before. They’ve proved themselves as to be expected through experience.
When I buy a meal at a restaurant I expect the chef to not put feces in my food. I expect people to not start up a power drill outside my bedroom door at 3am and parade around my bed with a tribal band and dancing girls. I expect strangers to respect my personal space. Honestly, I expect these things as a requirement. An (admittedly privileged and Western) fulfillment of my human rights to food, sleep, and respect.
I’m becoming more and more convinced that someone’s been on the prowl polluting tins of cheap lager with more than bad alcohol. Some mind-altering mastery is going on that is disconnecting and mixing around these two definitions of expectation in people’s minds, whilst also combusting braincells and deleting emotional capacity in some cases.
One evening last week I had to make my way through a crowded pub. As I squeezed past people with a typically apologetic British “excuse me” all of the women stepped courteously aside. The majority of the men – and I’m sorry, but it’s true – stepped aside and grabbed me. In the space of thirty seconds I got touched by about twenty men. I shrugged it off be because that’s to be expected in that situation. It happens often enough. I’m actually quite a tactile person with people I know and have relationship with so physical touch doesn’t bother me as much as it does some people. But then I realised how weird it is if you really break if down. I don’t expect people I’ve never met to expect that I’m going to be okay with them grabbing me round the waist. Something expected due to experience doesn’t justify requisite expected behaviour. It doesn’t make it okay. Later that evening, walking through the same space behind one of my male friends, nobody touched either of us.
That’s just one mild example of this baffling epidemic that we’ve grown so accustomed to: people assuming something can be justified because it’s happened so often that it’s expected. Recently, Lauren Mayberry – an extremely talented musician and the sole female member of band Chvrches – posted a blog about the verbal sexual harassment she receives online. The band love the connection they have with their fans through the internet and, despite their busy schedules, make having an active, personal presence on social media a priority. As there is nobody vetting the interactions that come through, and as people exist who have no social filter whatsoever, Lauren frequently comes into contact with men she has never met making crude comments towards her that 99.9% of us wouldn’t even make as a joke out loud. Comments as delightful as ‘I’m going to give her anal’ and ‘we’d make superior love together’. Recently the band posted a Facebook status asking users to stop sending messages of this calibre. Some of the responses to their post were incredulous.
Because obviously, that kind of thing is to be expected. According to one user ‘it’s just one of those things [Lauren will] need to learn to deal with. If [she’s] easily offended, then maybe the music industry isn’t for [her].”
Sadly, yes, women in the music industry have to find ways of dealing with explicit sexism on a weekly – sometimes daily – basis. Yes, the industry has developed a habit of hypersexualising its marketing, especially where women are concerned. Yes, there are people who are blind to the need to control their thoughts and words and actions. But these things are all so common – inside and outside the music industry – that for some reason we’ve become desensitised to them. We’re not surprised when we hear about gangs shooting each other. We’ve come to expect to see that in the news because it’s happened so many times. It doesn’t make it okay. The same goes for any level of sexual harassment.
Let’s not switch off our humanity and common sense when we switch on our smart phones. Oh, but that’s to be expected.