Good Girls Sit Like This
By Laura Taylor
We recently celebrated International Women’s Day at an event with 200 other women, and the energy, beauty and strength in the room was overwhelming. A bit late to the party, but ever-relevant, these are some thoughts and musings on the culture around and expectations placed upon women right now. We promised to balance the real-talk with the beautiful, and this is just that xxx
Last week, whilst consuming the beautiful and poignant words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, I recalled a playground rhyme that had lay dormant in my memory, between chocolate Primo and 20c jodi sticks.
Good girls sit like this.
Good boys sit like this.
When a girl sits like this.
She gets this up this like this.
I remember a small curly-haired girl laughing with her similarly small friends about the 'bad girl' who stupidly sat with her legs open, quite obviously asking to get 'this up this’'.
After all, she knew how to sit, she was taught how to act. Doesn't she know not to drink, walk alone, be in a room with a boy?
This kind of language we can be quick to label as small-minded, but it is important to be able to sympathise with those to whom this does not seem an unfair weighting of responsibility. These ideals can be so deeply ingrained in us that it can often take a personal experience to see them for what they are.
I was chatting to someone who said they believe putting the responsibility on women isn't fair, but at some point you just have to use common sense - a tipsy girl is an easy target as is a girl in an alleyway alone. And unfortunately we do not live in a world where a girl can be alone and tipsy with absolutely no fear of being raped. Therefore, they continued, you can't really complain about these precautions - similar to how you have to take the precaution to choose to wear a seatbelt.
Initially stumped, I went away and thought. If my car crashed and I was wearing a seatbelt, that would definitely decrease my chances of injury. But what another if the car that crashed into me was a semi-freight truck, driving on the wrong side of the road by a blindly-drunk driver.
Would the blame be placed on me, the non-seatbelt wearing passenger? I'm gonna take a stab in the dark and guess the news wouldn't read "Girl's Car Crushed By Massive Truck Because She Wasn't Wearing Seatbelt". The seatbelt, like avoiding dark alleys, unfortunately doesn't stop my car being crushed by the force of a 40 tonne truck, or a determined, 100kg attacker.
There lies the issue, the truck was driven by someone acting so definitively on the wrong side of the law, who would and should be held accountable to their actions. Nobody would probe, yes but if the girl had just had her seatbelt on his truck would have missed her, she would have survived.
It was only when watching a dear, lovely friend go through a sexual assault and violation case I realised the uphill battle survivors are expected to endure and how messy and incredibly lengthy the process can be.
When I heard how she stood in the same place a heartbreakingly large number of girls before her have, I imagined at that moment, she would have the full force of the law in her hands. To be surrounded by people offering to make this as easy as possible. And in many ways the western world is incredibly blessed to be so well resourced. But what I will not and will never accept is the gruelling, unforgiving and uninhabitable environment survivors are thrust into.
Every choice is questioned, we are big kids asking the bad girl why she sat like this not like this.
Last month, three men who allegedly gang raped a 14 year old girl walked free, mid-case. Not for lack of evidence or motive, but because the system was too aggressive and emotionally upsetting for the child to endure any further.
Late last year, along with the rest of the Internet community, I was both saddened and filled with a deep anger to read the testimony and questioning of the woman assaulted by Brock Turner. The legal hoops, tests and interrogation was almost unbelievable, until I realised it wasn't.
Survivors have to watch as their alleged attacker promote themselves in the news media, callously calling survivors "liars" or "conspirators". They endure graphic details of their case exposed not only to the court but on the front page of newspapers. They are ruthlessly asked why they chose to drink that night, why they chose that skirt, why they were out with only girls in the first place - where was their boyfriend?
And I think of last week, I had dinner with a friend and had a glass of wine. I wore a floaty, blue dress that showed my thighs. We walked home, in the dark, because the restaurant is right by our house and we fancied taking in one of these few summer nights before winter kicks in. And by going about my daily life, I have so easily become the girl who ignored the warnings and sat the wrong way. Girls around the country are experiencing identical Thursday nights, yet theirs are being picked apart in court proceedings.
I'm unsure of the current playground-trend, whether enlightened, empowering rhymes have made their way to the lips of impressionable children.
But I hope and pray they do, because years ago the Brock Turners of the world were just as innocently singing those songs.