If a stranger slaps your bottom, is it bad behaviour or bad manners to complain because they meant it as a compliment? In the battle to end the harassment women face in their everyday lives, the discussion has often centred on how women can do more to protect themselves, rather than stopping those who feel they are entitled to touch, pester and target others.
As parliament debates new laws on public harassment on Wednesday, we can change this – but only if we stop excusing criminal behaviour as clumsy seduction. That means being clear that when it comes to harassing women, it is no defence to argue you didn’t mean any harm – because in 2023, you really should know better.
We used to have a system of rules about this. Called “manners”. Now we don’t. Because the societal demand was that we be freed from all that nonsense about the capitalist patriarchy, bourgeois norms.
OK, now we’re free of all of that. What’s your problem then?