Last week I gave up buying a bottle of Coke because I didn’t have the heart to carry one that asked those around me to share a glass with “Siobhan”. This, the name I have been called (even written to me in email with the spelling of mine clearly above it) by those who rather can’t be bothered to learn my “strange” name.
Last week I spent an afternoon responding to the familiar questioning of casual-racists, “Where are you from? No, where are you really from? Where are your parents from?” – only this time from the passport office, when renewing my British passport.
Last week I read sixteen articles in national newspapers that were xenophobic, Islamaphobic or both. I filled a doctors’ form stating my ethnicity as “other” and was consequently reminded that it’s not worth sparing an identity simply because it’s not the preferred one. Last week I moved train carriages when a man stared at my Arabic necklace and shook his head with a scowl.
All this time my experiences of sexism were present, but they paled in comparison to the racism. Last week as a woman of colour, the focus rested itself – much like the practices that had occurred around me – on the “colour” part.
In recent months, it’s been hard to escape the spectacle of other men talking about what they deserve – and what women have supposedly taken from them. In May there were the grisly Isla Vista killings, perpetrated by Elliot Rodger, who called his violence a “day of retribution” for the women who had rejected him. There is increased talk of “men’s rights” forums, websites predicated on the serious belief that men are greatly disadvantaged by women’s empowerment. Last month, a speaker at a men’s rights conference in Michigan postulated that feminism was leading to a future without love.
Elsewhere, there’s the less ominous and more omnipresent discussion, online and in pop culture at large, of things like the “friendzone”, a term coined a decade ago on Friends to describe a scenario in which a man is attracted to a woman who only seeks a platonic relationship with him. Women tend to call that kind of partnering “friendship” – but, to many men, “friendship” doesn’t capture the degradation they apparently feel at the prospect of spending time or being emotionally intimate with women who are uninterested in having romantic relationships with them.