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  • Suzanna Kempner

This is my first blog post. And it's about Butlin's. And sexism.

I've blogged before elsewhere but here I am blogging on my actual website. And this blog post is going to be about my weekend.

My friend Steven and I met when we were in year 6. He is one of my very oldest friends (he's also the friend I've known the longest, haha, joke from 30 Rock, cited, can't do me for it). Steven likes to go out drinking in pubs and be a lad and stuff that I don't do ever but we both like Stewart Lee and he successfully mixed with my drama school friends who are of course the greatest people you'll ever meet. So this is why when Steven said, "hey, my 30th is going to be at Butlin's - come!" I said, "hmmmm.....O.....K". I don't like the idea of being in an adults-only Butlin's where the idea is to drink non-stop for 3 days but I figured it was cheap, it had wifi and I could just eat Burger King and drink tonic water if all else failed. HEY GUYS, ALL ELSE FAILED! Well, not quite.

​There were 8 of us in the holidaying party, all staying in Butlin's' budget accommodation. I can cope with just about anything but you know you're not in a classy joint when the doors don't fit in their frames and the mattresses have plastic covers because of all the pissing, vomming party animals that frequent the resort.

Putting aside the people I was sharing with (the majority of them didn't want to hear about how awesome it was that equal marriage became a thing on Saturday the 29th of March 2014 or how objectifying women is shitty) I was astounded by the behaviour of the many hundreds of weekenders at this 90s-themed 3-day jamboree. And in the interests of succinctness I'll make this all about how it was pretty much a sugary-booze-soaked meat-market in that place. I like to wear crop tops, bodycon and heels. I like it because I like the way I look in it and it goes without saying among reasonable humans that a girl is not in any way asking for it by putting some skin on show. Or dancing like she just don't care. I wasn't on the lookout for a potential partner, long or short term. That didn't prevent the following wooing-techniques being applied to me in the course of 3 nights. I was never beyond tipsy so remember everything as it happened and you'll just have to believe me that there are no humble brags here:

1) This first one sounds and probably is harmless enough but it raises an interesting point. Walking away from the dancefloor on the first night a duo of big bald men in checked shirts called out, "oi oi darling, looking good". I glanced in their direction and kept walking which was responded to with, "doesn't hurt to smile, love", all incredulous and bitchy. Now, no, I agree, it doesn't hurt to smile. But I didn't feel like smiling at their leary faces. And I'm not under any obligation to. There can't be many women who haven't come up against a dude in a club, some builders at the side of the road or an energetic posse of shirtless gents in a park berating a woman for not giving them a smile. Sisters, if we're not in customer service we don't have to be guilt-tripped in to flashing our pearlies. Only smile if you're happy. Or on a checkout or something, I don't know how real jobs work.

2) After a pretty hideous Friday night where I managed to have negative-fun, yeah, that's right, less than fun, it was the big Saturday night blowout. Fancy dress was the name of the game and as the theme was 90s I settled on Sporty Spice. Because I love a crop top and I love trainers. I liked my outfit and equal marriage was legalised that very day - what could go wrong? Mostly sober and feeling like a real edgy activist I approached different people in the club (as Liberty X played live - big time) and expressed joy at equality. Anyone who shared my joy was a photo op. I got photos with people dressed as Sonic the Hedgehog, the burglars from Home Alone (I know they're called The Wet Bandits, I'm just thinking of you), various Spice Girls and many more. This was all great. What wasn't great was random males creeping up and touching me. Stroking my hair, hands on my waist - get permish! I didn't feel like I'd been assaulted by the men using this wooing technique (it must work on some women as a lot of men were doing it) but everyone knows you don't touch anyone without their express permission. And certainly not from behind before you've ever said hello. "Get off, please"is often met with "lighten up". Which is along the same lines as, "doesn't hurt to smile".

3) A group of #lads walked past in sportswear that I'm pretty sure was irony-free (and they weren't going to the gym), looked at me in my rad Primark maxi skirt and said, "that'll do!". It wasn't flattering, this testosterone-soaked male-bonding. It just made me think of The Sheep Pig. That'll do, Sooz. That'll do.

4) Dressed as Sporty Spice on Saturday night and on my way to the toilet a man jumped out from the shadows (dramatic, but that's what it felt like) and got hold of me whilst droning, "come here, Sporty Spice!". He wasn't tough to wrestle off, he had all the force of an octopus made out of pipe cleaners but it's more of the getting permission before you touch a girl. Because quite apart from the fact that I didn't find him attractive, I really needed a wee. This fits in with number 2 but I've given this guy his own entry because he spoke real Butlin's. It's a curious language that has zero consonants. "Come here, Sporty Spice!" actually sounded like this: "uh ere 'orty iiiiiii!!!!!".

5) And now for the pièce de résistance, the reason I got angry enough to write this blog and a rationale that has meant that anyone reading this who thinks I should lighten up, get a sense of humour or just be flattered is no longer my concern. At the end of last night, the last night of a 3 day weekend in Bognor's Butlin's aka cold Marbella, I stood in line at Burger King with Steven, the Birthday boy. Because being a feminist doesn't mean I have to eat right. In the queue beside us a #lad said to Steven, "is this your bird?". Steven said no. "Not a bad arse", he said to Steven. He didn't even say it to me, I was spoken about like I was some kind of sexy painting. "Are you serious? I'm just bodyparts?", I snapped. The response to this was a wink as he walked away with his Double Bacon Cheeseburger with a side order of wanker. This made my blood boil. Yes, people that ludicrous are not worth worrying about, I know, I know - but if we don't get angry about shitty shit how will it ever change? I have met some monumentally stupid racists who have less than no impact on society. Should I stay quiet when they say something in the style of an ignorant racist?

I felt like a right busybody this weekend, forever telling people off for ignorance. This will irritate some. I'll be labelled part of the "bullying self-righteous left-wing police". But if my bullying is bullying people in to supporting equality (something there can never be too much of) I'll keep going. As girls we don't have to smile and be grateful when we get leared at whilst minding our own business. We don't have to put up with being stroked like a cat on the dancefloor because we'll look like harridans if we go "get off!". Embrace your inner-harridan.

And if you're a girl who loves being grabbed, leared at and generally perved on then keep enjoying. If you're on the lookout for a tasty little one-nighter continue. I don't say that everyone should be as grossed-out as I am by all this but if the learing behaviour does make you uncomfortable why should you stay quiet about it?

I should add that this weekend in the hotbed of shouting, booze and desperation that is Butlin's I also met some people who really don't treat women like objects. Some of my travelling party were perfectly respectful of ladies and found "not a bad arse" man just as gross as I did. You can't stop progress.

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