By Jennifer Constable, Editor in Chief
Last week, the acclaimed Supermodel Gigi Hadid, was assaulted in the streets after a Max Mara fashion show in Milan; grabbed from behind and lifted into the air by her attacker, whereupon Gigi sprung into action and fought back, violently elbowing and hitting the man until he released her back onto the ground, while she shouted “who the F*** are you, you piece of s***”, before escaping into her car, and sending her security guard after him.
Assault. We’ve all read about it, listen to stories about it, heard about it on the news, some of us may have even had the misfortune of being the victim of it. The incident with Gigi Hadid is by no means a rarity, but an all too common problem, that happens far too frequently, not just celebrity circles, but in our own relative back yards, and still isn’t given the appropriate attention it so rightly deserves.
Male on female assault is symptomatic of a historic gender issue, which is still prevalent in our 21st century, western society; male entitlement; the idea that a woman is a man’s to manipulate; that he is entitled to do whatever he wants with her; he has the right over her body, and in essence, owns her. Not only is this toxic attitude of male entitlement and assault still not taken seriously, but like with so many other cases of abuse, the onus and fault of the attack is unfairly placed on the woman.
In the case with Gigi and the stranger in the street, Gigi’s behaviour in accordance with the incident was placed under scrutiny, with The Sun publishing an article on the attack, berating Gigi in the headline for exhibiting ‘Not Model Behaviour’ in the way she aggressively defended herself from the stranger. This is where the problem lies; we need to stop putting the blame for assault on the victim, and start questioning why this problem still exists, what makes it so wrongly acceptable, and what can we do as a society to put an end to it
The stranger who attacked Gigi was said to have been a “fan”, and while his intentions may have been harmless on this occasion, this is beside the point; his actions were inappropriate. Regardless of gender, it is wrong to touch anyone without their consent, let alone to lift them off the ground, especially when the person in question is a stranger. Gigi was threatened, and understandably felt in danger, so her response was perfectly justifiable, and if anything should be encouraged, as she said in an interview for Lenny Letter, “Honestly, I felt I was in danger, and I had every right to react the way I did. If anything, I want girls to see the video and know that they have the right to fight back, too, if put in a similar situation,”.
We need to teach girls that they have the power and ability to defend themselves in these types of scenarios. As women, we need to stop apologizing for shouting too loud or kicking back too hard in situations where we feel in danger. Our own safety and wellbeing is infinitely more important that how “feminine” or “polite” our actions are; we should be able to fight fire with fire when we feel threatened; we need to know that’s it’s okay to feel outraged and angry when someone invades inappropriately invades our space.
Your time at university should be some of the best years of your life, but unfortunately, for many this isn’t always the case. University can be a breeding ground for sexual misconduct and aggression. A study by The Telegraph in 2015 found that one in three students had experienced sexual assault or unwanted advances during their time at uni, ranging from groping and inappropriate touching, to being full on forced into sex, and the deeply upsetting part is that a large portion of these cases will go unreported, the victim too ashamed or scared or embarrassed even to call out their attacker, further cementing the idea that this kind of behaviour has no repercussions; that the attacker is untouchable.
In the fight to end assault; to put a stop to this historic norm of keeping silent in the face of injustice, when we need more than ever to shout out, there are steps that we, as citizens, can take to protect ourselves, and our loved ones from danger; to build a community of intolerance towards those who seek to cause harm and instil fear in our lives. If you are the victim of, or see assault or sexual harassment taking place, don’t be afraid to call them out; to get help, cause a scene and fight back. Look out for each other on nights out, don’t walk home alone, and always make sure someone knows where you are. Know your rights, know your worth, and know you have the means within you to fight back.