#InternationalWomensDay: My experiences of misogyny and sexism

Happy International Women's Day everyone! The past few months have been an extremely enlightening time for sexual harassment in the media and I am sure I was one of many women who could relate to those affected and spoke out. Since today is a celebration of strong independent women, I thought that I would share my experiences of sexism, misogyny and sexual harassment in a militarised environment and when cosplaying.

Air Training Corps: Being a female in the military

September 2012
At the age of twelve, bordering thirteen, I decided to join the Air Training Corps (also known as Air Cadets) which gave teenagers a chance to experience opportunities available in the Royal Air Force, such as flying, drill, and rolling around in mud pretending to be soldiers. When I joined in September 2010, I was one of three girls on the squadron and immediately I loved it. Growing up in a military family, I had always been surrounded and fascinated by the lifestyle, therefore I loved learning how to march properly, wearing the uniform and taking pride in the things I was learning.

June 2014
Whilst I loved the activities I was getting involved in, it was most definitely not easy and multiple times, my parents actually wanted me to quit. From the age of thirteen, the boys on my squadron spoke to me as if I was the most insignificant person swearing at me, belittling me and telling me that as a woman, my only uses were in the kitchen and cleaning. I had been best friends with boys my whole life and this was the first time I experiencing any form of misogyny, I was told that I couldn't keep up because I was a woman and I couldn't excel because I was a woman. In 2012, I was surprisingly promoted to the rank of Corporal alongside two of my best friends on the squadron who were men and I thought that this promotion would gain me a form of respect from the rest of the members. Unfortunately, this was not the case: my first night as Corporal led to comments such as "you only got the position because your Dad's in the Army", "who did you sleep with in order to gain the position", and "you bossy s**t". Furthermore, a cadet decided because I did not fancy him at fifteen years old to cyber bully me for two months and post horrible statuses about me once I had blocked him on Facebook. So yeah, not great... 

Sadly, this went on for a long time and whilst it became almost unavoidable for me, I was able to call out and stop others making such comments to other new girls who wished to join. Experiencing such negativity in an environment you love and are surrounded by twice a week was extremely difficult; however, I do not believe I would be the person I am today if I did not experience this. I learnt how to deal with those attempting to put me down with witty comebacks, used what authority I could to show them I was the bigger person, and to prove them wrong.

September 2016
I ended by time in the Air Cadets as a Flight Sergeant, the highest rank a female had ever reached at my squadron, an aerospace and first aid qualification, and damn well stronger. Moving to a University Air Squadron, becoming an Officer Cadet and my ambition to join the RAF Reserves is the product of my experiences with sexism and misogyny, which made me the woman I am today.

I am not trying to put young women off from joining Air Cadets: if I didn't join, I would not have discovered that I couldn't see my life without a military element, I would not have met some of my closest friends, and I would not have done the incredible things I did within the organisation. My case was very extreme, but this is not uncommon. I want young women to know that you can speak out and that no matter what anyone tells you, you can do anything.

Cosplay and Sexual Harassment: An Unfortunate Truth

I've been cosplaying for over three years now and it has been one wild ride so far. I have met my incredible group of friends and formed an amazing cosplay group, Stucky and the Peglegs (check us out on Facebook and Instagram), getting mass attention for our photo shoots, and I met my amazing boyfriend through them at MCM Comic Con last October. 

By the amazing Joseph Leeder
(He also does photos for Stucky and the Peglegs!)
It was only last October that I had a negative encounter as a cosplayer. Before 2016, I only cosplayed Agent Peggy Carter from Captain America, which involves wearing a 1940s military uniform and covers everything. In October 2016, I debuted my Daenerys Targaryen Qarth cosplay from Game of Thrones and I loved wearing it, despite it being extremely daring (bra-less) and I felt beautiful in it. That year, I was with a male friend who was cosplaying Jorah Mormont (also known as captain of the friend-zone) and I did not have a single comment made about my body or how 'revealing' it was.

Cut to last October.

Photograph: Michael Antoine
This time I attended with one of my best female friends and on the Friday, I debuted Wonder Woman. I was extremely proud of this cosplay and I felt confident in it. However, I had made the decision to wear my black running shorts underneath the skirt since it is very short and this would make me feel more comfortable. This, however, was not enough for a few people. Whilst walking around the Con, meeting young boys and girls who wanted to meet 'Wonder Woman', a man decided to shout that "my arse looked good in that!" and another believed he could snake his arm around me and reach for my bottom. Apparently my costume consisting of a corset, skirt, boot covers, belt strap and lasso meant that they could objectify my body and gave them the right to call it out or touch it.

When I was Daenerys again on the Sunday of October 2017 with my female friends, others decided because I wasn't wearing a bra and everyone could clearly see my back, that certain men could wolf whistle me and shout out obscene cat-calls. Cosplay is a great passion of mine and I love going to photo shoots, meeting kids who love seeing these characters, and talking to like-minded nerds, but it is moments like the ones I have mentioned that can ruin it.

If you are considering cosplaying, GO FOR IT! I am looking forward to posting about cosplay, Comic Cons and general nerdiness, but I felt like today on International Women's Day it is important to highlight these negative experiences. If you are cosplaying and someone makes a comment about you or attempts to harass you, do not be afraid to fight back, call them out and tell someone.

To anyone reading this, I hope that by me sharing my experiences with you that I can affect at least one person to take charge should anything like this happen. This was not to put anyone off cosplaying or a youth military organisation (as mine was considered a 'special and drastic' case), but let people know and not to sit in silence.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and I'll see you all soon.

- Katie 

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