When Tegan George attended the recent Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn fight at Suncorp Stadium with two of her girlfriends, she probably wasn't expecting to be subjected to hours of sexualised, gendered abuse from men sitting behind the trio. But that's exactly what happened.
In a tweet that's been shared more than 400 times, George captures the repulsive behaviour of one of the men just prior to security guards ejecting him and his fellow perpetrators. In the video, the man is shown sitting prostrate with his middle finger thrust up and covering his face. He's clearly angry about being filmed, calling George a "bitch" and telling her to "f--- off away from me". George asks him if this is how he speaks to all women, to which he replies, "No, only c---s like you".
You'd expect some positive bystander action to occur in a situation such as this. After all, aren't we always hearing that 99 per cent of men are decent blokes who would never stand by while women were being harassed or abused?
And yet, according to George's friend, Sally [no last name provided], none of the men they were sitting near intervened or offered them support, despite the fact they would have been well aware of what was happening. One man sitting nearby did speak up, but only to allegedly tell the women to "calm down and enjoy the boxing".
As Sally later said, "Women should be able to go to a sporting event like this and be safe and not be subjected to this sort of behaviour".
The men have since been slapped with a two-year ban from all Queensland stadiums.
Despite this move from authorities, it's clear that some people will go to astonishing lengths to either excuse or minimise the appalling behaviour of others.
George and her two friends have garnered a lot of support since exposing their hideous treatment, but they've also been subjected to a fair whack of victim blaming and criticism. Why did they let it go on for hours before reporting it? Why were they at a boxing match in the first place? They should have known what to expect from that type of environment! Why did they film him? Don't they know that's illegal?
And (my personal favourite): his behaviour is bad, but he's pushing back against a society in which women are picking on men just for being men.
Not all of these responses came from men, but men certainly seem to form the majority when it comes to expressing their displeasure when women choose to respond by naming and shaming abusive people.
If we don't provide video or photographic evidence that something occurred, we're accused of either making it up to get attention or of overreacting. Often, alternative scenarios will be presented as factual probabilities by people who weren't there but who think they somehow have a better, more level-headed grasp on what actually happened. But when evidence is offered, as it has been here, those same women are chastised for "crossing the line". They're told they're making the situation worse not better, and that "two wrongs don't make a right". That it isn't "fair" to shame men like this, and how do we know that you weren't provoking them anyway?
So deeply is this message of compliance drilled into women that many of us become apologetic that we've even clocked something as abuse at all.
Why should any woman have to feel pressured to be the 'cool girl' when experiencing toxic, sexualised abuse? We are under no obligation to laugh it off.
Speaking to Fairfax, Sally stressed she and her two friends were not "prudes by any definition" and that they "know how to take a joke", arguing this incident was nothing like that. Even after trying to "diffuse the situation and make it OK", the hostility continued.
"How much are we supposed to put up with?" she asked. "How much is supposed to be the 'cool girl', how much is supposed to be relaxed?"
But why should any woman have to feel pressured to be the 'cool girl' when experiencing toxic, sexualised abuse? We are under no obligation to laugh it off and pretend we're not really like other girls. And yet this is often exactly what we do, and it's not because we hate ourselves or we actually are cooler than other girls or we're more laid-back or we have a better, more masculine sense of humour.
It's because it is frequently unsafe for us to not be the 'cool girl' in a situation such as this. The reason we don't report things right away (as George and her two friends were also criticised for somehow failing to do) is because we have been so deeply conditioned to ignore our own instincts or to try, as Sally said, to diffuse situations instead of escalating them by exposing ourselves as threats to men's freedom.
We also hope that bystanders will intervene and offer back-up, but this doesn't always happen.
So what exactly are we supposed to do? Naming and shaming presents a risk to us, but it so far seems to be one of the most powerful ways women can take back control of the space we are every bit as entitled to occupy as the men who continually try to force us out of it. The fact that it prompts so much outrage in the people who would rather women continue to absorb men's abuse without complaint is proof that this tactic works.
Men don't own public space. They don't own rugby fields. They don't own boxing matches. And they definitely don't own women. If they don't want to be exposed as a Neanderthalic misogynists, all that is required of them is to not act like one.
George and her two friends took back their space and their autonomy in the best way that's possible for us right now. Other women are watching and taking notes. And this fight is just beginning.