So I already wrote about this on my blog last year but there has been a lot of talk about Street Harassment around lately so I thought I’d revisit it.
When we are children we’re taught not to talk to strangers, and then confusingly we are also taught that women and girls must constantly be polite, if someone says hello it’s not polite to ignore them.
When I was fourteen I was part of a youth group, I got the bus there on my own and the bus back on my own, on one occasion I was on my way home when a guy a few years older than me sat down next to me on the bus. Now misguided “stranger danger” pep talk I’d been given from the moment I was old enough to listen to and understand what people were saying aside, I was incredibly socially awkward and he was quite good looking, so my plan was not to speak to him, my plan was to bury my head in my book and try not to turn red.
The bus journey was uneventful, I got off the bus at my stop, he also got off the bus a my stop, I was walking away from the bus stop when he asked me for directions, I don’t actually remember where it was he said he was going but I do remember that it wasn’t in the direction that I was going in, so when he started to follow me I started to panic a little, but I hid that I was scared because women have to be polite, how stupid is that?
He followed me most of the way home, trying to tell me I was beautiful, that he liked my hair, I have nice eyes all of the “compliments” men shout at women in the street and all the time I was freaking out on the inside but calmly saying thank you on the outside.
When I was almost home he went for it and tried to grab me, finally I saw sense and struggled away, but he managed to grab my hand and kiss it before he turned tail and ran because I had screamed (surprise surprise nobody came to my aid, guess I should have yelled “fire”), and I ran home.
I stood outside of the door calming myself down for what seemed like forever before deciding that I couldn’t tell anybody about what had just happened because I felt like it was my own fault, despite the fact that this guy had followed me home, tried to grab me and got his saliva all over my hand, I still felt like it was my own fault. I still didn’t talk about it until last year when I mentioned it as a footnote in a blog entry about how “creepy” doesn’t necessarily mean “ugly”, because part of me was still ashamed I’d let him follow me that far, despite the fact I didn’t really have any control over the situation anyway, had I not have been so polite he might have become violent, had that have happened, I still probably would have felt like it was my own fault.
When I’m going to buy a loaf of bread from the corner shop and some random guy shouts “hey beautiful” I think about that and the multiple other times that similar creepy shit has happened, I don’t think “oh that’t nice” I look for escape routes, so that is why when walk five minutes up the road I have my ear-buds jammed into my ears as far as they’ll go, and why when someone shouts something about my hair I keep walking until they shout about how rude I am, and why sometimes I bite back with a “fuck off and die.” and why I am going to keep on being “that bitch with the headphones.”
Because you’re not being flattering at all.
So can we please:
1. Stop giving children mixed messages, especially not gendered mixed messages “girls are polite” and “boys will be boys” needs to go die in a fire already.
2. End the culture of victim blaming, I felt like I couldn’t tell anybody about that creeper because I felt like it was my fault because this is what society had taught me, and I felt like if I did tell someone they’d just tell me it was my own fault. The latter part was correct, even if my parents didn’t tell me it was my own fault someone would have. By fourteen I had already had years of “well what did you do to them to make them punch you, you must have done something for them to have done that?” at school to learn that lesson, and eleven years later nothing has really changed, just this morning I was reading through a list of questions commonly asked by defense lawyers in court during rape trials, just this morning I read some guy trying to imply that a woman who claims to have been assaulted is just a liar because she covered up that she had made porn FORTY BLOODY YEARS AGO, so is it any wonder why people don’t come forward? And then if they do, but didn’t do so immediately they’re accused of putting other people in danger or making it up because they have a vendetta.
3. Just fucking stop it will the catcalling already. It’s not big, it’s not clever and it’s certainly not flattering.
4. Stop trying to imply that “creepy” just means “ugly”, it doesn’t, creepy is behavior not looks.