This has been a part of my life unbeknownst to me since the day I started wearing a bra. I’ve expressed my feelings in private conversations, but had always left this many-versioned blog unfinished and as a draft. I had always felt uncomfortable posting or didn’t feel like it was necessary. But after seeing the response of the ‘#metoo’ campaign, well it’s given me the courage to share my experience.
I am so over street sexual harassment.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if you are a young woman in 2017 you are unlikely to have walked down the road, exercised publicly, or sat on public transport without at some point having a stranger gawk, leer, mutter to their friend, or the worst,
compliment comment you on your smile, breasts or legs.
I get objectified roughly 3 times a week. It’s sadly a routine of mine on the Tube. I and so many others have become accustomed to the creepy stares that make us feel uncomfortable. It can be really daunting to find yourself thrust into a public conversation about your body. Most of the time I can’t face the confrontation and take the easy route out – a few heavy sighs and eye rolls indicating my mini ‘fuck off’ to the man whose invading my peaceful thoughts on the safe journey that I have a right to make, then I bow my head and make a quick exit, only to later regret not standing up for myself. Other times we call them out on their advances, and then after 10 minutes or so of venting to your nearest and dearest about the ogling stranger, move on with our lives.
Get sexually harassed. Rant about it. Get over it. Forget it. Sleep. Repeat.
It’s a never ending cycle.
I’ve made up countless excuses as to why it happens. “It’s because I’m blonde.” or “I’m a confident person.” or “I’m friendly therefore more approachable I guess.” How ridiculous that I’m even trying to condone it, but sadly it seems an honoured tradition that we put up with. I’m one of thousands who are forced to feel aware of their presence and to those who blatantly try to get a reaction after they’ve commented on my body… want me to turn back and flash, or if I’m feeling classy respond with, “Aw thank you, I grew them myself. Here’s my number – I need to hear more…” (Who knows what they want to achieve)… I simply say, cease and desist, or fuck off. Depending on what mood I’m in. Do they honestly expect a shag or a cure for their loneliness with that behaviour?! How can you fall in love with each other when your Prince Charming is publicly leering and shouting as they zoom past you in a white van? Darn, I’ve had so many chances of a fairytale.
I refuse to be intimidated by these men. However, sometimes when I’m feeling pensive or would just rather not with the unwanted attention, and it happens… I keep my eyeline on the floor and feel ugly. (Now why would I show my tits to you if you caused that?)
After seeing the hashtag ‘me too’, it has given me the courage to publicly say, that make no mistake, to those who accost women on the street or in any environment with unwelcome critiques of their body and pestering them to interact with you is sexual harassment. It should not be in our typical day, to be prepared with come-backs and exit strategies. (I genuinely have a tactic when I’m with my friends where I make the most unattractive noise to avert those passersby who are staring inappropriately). It shouldn’t be happening. We should be safe in our personal space wherever we are.
I hope that this will help others to know that they’re not alone and that perhaps some ‘lads’ reading this or to those men on the Tube or when I’m running or walking or hey when I’m just somewhere. Please don’t objectify me.*
Be human and civilised.
*Just to be clear, I don’t think that everyone that drives a white van is a pervert. Also, sometimes a smile or kind gesture is exactly that. I’m talking about where you have to take a moment and close your jaw because you cannot believe how misogynistic people can be – that happens a lot more than we think.