I’ve been wanting to say things for a while.
I’m 28, and I have spent most of my teenage years and adult life aware of my vulnerability as a woman.
I’ve text my friends to tell them I have gotten home safe and told them to do the same. I’ve taken the long route home because it’s well-lit. I have been groped on public transport and felt that jolt of fear walking home at night when a group of men have started following me. I have been cat-called and called awful names when I have refused to smile. I have been told I’m stuck up when I’ve refused to engage in conversation with a creepy bloke. I’ve been told I look like a stripper, slag , like I’m easy and more. Men have followed me home; I have been flashed harassed and treated badly. I wear trainers and carry my nice shoes; I’ve only worn one earbud while out on a run or getting the train home so I can still hear what’s going on around me. All these things I have done or have been done to me for one reason;- I’m a woman.
And these things have be done to me by strangers. The sexual harassment I have experience from people I know is another story for another time.
Now I can’t stress it enough; I don’t hate men. I have a grandfather, father, brother, and husband. I love and respect these men and they love and respect me.
I know not all men engage in this behaviour but on the whole society is accepting of it. This behaviour is rarely called out and is quite often seen as harmless. I recently listened to a podcast where the gentleman said he had made a realisation; that you (a man) should never say something to a woman ( that you don’t know) that you would not want to be shouted at you by a big, wide, sweaty man in prison. It made me laugh – but if more men struck to this rule woman might feel safer.
Cat-calling is my pet hate. Its embarrassing, frightening, and uncomfortable. But what makes me even angrier is when I’m told I should be flattered. Because nothing makes you feel prettier than being shouted out by a stranger in the street *eye roll*. And I can pretty much guarantee that the man shouting at me is going to bigger than me – I’m 5 ft 2 tall. And if you don’t think that’s intimidating you are losing your mind. Before anyone diminishes this experience, it does not stop at cat-calling and I know a lot of woman who have been in the same situation. I have been in much more frightening situations and genuinely feel a jolt of fear if I am the only woman in the room. Isn’t that a sad society to live in?… the problem in this situation isn’t me and the experiences I describe above are not unique to me.
What can the government do to make woman feel safer and keep them safer? Well keep the streetlights on, think about woman when designing infrastructure, services and more. Crack down harder on crimes like indecent exposure and groping. Give woman better access to the services they need. Educate boys and girls on healthy relationships. Educated boys on their responsibility to help woman feel safer – do not teach girls that the harder they pull your hair the more they like you. Make it mandatory for car parks to be well lit … the list goes on and on.
What can men do to make woman feel safer? I don’t think it said better than don’t DO or Say anything to a stranger that you wouldn’t want said or don’t to you by a big predatory man in prison. Because if he is yelling “hay sexy why don’t you smile for me” you would be freaking the fuck out right???
It’s not all men, but here is the thing: not being a rapist, not being a murder, not being a sexual predator is not enough. Be a good person; listen to woman and try to understand their lived experiences. Stop brushing over what happens. Because I can guarantee if men were being harassed on a daily basis in the way woman are it would be quickly sorted .