It's been a long time since I posted anything to this blog. With internet feminism it's easy to feel like everything has already been said, like you have nothing new to contribute. And to be honest, what I want to say has undoubtedly been said a hundred times before. But clearly it hasn't been said enough.
I wish for one fucking second I could make men understand what it is like to be a woman. Tonight, I went to a friend's 21st. She wanted to go to a fancy restaurant and requested we all dressed up, specifically in dresses and heels. Heels aren't normally my bag but I can always dig out a pair for a best friend on a special day.
On the way back from our meal we had to walk up a pretty densely populated clubbing street called Park Street. You know, when you start a night like ours, you really shouldn't be taking bets on who is going to be the first target of some wasted guy with a sexist slur. But it's always the fucking case.
When we were halfway up, a guy yelled at my friend, 'You've got great tits, how about you suck on my balls love'. Two minutes later we got 'Oi, four girls for four guys, how about it?' By the top of park street a guy asked us for a lighter and none of us had one. He replied 'Oh, incredibly fucking helpful'.
This is nothing on what I've had in the past. When I was sixteen a guy who couldn't have been younger than thirty followed me through the park yelling 'How old are you?' when I (pretty naively) said 'Look, I'm only sixteen', he kept on following me, yelling 'That's legal!' until some other people turned the corner. I remember being beeped by cars when I was in my school uniform, kerb crawled when I wasn't older than fifteen. Harassment isn't just verbal: when I was 14 and stepping out of a shop onto Lewisham high street, a guy walked straight up to me and grabbed around my breasts, torso and the front of my jeans before promptly walking off into the crowd. Christ, I was thirteen when I first noticed a guy following me around the aisles of the corner shop, staring at my body, my tiny little-girl breasts under my jumper. It's terrifying. Most girls are forced to be aware of their bodies and how men view them long before they understand their own sexuality and agency. I certainly had to.
Can someone please talk me through why men are this fucking awful? Because I can't say for sure, but I think I have a theory, and someone please correct me if I'm wrong. These guys don't say and do this shit because they find us attractive. They're not saying it because they think we'll be impressed. They're not saying it because they think it's actually a compliment. They know they're insulting us, even scaring us and the reason they do it anyway is because they know there is nothing we can do about it.
I'm a small woman. I'm short and slight and I'm not particularly strong. And tottering about in heels, it's pretty clear I'm not going to be able to run fast either. Guys yell this shit at women because they can, because we look vulnerable and they know we won't fight back. It's a power thing, an aggression thing, it's cowardly and nasty and violent. The last time I had the nerve to tell a couple of guys to fuck off when they literally growled at me in the street (in broad daylight, when I was wearing jeans and docs) I got followed down the street and had to cross the road to lose them. It's intimidation, it's harassment and I'm so fucking sick of it.
If you're guy and you're sitting here thinking this can't be all that bad, let me ask you. When was the last time you told your mates to text you when they got home safe? I wish to god that I was brave enough that the next time a guy hurled some of this shit at me I could turn around and make him wish he'd never dared. I fantasize about learning Krav Maga, and pulling a Buffy on the next guy who thinks he has a right to lay a finger on me or any of my friends. But in reality, I know it's not worth the risk. Because most men could hurt me if they wanted to. Whether you want to be, or think you are, men are fucking scary. And women have grown up being told the horror stories of the girl who was raped on the way home: we've grown up being told never to let ourselves be that girl. When were you ever told not to be that man?
I know not all men do this. My point is, enough men do. Every woman I know has had to deal with this, and it is fucking scary. We don't know who's a potential attacker and who is doing it for some 'harmless fun'. That's why it's so powerful. Because it could be any of you, and we're not willing to take the risk. I wish for one fucking second you knew how that felt.