Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Leave us alone!

It is probably not good form to resurrect this blog after 4 months' silence whilst in a towering rage. Me in a towering rage is not a pretty sight. It's a good way to get writing, though. And both men and women need to read about this.

I love London. It's my home. I hope to spend much of my life here. But there's one thing I hate, that I've never had to deal with so much of before, and that's the repeated street harrassment. Nearly every time I leave the house to go to the shops, or get on the bus or train, you can guarantee that some man is going to yell something across the street at me, or come right up close to me and behave as if I owe it to him to be intimate. It's a matter of celebration when I can leave the house and come back without this happening.

It's not just London, of course. Trains in Wales are particularly irksome. On my way back here, a couple of guys sitting near me started asking me perfectly friendly questions - about how long it was to various stations,  what book I was reading, what I thought about the Big Bang etc. - all of which was fine; great, in fact. Then one of them sprang up, sat next to me, snatched my book, and started reading it out in a twelve-year-old school bully sort of voice. It promptly descended to the pair of them chanting at me and generally behaving like schoolchildren who know they're going to get away with poking and hitting me all the way through Assembly, because I can't move and nobody's going to stop them. I ended up carrying all my stuff to a different seat and telling the conductor, who just said "they're getting off at the next stop" and went away. I felt so mortified and self-conscious - there was another big chatty group of people nearby, who I think knew what was going on and certainly stared at me when I moved and spoke to the conductor - but hadn't a word to say. I wanted so desperately to hide. It was me who got stared at, me who had to take the action, me on whom all the responsibility fell.

That wasn't the worst incident, though. On another journey a few years ago to see my then boyfriend, a huge crowd of drunken rugby fans got on, and one man sat next to me. He kept asking me where I was going, did I have a boyfriend etc. I told him yes I did and kept my answers monosyllabic, because his manner made me uncomfortable. My looking out of the window, reading a book, etc., did nothing to deter his questions and reinforced his demanding, hurt tone. Finally I pretended to go to sleep. When I opened my eyes a few minutes later I jumped out of my skin to find he had angled his body so his mouth was right in front of mine ready to kiss me. (My face was pointed downwards before you ask.) There was nothing I could do. My voice had gone. No conductor could get through the crowds. If I yelled, his rugby mates would be the first witnesses. I just sprang to my feet (and had to climb over him) and got off the train as soon as I could.

In London, what usually happens is that two guys walking in the street, or standing on a doorstep, will call "hello darling" or "come here, girlie" or "Oi! Blondie!" at me. This is annoying, but I can ignore them and hope they don't follow me. Sometimes it'll be someone alone. One frightening incident was where another large man ran up to me while I was walking up the street, fell into step with me, told me off for walking too fast for him, boasted to me for a while about how he earned £50,000 a year, and then asked me out for a drink with him. When I said thank you very much, but no thanks, he followed me into the train station (which I hadn't been planning to go to) and asked me why not in the most expectant manner. Panicking, I lied that I had a boyfriend, and dashed through the ticket barriers and went a couple of stops away. It wasn't his words that bothered me, but his taking for granted that I simply had to say yes. I thought he'd drag me along and do what he liked to me. The other day, I was walking home, carrying a couple of shopping bags, looking at the ground and having a bit of a happy giggle to myself about an earlier conversation that day (do you ever notice people doing that? I love it when someone in the street spontaneously smiles or giggles, and I know they're thinking about something nice). Suddenly someone's face appeared about three inches in front of mine and he hissed "HELLO SWEETHEART!". As with all the other incidents, I was just startled into complete silence. I had no answer ready. The happiness was knocked out of me. I went home angry and frightened, feeling like I was at school again where I had no right to be safe from the bullies, keeping my head low but wondering if anyone knew where I lived or was following me home.

Fair enough, none of these incidences led to me actually being assaulted. They're nothing compared to what some of my friends have gone through. I used to get worse in horrible school discos where being groped and boys getting angry not to be kissed was part of the package. But they're a crap way to live your life. They make me wary and angry. They make me feel that because I'm female, I'm collective property and automatically available. The way a lot of them look at me - as if I do them wrong - suggests that they hold me personally responsible for their feelings, and that I owe them something. I just never know what they might do. They seem to think they have the automatic right to say what they like to me - what else do they think they have the right to do?

It gave me a sudden memory of when my sister and I were very small, too young to understand about these things, and our mum explaining such an incident to us. All we saw was that she suddenly stopped to talk to someone in the street, as boring grown-ups do. When we walked on, she calmly told us: "He tried to cuddle up to me, so I made him tell me where [something, I forget what] was, and then I made him leave me alone." Her voice, echoing in my brain, sounded sad and resigned. She had had to talk to him, she had had to be touched by him with two toddlers in tow, and she was putting a brave face on it.

The worst part is that I can't think of anything to do to improve the situation. I could yell at them, but that takes more guts than I've got and would just draw more attention to me and doubtless get me blamed - I doubt any members of the public would leap to my rescue. I can keep my head down and run away, which is what I generally do, but that indicates to them that they can get away with it and will keep doing it. There's no teacher on playground duty in the adult world.

But that's the thing. I am female and as such I am, by many, held responsible. (Check this if you don't believe this happens.)It's supposedly up to me to find some way to deal with this stuff. Never mind that it's nothing to do with being in the wrong place at the wrong time - that all these incidents occurred in public in broad daylight, not down some dark alley where respectable girls don't go. Never mind that they all occurred when I was thoroughly covered in jeans and coat and scruffy flat shoes - one time in the pouring rain with my hood up covering my hair and most of my face. Never mind that I don't wear make-up, or that the one time I did walk through London in a short dress, I was terrified the whole time and wished I hadn't worn it, but apart from a random tourist striking up an annoyingly long chat, I was left alone. Never mind that it also happens to a lady I know who is over fifty and exceedingly modest - even while she's riding her bicycle. There are many perceptions that it's down to how a woman looks or dresses, that it must be her fault.

I've written about blaming the victim before. It's a problem. It's a similar problem in cases of domestic violence, where it's very common to find bizarre ways to blame the woman or to somehow absolve the man (usually, though certainly not always, the perpetrator) of responsibility - "he just needs to feel better about himself", for example, when in fact his problem is that he does not see his partner as having the same rights as he does. (I strongly recommend my friend Natalie's posts about this issue. She's on Twitter as @God_Loves_Women. I'm not remotely religious but I really admire her and recommend you follow her!) It's all part of thinking that because someone's female, you can treat her how you like - and this gets woven into law, and her rights seen as incompatible with other people's, where such attitudes prevail.

All this is so sad for men as well as women. Most men I know are angry and upset to hear of me and other women being catcalled or otherwise harrassed. They worry about this happening to their female relatives and friends. They know it's not civilised and they would never do such a thing. (In fact, one man said he finds men who do such things intimidating, too.) Nobody's said so directly, but I suspect some men may worry about asking out a woman they like, for fear of being thought of one of the catcallers. They feel guilty on behalf of their own sex, which is awful. (Incidentally, both Rhys and Lee are currently fundraising for charities that work to improve things for women!) It's similar to the men who came along to the She is an Astronomer conference and are only too keen for more women to rise high in science. I hope nobody reading this thinks this blog is to criticise men!

I have a bad habit, by the way. I quite often explode on Twitter. Actually, Twitter's an excellent place to explode, because it moves so fast, the subject can move on when you've calmed down. And far more often than not people will check in and see if you're OK rather than put you down about it, and it's relatively anonymous. When I exploded recently about the man who hissed straight into my face, I got I think it must have been dozens of supportive messages. But when I came back home yesterday and tweeted "Something LOVELY happened today. I went into town and was not catcalled once!!! :-)" the point was, shall we say, not well understood.

One guy asked me: "What? Are you a supermodel?" and a couple more replied to the effect that this must mean I'm beautiful. I thanked them, I hope graciously and modestly, but assured them that I am not and that this was nothing to do with it. Being catcalled is nothing to do with appearance, and it is not a compliment. Unfortunately, I was not believed by all . . .

These are the nicer exchanges that took place. (Update: I had some screenshots here, with name, avatar and Twitter handle blanked out, but on reflection decided that was cruel. This person doesn't seem angry with me despite earning some furious replies from my followers. Please don't look for him. It took a long time to convince him that what was going on was not flattering or harmless, but it turned out to be genuine ignorance on his part. He deleted a lot of his tweets which were to the effect that it doesn't happen to ugly girls, so it should be seen as a "morale booster". These made me so angry - I am not Samantha Brick, I do not feel better if some random man thinks of me as better quality prey than another woman - that I unkindly retweeted him, and he got a LOT of stick. If you're reading this, Anon, I felt I should apologise for you getting all that stick, but I was stubborn and didn't want to go back on my point. And by the way, I'm sure you're not ugly.)

When asked if it was a good thing that I wasn't catcalled, and I said that it usually happens is bad and that it didn't happen today is good, his reaction was that "as an ugly bloke" he'd love to have such an obvious indicator that he was attractive, and that it was surely a good thing to happen to you. He felt that he couldn't relate to it since no women have pounced on him this way, and that not being a roadworker or builder, he wasn't a catcaller, and couldn't speak for them. (This was only a small part of the exchange.) The perception was that catcalling is something that a burly, practical, rather stupid class of males do, and that it constitutes shouting "you're beautiful" to beautiful girls, who prink and preen gleefully, and probably just continue on their way, feeling superior to other women and thus happy.

To give him his due, he admitted he had had no idea what it's really like and had learnt something new! And it definitely isn't like that. We get called intimate things by strangers, and are spoken to as if we are their property and should follow their orders. They violate our privacy and our space and our feeling of being able to leave the house safely. We look hysterical if we get upset, and everything we do makes it worse, and then it's our own fault for how we look or dress or just for being there among the world of men. We feel angry, helpless, humiliated, and alone.

Stellar, who was honked at six times within one minute when venturing into town last week (and has also had to put up with such things as men following her, and a bus driver saying "nice tits" when she was just a young teenager), joined the conversation, pointing out at the right time that it's not what a woman wears that causes the harrassment . . .

Then this person came along, who a) has had their account suspended, and b) whose anonymity I will make absolutely no effort to preserve:


 She replied calmly, as did NathanielBB. He wasn't having any . . .


I lost it.


I had actually tweeted this guy a few examples of very modestly dressed women who'd been harrassed, so as you can see, his attitude was "My mind's made up, don't confuse me with facts".

He may have just been a troll, but sadly what he says is hideously representative of what needs explaining. Again and again and again. Happily, it was cause for much celebration from several people when his account was suspended (it turned out it wasn't just me he was arguing with!).

I had the good fortune to be sent some excellent links by fellow Twitterers. "ihollaback", a site all about street harrassment in London, was tweeted to me by Becky (whose work I hope to write about in a later blogpost). Mike sent me this post he wrote about what "consent" means and is often taken to mean, which attracted some bizarre comments. Speaking of consent, this "Driver's Ed" on sexual consent, at Scarleteen, is excellent! Sent by Lee.) And Esther reminded me of @mencanstoprape, found at "Men Can Stop Rape", which is not the same thing I know (part of the same attitude, though, just a lot worse), which contains this delightful picture with which I shall leave you . . .


To fellow women this happens to, I support you. To fellow women free of it, it should always be this way. To men who disapprove and support us, and equally to men who did not know it was a problem but are open to finding out it is, thank you - you are not the problem but the solution, you shouldn't feel bad, and we need you all.

26 comments:

Samuel Palin said...

I agree with most of the piece. I do think there is a tendency to lump all catcalling together, when actually I think it's a pretty broad church – from intent to threaten to antediluvian misogyny to a genuine wish to compliment to a pure desire to fit into a male friendship group. Catcalling isn't usually a compliment, but I don't think it's never a compliment.

I'd also contest your claim men are "usually" the perpetrators of domestic violence. A lot of sources put the victims of domestic violence as 40% male, and that's ignoring the likelihood that men are less likely to report.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence

Catherine Hill said...

I hate it when this happens and mentioning that you're married (which I shouldn't feel like I need to do) does not always put men off.

I've often wondered if it is worth asking men who do this, or support it in discussions, how they would feel were a large man to do the same thing to them.

Also it certainly is not complimentary as a male friend of mine used to get it a lot when he had long hair. It's 'oh look, a female' reaction, nothing more.

K. A. Laity said...

Random assholes shouting at you on the street is *never* a compliment. And the men who are victims of domestic violence are often so at the hands of their male partners. Read the reports closely.

Rape culture -- and street harrassment is part of it -- is difficult to fight, but necessary.

Anonymous said...

apologies, i have no questions about astronomy. but i will share this thought, which is pleasingly symmetric if not exactly on-topic:

homophobic men are afraid that gay men will treat them the way that they treat women.

as to your post, though, i'm really sorry you have to go through that at all and thanks for raising (my) awareness. i'll try and do my part, particularly in cases like you describe on the train where some intervention may help. though that in itself raises the question that, since intervention shouldn't be necessary at all, how helpful can/should one be?

n.

Anonymous said...

You're completely correct in what you say about victim blaming being a huge problem. I grew up & live in London; but I have to admit that being harassed on the streets has hardly ever happened to me; it used to happen more when I was young and better-looking, but that may have had more to do with the way I carried myself than with looks?

Either way, not an excuse, and once is too often, and so on, but personal experience tells me that it doesn't happen regularly to every woman. It hasn't happened to me in years, and I use public transport/walk around outside a lot.

one thing I would add though is that harassers in my experience have often been people with evident problems - obviously it's dangerous to judge on appearances only, but I've been yelled at by men who were clearly ill rather than simply aggressive. and that says something about care systems in London.

Alice said...

Thank you all for commenting (no astronomy expected). It means a lot. :-)

I'd love to know what's best for both sexes to do, and bystanders. I guess it's something humanity needs to collectively decide.

Here's another great link . . . Street Harassment Comebacks (let's see if this HTML works) . . .

Alice said...

Someone's asked me how women would like to be approached. It varies, but let me say I'm happy with all the following: being smiled at, a random conversation if I'm not obviously busy or going somewhere, a compliment such as that my bag is nice, being looked at (not stared at obsessively), being helped eg if my bag has burst on the floor or whatever, having my conversation with someone interrupted politely if you've got something to say or you're enjoying it, being asked what I'm reading . . . And if such leads to good meaningful conversation then sometimes being asked for my contact details is OK. Not by someone I've exchanged 2 sentences with on the bus though, that's just creepy.

(I strongly recommend a look at Acts of Kindness to gain a lot of faith in humanity and encourage nice communication!)

I really like random conversations with strangers and have certainly been known to catch their eyes and laugh at their jokes I've overheard. I fear I've also offended some protective parents by smiling at their babies or toddlers. If that's you, sorry :-(

Do these make any sense? What do other women think? And other men, about how you'd like to be approached, if at all?

Elisa said...

It's interesting to see how street harassment seems to happen so much more in London- I lived there for eleven years and found it happened to me on an almost weekly basis, but since moving to Edinburgh eight months ago it has happened to me just once. That's still one time too many but I do wonder why the problem seems to be so much worse in London.

Here in Edinburgh it happened when I was walking home from work: as I passed a lapdancing club one drunken punter shouted at me "get yer knickers off". This bothered me partly because, unlike the lapdancers he'd just been leering at, I wasn't being paid to take this abuse, and for him seeing that some women are willing (or desperate enough) to be objectified for money seemed to have made him think that all women are game for a bit of harassment. I can believe that the proliferation of lapdancing clubs does some harm to society, and having to walk past them certainly doesn't make me feel very safe.

I still get a bit nervous walking past large groups of drunk men on stag dos and loitering around the lapdancing clubs. This one incident of street harassment was enough to prime me to feel fear around these places. That's one of the most damaging consequences of street harassment: the constant feeling of anxiety, the looking over your shoulder, the panic to make sure you have your keys ready before you get home so you won't be caught scrabbling about for them on your doorstep...

One night in London when someone asked me "have you got the time?" I instinctively said "no", put my head down and quickened my walking pace while looking straight ahead. The male asking this question had been about twelve years old, but his (probably) innocent question still induced this anxious response in me. This is how street harassment conditions us to live in fear- it's not fair on us women, and it's not fair on the majority of innocent and respectful men who don't harass women. They should be doing more to stop the minority of street harassers among them from giving them a bad name- such as pulling them up on it, and refusing to defend their actions as "a bit of harmless banter".

Anonymous said...

These men are hopeless with women and that is why they act like that. They are inadequate. Sadly Joe Public never has the guts these days. I once chased off teen boys groping and harrassing a young woman on Poole rail station. One hundred onlookers did nothing. I bollocked them after the event. Yes we should be wary of intervening but if we did it a little.more maybe things would get better.

Samuel Palin said...

"Random assholes shouting at you on the street is *never* a compliment."

Do you speak for all women? I don't think so. Compliments are subjective. I would agree that most probably isn't, but I think the intention of some of it probably is. Universal statements *always* make you look stupid.

"And the men who are victims of domestic violence are often so at the hands of their male partners. Read the reports closely."

But probably more at the hands of women, since we live in a predominantly heterosexual society? I would be interested if you have data to support that claim. The BCS doesn't really explore it in its data (around p70):

http://www.nscfc.com/hosb.pdf

Alice said...

Never fails, there's always one who's clearly not actually read the post and is here to say "But you've ignored statistic X (never mind whether or not you actually have) and this irrelevant detail is FAR more important!" / "But there must be some REASON for sexist behaviour" / "But by speaking for women you're making our they're special or something" / "Never mind if a stranger tries to assault you in a crowded space, SOME girls must love that so you must be just picking on men."

Mirik said...

Thanks Alice for a great post! Great to hear more women speak out against male street-terror.

As a (non-macho) male I've personally found macho males very intimidating, they ooze unpredictability & mendacity, pumped up on wanting to prove themselves to their pack, roaming beta-males trying via all the wrong ways to demand respect with fear resulting from intimidation & recklessness.

There is a sort of paleolithic innocence in it, men who debase themselves to advertise their incompetence as a plea of desperation or simple follow-the-leader folly. However I was thinking, this strategy must somehow pay off or it would've long ago been bred out of the humans via sexual or other selection?

Anyone have any experience of this sort of thing actually working for these types?

It's safe to say this is a young male issue. Class or education may play in to it, the examples the children have in their peer or social group are crucial, but probably most of these cases are youths who simply don't know any other way of communication, perhaps taught by peers that interest in the feelings and inner lives of others is "weak" and that they have to pose aggressive to have succes.

Most of the posers who do such things are, or will turn out to be, quite nice lads when the shackles of peer-groups loosen and they domesticate into adult society. That's probably where class comes in, if you are not exposed to mainstream society, or end up in prison or in perpetual contact with emotionally immature males (evil to generalize but I'm assuming this happens in male-dominates work-areas like building, truck driving, perhaps finance or some male dominated business even, so above or underneath the normal in which one works with many ), one may turn out to think it normal for an entire life.

I live above a cafe and work from home, so I get to follow the dysfunctional lives of others. So happens this cafe is full of unemployable criminals & lifetime drunks during daytime hours (closes at night) and you really get an insight in to the tragedy of being left to your own devices by a society that turns its back on "lost cases". Almost every single thing I hear sounds to me like a cry for affection, help & inclusion, but these people are incapable of expressing these things since they were excluded. Anyways is another issue, if related.

Engagement is probably the solution, less youth-boredom, more exposure to social norms and empathic reasoning, basically more exposure to vocal women outside of peer groups.

Anyways, very helpful list of ways women may like to be approached. Thanks!

As I said to Alice on tweets, I've never myself approached a woman on street ever. Mainly in fear or being "one of those guys". So it's massively true that theses males damage the engagement of others via more benign ways, as also illustrated by a great comment above, this behavior creates atmosphere of fear which self-perpetuates. Feedback loop into terror.

I wish I could offer more than humble apologies for my flawed gender. I can very much imagine the feeling of intimidation, even if not ever in the same context (unless bands of beligerent gays start roaming the streets).

Anonymous said...

I'm female to male transsexual. The worse street harassment I've suffered have been AFTER starting to live as male.

Harassing people on the street is just rude. It doesn't matter who is being harassed it's rude and often cruel and shouldn't happen. My hairy legs, what's in my pants, these things are not the business of random strangers on the street.

Sakib said...

I think that respect and equality for women has been sidelined and parents don't seem to instil a sense of what is "right" in their children compared to a generation ago. I fear that society will continue its downwards dwindle into devolved stupidity. The other problem is artificial social constructs being forced op people, that men are only supposed to socialise with men and women are supposed to socialise with women. People mixing up their peer group and engaging with as many facets of the jewel of life is the key to a greater understanding and appreciation of one another. I've also noticed that people simply don't give a fuck about each other (pardon the French!) and don't want to get involved with issues and problems for possible fear of attention. The other thing I find extremely disturbing is nice or kind behaviour being ridiculed or demonised and being derisively labeled as a "goody-two shoes".

Samuel Palin said...

Alice: no, I read the whole piece, and I don't think the comment is irrelevant. I think picking apart why catcalling happens is important, and I think belittling a good chunk of domestic abuse is disastrous.

Most catcalling is unpleasant, and some abhorrent. But I think a lot of it is less about males wanting to intimidate women, and more about:

1) the internal dynamics of male social groups, and a desire the 'fit in'
2) men who have grown up with a narrow view of how to interact with women. This often isn't a male problem, but a societal one.

I suspect that the vast majority straight men – even those who have catcalled – would rather women were consensually affectionate towards them than afraid of them.

Incidentally, to your point:

"I suspect some men may worry about asking out a woman they like, for fear of being thought of one of the catcallers."

This is certainly the case for me.

Alice said...

I completely fail to see where I belittled a large chunk of domestic abuse, since I said "certainly not always", and did not say whether the victims were male or female.

I'm also noticing you're ignoring the large number of incidences where the threatening man was on his own, and rather than shouting to impress, came RIGHT UP TO ME, inches away, and spoke right into my face and demanded that I do as they said. That's happened to me nearly as many times as being shouted at from someone in front of other men.

Alice said...

I also completely agree with K. A. Laity saying "Random assholes shouting at you on the street is *never* a compliment". That is not an idiotic statement, it is one as simple as "Assault is always wrong", "Rape is always wrong" and "Bullying is always wrong". (If you think otherwise, what's wrong with you?) You want to be complimentary? Smile or say something nice. Don't behave aggressively. It really is that simple.

Sadly, because my blog was about the effects rather than the causes of harassment, I've been labelled (on Twitter) as a hysterical nasty man-hating feminist, and subtly framed here as not being interested in causes. I have nothing to say to that besides a rather impatient sarcastic remark to the effect that I can't actually cover an entire subject in one blog post.

That someone is trying to impress their mates rather than threaten women is no excuse, and it shouldn't be treated as one. You might as well say that all but the leader of a gang of bullies are innocent. It's still about power. It's still about belittling someone else in order to look bigger. I'm certainly not asking these people to be condemned forever, just that they learn rather than that they keep getting away from it because a bystander feels sorry for them.

Anonymous - I am really sorry to hear about the nastiness you suffer as a F to M transexual. That is very sad, and I never knew that happened, but on reflection, I guess it's not surprising. If I ever see it, I hope I'll be able to challenge it!

Alice said...

Update: Sexual harassment myths. Samuel Palin, I recommend a read.

deeisme said...

Sammy, your right about one thing, it has everything to do with fear. Abuse comes from fear of powerlessness and loss of control. Abuse is an attempt to gain back that control.
A man harassing a woman might as well be shouting "I'm in fear of my manhood!"
Alice has every right to post her experiences online. You however have gone to great lengths to continue the harassment she suffers in public to her online activities.
Grown up men are self aware and don't feel sexually threatened by every woman they come across.
So, by all means, keep blathering Sammy, keep telling us all about yourself. You simply don't realize, every word from you simply makes Alice's point stronger?
I'm sorry, did my comments offend you? Did you feel belittled? Well, now you know how Alice feels.

Invader Xan said...

Things like this, frankly, make me renounce whatever maleness I may have. In fact, I actively reject it sometimes. I don't even care what that might make me, I just don't want to be associated with anyone who behaves in the ways you've described here. Or worse, to be grouped as one of them purely because of genetics. Frankly, I've always done my best to avoid these people. Everything about them is upsetting, intimidating, and infuriating all at the same time.

And the trouble is that it makes everyone who isn't an insalubrious vociferous moron keep their distance from each other. Men for fear or being mistaken for, and women for fear of drawing attention from one of said morons. You can't say anything nice to anyone anymore. No compliments. No pleasantries. If you try, it's assumed you're some creep who has some ulterior motive purely because you had the guts to say anything at all. And so everyone stays quiet. Everyone loses.

Aren't we supposed to have evolved past this garbage by now?

Alice said...

Awwwwww . . . :-(

If it wasn't already obvious, I find most men to be terrific people, and I think the saddest thing about this is seeing innocent men being ashamed. You have no need to feel like that. I don't think of you as one of them.

And as Xan says, it's very nice to be part of compliments and pleasantries. I've really enjoyed random conversations, and random smiles. It is so sad when this doesn't happen.

@Stellar190 said...

Xan's comment made me tear up and it also made me wonder if there are any blog posts on this topic from a man's point of view. I've never seen any and I really think there should be, it would be extremely valuable and very helpful for so many different reasons. After all, it's not just women who have this awful problem to put up with, men who take no part in the horrible things described in Alice's post are effected by what happens too :-(

Peter Wood said...

I'm not sure if anyone has already mentioned this (I've read some comments, not all (there are a lot)) but I wonder what part the media might play in this sort of thing.

Bear with me...

If you pick up The Scum, then on page 3 there's a topless woman, sometimes with the word "Phwoarrrr" leading her bio. Or the notorious Wail Online features about female child stars being "all grown up". Then could that have an effect on attitudes (especially given that The Scum's readership is predominantly male).

Obviously, men that do this sort of thing have a deficiency in social skills and don't reflect all men in general, which Alice has adequately covered. But with the absolute authority of someone who has studied cultural studies for ONE whole year*, I would say that some of that attitude comes from either similarly minded fathers, or from similar social groups that are yet to embrace even the twentieth century, help to construct these ideas in people. But, from what Alice has described and from what I have witnessed myself, I think that cultivation theory applied to media is relevant.

Obviously, I am in no way excusing individuals or even groups that behave in this manner - I'd probably put myself in the group Alice mentioned of people that are made to feel more uncomfortable or intimidated by men that cat-call in public - but I think that as well as them just being twats - and they are twats - it's worth asking what is cultivating these ideas - the idea that women are collective property - that they hold, given that that social groups, businesses, and even governments are making such progress in actually noticing 'oh, yeah, that's a person', what is it that is still holding some individuals in a 18th century timelock?

Apologies if most of that has been covered. See footnotes

*This piece of text was a joke
**All of this was written following a glass^ of wine
^A bottle

@Cwol said...

Informative blog - I really had no idea this sort of thing was so common.
I'd like to take up on one point you made about feeling unable to ask for help. I believe most people would be only to happy to help but hold back in case they're misinterpreting what they are seeing. So, if it's just a fear of getting no help and making it worse (I'm guessing here - male, never been there) I'd say go for it. Most bullies WILL back down if challenged so might get them off your back without help anyway.

Alice said...

Many thanks again everyone. I'm reading and thinking about every one of these comments, even if I don't respond directly.

I want to share some great stuff I've been sent . . .

A freethoughtblog from a male perspective

End SH day, in Egypt, from a week or so ago

Safety, the right for all, and how to protect it from someone who read this blog. Thank you so much!

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe it, this post is from 2012!
So NOTHING has changed since I was young - some nice, but unhelpful lookers-on, a lot of harrassers - and a gruesome number of victim-blamers.
I began to show my disabilities when I came of age/got to a university town, and as I was never heterosexual, this reduced the problem for me (but I am greyhaired now, and still not perfectly out of the risk to be singled out as the next victim!)
So - for each reader who shares this problem:
1. attend a selfdefence class.
2. with this group, and with nice friends, try to find out which behaviour you can shrug off, and where are your limits.
3. determine if you have the energy to report each, or a few incidents to the police and the conductor´s nonreaction to the traffic authority (if he could not throw the gang out of the train, he could have stayed with you)
4. the laws are much more useful than what was in the 1970ies, but a lot of these are not consistently enforced.
Get information where which law or rule applies, and how to find the correct adress for a report.
5. Can you have a specialized lawyer? There should be some, at least in London - in my time it was the most civil among the very big cities. But still exhausting for my taste.