It's five weeks since I wrote that ranty post about being sexually harassed in public. That post generated a lot of excellent comments, a great many tweets, conversations, recommendations, e-mails, and someone I didn't think I even knew coming to sit next to me at a science event to tell me what a good post it was. It also drew the disapproval of a man who tweeted "Another day, another feminist who is missing my point", and the scorn of a woman who tweeted a friend of hers that the post was "very suspect" because I "look like junk". But something else I didn't expect has happened.
In those five weeks, I have not been sexually harassed once.
I haven't been shouted at, leered at, called anything, spoken to inappropriately . . . absolutely nothing. When I used to get it at least a couple of times a week.
There could be many reasons for this. The entire male population of Ilford and South Wales could have read it and mended their ways, for example. Or someone powerful, maybe even a God, might have forbidden them. Or they're too busy with the hot weather. Or I get harassed more when I'm covered up from the rain than when I'm in sleeveless tops or dresses. Or it's all just complete coincidence.
I think the likeliest thing is that the relief of setting it all out in public, and of the absolutely enormous and overwhelming support I got, privately and publicly, must have given me a new confidence that shows. Perhaps I stand taller. Perhaps I give off a different air. I don't consciously feel anything - other than a new-found enjoyment of my local area, a new feeling of freedom to wander through it as I please, rather than to get the hell home as soon as I can. And a new liking for my fellow folks of Ilford, many of whom are very nice, just like everywhere else.
Perhaps it's worth us girls doing an experiment - that anyone who has a blog, or is in the mood to start one, should write a similar rant! I'm not sure that would be very scientific (it would be a lot of fun, though).
Actually, there's something like that already going on at London IHollaback. (Note there's a national one and local ones.) There's a nice section about what you can do if you are a victim or a bystander. Remind me to write to them and share this story, please.
Men sometimes ask, "So what can we say, then?" I answered as best I could here (feel free to comment and disagree). But let's be honest, a gender neutral discussion is by far the most civilised in most cases. Have a read of this great imaginary conversation by Lauren Bravo.
And don't treat it as not a serious problem - the little woman being hysterical, etc. "Schrodinger's Rapist" explains why not. Yes, it is unfair on most well-intentioned men. Martin Robbins remarks in this great discussion with Laurie Penny about how to talk to men about sexism: "It’s not pleasant knowing that women feel vulnerable because of the behaviour of a – substantial – minority of my gender . . . I’m six foot two, big build, I will literally change my route to avoid, for example, following a woman up an alley."
Finally, if you need some cheering up, here are some great street harassment comebacks!
Thank you all so very much for being my readers and for making this happen. I hope it happens for all men and women - let me know where I can be of help!
Update: But, but - I didn't think anyone would seriously do the experiment . . .
Julie Gould: Leave Us Alone - the experiment
I recommend a read, she explores a slightly different side; a very moving post. Thank you so much Julie!