On your high horse

7 05 2012

Like most twentysomethings, I often leave the house to meet my friends. As far as I know, it’s not a rare occurrence; I’m not in the minority. And of course, if you leave your house, you probably want to go back to it (unless you get a very good offer on your night out). And this is what I did on Saturday. I left my house with the full intention of going back there at some point in the evening.

Ok, so I’m aware that’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff. And to be honest, from talking to my friends, I don’t think that what I’m about to write about is groundbreaking stuff. And that worries me, because I think it should be.

The walk home from the tube takes about 10 minutes, and I’ve done it hundreds of times- in rain, in shine, and once, in shoes that soaked up all water in every puddle. I know the route- it’s straight, on a main road that is well-lit, and pretty busy. So I came out of the station, turned my iPod on (I was listening to Belle and Sebastian, thanks for asking) and made my way home.

Then I walk a bit further, and a man tries to get my attention. I ignore him. Head down, hood up, headphones in.

A few seconds later, I feel someone running towards me. This is petrifying. The sensation of being alone, at night, and knowing someone is running behind you is not a nice feeling, be you male or female.

Anyway, fine, I’ve had people run up to me before to tell me my skirt was tucked into my knickers, so I’m kind of used to it now. (Incidentally, I’m now also used to constantly checking I’ve pulled my skirt out of my knickers. It looks like I have a wedgie-related nervous tic). I keep walking, and he taps me on the shoulder. And then this happens-

‘Here love, where are you going?’

‘Home’

‘Where’s that?’

‘Home’

‘Can I come?’

‘No’

‘Why not?’

‘I’m seeing my boyfriend’ (this is the weakest lie I’ve ever told)

‘Oh, you’re English’

‘Yes’

‘Oh, that’s means you’ll be up for fun!’

‘No’

‘And you wear glasses! That means you’re clever but naughty’ (no one, not even my optician, has ever been so excited that I wear glasses)

‘No’

‘You’ve got sexy legs!’

‘Thanks’

‘Can I show you something on my phone?’

‘No’

‘Come on, just stop and have a look’

‘No’

‘Why not, it won’t take long?’

‘No’

‘Come on love, do you now want to see what’s on my phone?’

‘No’.

This continues for a bit until I get to a crossing and lose him in the crowd. But I’m incredibly nervous, and basically run home. Who was that guy? Did he subtly nick anything from my bag? Is he still behind me? Am I ok? The answer to all of those questions is ‘no’.

Before I carry on writing, I should just let you know a few things about me- I rarely get angry (unless you steal my Diet Coke or make me watch Sex and the City 2) and I’m not a raving feminist. My basic motto in life is ‘don’t be a dick’, and I think it’s ok to expect that level of respect from other people, be they friends or strangers. So I was pretty disappointed by what had happened.

As you may have noticed, I said no to this guy many times, and yet still he persisted in walking with me. For all I knew he might have followed me all the way to my house, and demanded to come in. What was I meant to do? Avoid coming home? Kick him and run? (Another thing to know about me is that I run like a duck. Not even joking). Call up a friend to meet me? Maybe I shouldn’t wear a dress next time I’m out late at night? Or maybe I shouldn’t go out late at night at all?

The more I think about it, the more upset I am that this is something I even have to think about. Feeling safe on my walk home is not an unreasonable demand, and I don’t think it’s fair that I should have to worry that I need an escort, or that I should wear trousers, or, if we’re being ridiculous, that I should just avoid walking.

I wonder whether this happens to guys? I’m not saying it doesn’t, because I’m sure many boys have felt the clammy breath of a drunken girl stumbling up to them and propositioning them. But this felt different, because generally, men are bigger and stronger than girls, and if he grabbed me there would be nothing I could do about it. Basically, I felt a bit powerless.

I’m not really articulating this very well, I know that, but I came home feeling angry that I’d been made to feel targeted and helpless. And like it was my fault for wearing a skirt, or being on my own.

Maybe if I was in a better mood I’d laugh it off, say I was flattered to get propositioned on my walk home, and joke that it was the best offer I’d had all week. But I don’t think it’s fair that I have to do that. I mean, I’m self deprecating most of the time (although I’m not very good at it…) and I feel uncomfortable turning this into another one of those moments. Because the thing is, this happens to girls quite a lot, actually. And I don’t think it’s fair that we should accept it, say it’s ok, and just make sure we always look over our shoulder when we walk home.

I’m not saying we should ban men from the pavements of north London, and I’m not saying I want to start petitions and march around banging on about women’s rights.

 

I’m just saying, well, can the dicks stop being dicks, please?

 

 

 

 

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