The worst experience of sexism I have ever experienced was last May when 2 friends and I were walking back to our college campus after having gone out to dinner. This car came down a perpendicular alley and had 2 or 3 young men screaming profanity at us, calling us awful names for simply walking down the sidewalk wearing shorts. I was so terrified, I was shaking.
A car beeped it’s horn at my friend and I while we were walking home. We’re 14.
I recently am reading the book Everyday Sexism. 5 years on, I thought that some things might have changed, but only yesterday I was catcalled walking alone in the afternoon in modest clothing, and my childhood was still influenced by gender roles. I’m a 17 year old girl, but I definitely realise the importance and impact of change.
Coming back from a short walk at lunch, on a residential street, car pulls over, driver says excuse me, so I assume he wants directions and he asks “is there any chance you’d be interested in a toy boy?” I was slightly stunned, muttered “what the f#!&” and walked quickly away. Ducked through back alley and checked I wasn’t followed. I don’t think he was alone in the car.
A little background: I’m a 21 year old female, I’m proficient at karate and am usually very confident in myself and pretty unflappable. I had been in London tonight meeting a friend for dinner, and was on a late train home to my small village and I arrived at my station at about midnight. I regularly walk to and from the station in the day, and sometimes at night too and feel completely safe, but in the last month I’ve been leered at or followed by a group of men in their 20s that I haven’t seen before, on a regular basis during the day time, surrounded by people, in the centre of my village. I’ve also and noticed them walking down the road I live on when driving to and from home. These men sometimes deliberately spread across the road to slow me and leer at me while in my car, and other times make comments as I walk past on the street (even when with family members or friends). I decided to spend the extra money on a cab from the station because I felt unsafe walking home for once, and while in the queue for the cab a group of men (of mixed age, between 30-50 yrs old) walked up to get a cab too. There were 3 other people waiting in the queue with me, 2 women, one of whom was with her male partner, and after complaining about the length of the queue the group of men decided that it wasn’t so bad because there was ‘some talent in the queue so it wasn’t a total loss’. It felt like it was some sort of ‘lad’ thing, to signal to the others that they were part of the group. Luckily as they were walking up to us our cabs arrived. Perhaps more than the men who had been leering at me, that I had made a concerted effort to avoid, I was most disgusted by the group of older men, who I might have expected a little more decency from, that had decided to objectify me and the other women in the queue rather than show any kind of respect, and the option that I had thought would make me feel more secure late at night left me feeling quite intimidated. At the time what felt like the safest option was to keep my head down and get out of there asap. As soon as I got in the cab I wished I’d called them out on their ridiculous objectification, asked why they thought it was acceptable to reduce women that they’d just happened across by chance into sexual objects to be leered at in somewhere that should be a safe place (as if it should be the case that one place should be freer from this kind of nonsense than another). What also struck me was that neither of the other women (both at least 10 yrs older than me) had moved to stand up for themselves. They too were too intimidated to speak, even though we were in a public, well lit place and there were people from the cab company milling around making sure everyone was looked after. Even in this situation we didn’t feel secure enough to call out what these men were saying. The cab driver however had noticed the men and made a point to apologise to me for whatever they’d said because he saw that I felt uncomfortable and wanted to reassure me. He also waited to see that I got into my house, because i told him that I’d got a cab to avoid these men that had been following me. This cab driver was in no way responsible for the actions of these other men, and his apology wasn’t necessary, but it just goes to show that there’s a choice to be made, to be a sexist that knowingly objectifies and intimidates someone of the opposite sex, or to respect people. it’s certainly not just male to female, but it certainly feels like it’s more acceptable for men to objectify women at the moment, and I think it’s sad that someone my age should already feel so jaded about this kind of thing.
Today I was walking over to visit my fiance, a cyclist, who was t-boned by a car yesterday and as a car drove past me I heard the driver and passenger shouting and whistling at me. I was so pissed off (because those words were the final straw and because idiotic drivers like this one being distracted could have killed my fiance) I turned around to flip them off. But, as usually, I spent the rest of the walk looking over my shoulder and wishing I’d paid more attention to the color of the car so I’d recognize it if they came back looking for me.