Beth, Salford

I got harassed on the bus the other night and it was terrifying. One drunk man was shouting down his phone, about smashing shit up and how tonight his actions would get him in prison, so I spent the whole bus journey on edge anyway. Then another drunk man proceeded to try and chat to me. He came over to me, I was wearing a blazer with badges on the lapels. He hovered his fingers very calculatedly over the badges on my chest reading them out one by one, his fingers centimetres from my chest. My mind was flooded with what to do but I decided to let it happen and only intervene if he touched me, out of fear if I became confrontational, the other drunk who was ready for a fight might seize the opportunity.

While this happened one woman looked at me and when I made eye contact she snapped her head away. A man turned to watch to assess the situation. Afterwards, he smiled and almost laughed as if to say “bloody drunk people, eh?”. I couldn’t smile or laugh about it. When I went to get off the bus, as I’m standing waiting for the bus doors to open, the male bus driver decides now is the time to tell the angry drunk to pipe down and behave. I think when I got off the bus and cried, I was more angry and upset by the fact that the men in the situation 1. Had the audacity to act like this in public and make me feel uncomfortable and 2. Had the privilege to be able to laugh it off, or insight confrontation without taking into consideration how it could end for themselves or the people surrounding them. I also felt sad that myself and the others felt that it was only appropriate to intervene if I had been fully assaulted and not when my personal space was invaded and I felt uncomfortable.

I realised I wouldn’t have been able to think these things without the feminist reading I had done in the last year and I began to wonder whether knowing everything had made the situation better or harder. It certainly felt harder/sader/angrier unpicking everyone’s reactions. However, when my friend told me the next day that she had also been harassed that night and later in the week my other friend was sexually harassed and we were all able to talk about it in clear terms, and we were able to articulate our anger and I was able to console and empower my friends and myself after such traumatic events I realised that I actually had a bit of superpower in knowledge and ignorance is in fact not bliss.