I was on a train. There was only one seat left on the carriage and a man took it I was 16 at the time, he was maybe 20. He offered the seat to me and I declined, saying that I was fine with standing, he got there first. Then he jokingly asked me to sit on his lap. I laughed nervously and said no again. For the next 15 minutes, until he got off at his stop, he kept going, kept asking me to sit on his lap, joking about how he couldn’t let a poor woman stand. I think it became obvious that I was deeply uncomfortable after he first minute. After he left, I felt ashamed and deeply embarrassed. Another woman had watched the whole thing and stayed silent which made be feel more mortified, not because I blamed her, but felt embarrassed that someone else had even seen it. I initially didn’t tell anyone, and thought that it was somehow my fault, but as I got older, I look back and like to think that if that were to happen to me today, I’d have enough confidence to shut him down.
Back in the summer I went on a trip to Italy with a couple of friends and we arranged to hire a car. I had arranged the booking before the trip, so I was listed as the primary driver with all the documents in my name, and one of my male friends down as the secondary driver. When we picked up the car, nobody would speak directly to me, pointing all questions to my male friend. On more than one occasion he was offered a form to sign, only to have to tell them they actually wanted my signature as it was my name on the form, much to their surprise. If this wasn’t bad enough, when we returned the car exactly the same thing happened, even though I was the one who drove the car back into the garage and handed the keys back in. It was like I was invisible to them, because surely women shouldn’t be put in charge of cars, right?
This is the first time I’ve posted on this forum, and I wasn’t sure which story I should include. But, seeing as already today, before 9am, horns were tooted at me and I was ogled at on the tube, 4 times, I feel it appropriate to share this. It’s the last day of August. I live and work in London. I have a 45 minute commute on the tube and it gets very hot and very uncomfortable quickly. So, naturally, one would prepare to wear clothing to keep cool, without getting to work looking like a frizzy-haired, sweaty bear who’s just failed at running a marathon. So, today I have on a dress. Not my normal every-day wear, but seeing as it’s summer and beautiful weather, why not. It’s sleeveless, red and black, has a bateau neckline (no I didn’t just Google that) and sits just slightly above my knees. God Forbid. Cramming onto a tube in rush hour is bad at the best of times, but when it’s sunny and warm outside, so many people are in the worst moods ever. Me included: it’s early, I’ve not had my coffee fix, and I’m crushed into a little tin can that’s hurtling below London’s hot and busy streets. So sure, if you bump into me, I’ll more often than not give a wry smile and a nod of the head – it’s ok. But not this morning. I managed to get a seat about halfway through my journey, once I’d changed from the Northern Line to Piccadilly. And immediately a man who had been sat across from me came and sat right beside me. A little weird, sure, but hopefully harmless. It was as his man-spreading increased and his leg was pressed against mine that I wanted nothing more than to actually get to work and type up my Finance meeting notes. When I jumped off the tube and walked out the station, a builder standing smoking immediately wolf-whistled. On my 5 minute walk to work, 2 white vans honked their horns and the men inside laughing who legit looked about 14 drove away on their merry way, leaving me to feel conscious and walk that little bit quicker and warier of any men around me. All for wearing a dress. The most frustrating thing about this is that I feel there is no way to change this behaviour, because it’s all just a joke and lads are being complimentary, innit. Don’t get so worked up about men paying you attention. Well the thing is, I don’t WANT or NEED this attention. I was on my way to work, as I do every day, and I expect to feel safe and normal like any other person. How can this actually change and what needs to happen before men stop. Just stop.