Street harassment is a thing that women across the world have to put up with, in different forms and varying degrees of threatening-ness. In my experience, street harassment in the UK often comes with a particularly sexual, de-humanising element. In Spain, in comparison, there were just constant “hola guapa“s, which I’m unlikely to really complain about. But this isn’t a rant about street harassment, despite appearances. After a lovely experience on my bike this morning (and there’s not even any sarcasm in that sentence!) I wanted to share some do-s and don’t-s for any men who feel they just have to comment on women they see in public (all based on personal experience).
- Stare, with your head swivelling round 90 degrees as you slowly drive past. Did your mum never tell you it was rude to stare?! Plus, it’s kind of creepy to just be outright stared at (having said that, the other day another cyclist spent a good few minutes just staring at my bike at some traffic lights. It was slightly awkward as he was right next to me but didn’t say anything to me, but felt a lot more amusing and less rude than someone staring at me like that! I think it’s an object / person thing).
- Roll down the window of your white van to shout “Sexy!! I’ll have some of that!“. Contrary to popular opinion, women are not “that” – I am actually a person! Secondly – no, you won’t have some of that. Thank you.
- As a woman walks (or cycles, or runs, or crawls, or…) past, say “oooo, look at the legs on that“. As above – I’m not a that. Also, it makes me feel like a piece of meat hanging in the butchers shop! Oooo look at the legs on that, that would make a lovely Sunday dinner.
- Ask a strange woman walking past in the dark where she lives. When she ignores you, follow her, repeatedly asking where she lives and if she’ll go on a date with you, meaning that she has to walk right around the block to avoid walking you to her house. Just as a word of warning, even single women are unlikely to go on a date with a man that has decided the best seduction technique is just to follow random women home!
This is less a list of “do’s” and more the real purpose of this list – to share a few moments that have made me smile recently (and to counter those people who complain that feminism means they can’t compliment women on the street anymore).
- Firstly, yesterday morning I was cycling through Canary Wharf on my lovely Giant Envie, standing up on the pedals away from the lights, cruising to a halt at the next lights, not really thinking about my cycling but more about what time it was and when I was going to arrive at work. A guy pulled up on his bike behind me, jumped off and made his way past me, on the pavement, into his office. As he passed me, he said “I just wanted to say that you looked wonderful on that bike.” I was pretty shocked and still smiling as I locked my bike up and headed up to my office, over 5 minutes later!
- Secondly, I was cycling home late one night a few weeks ago and was stopped for a while at the traffic lights at a major junction. There were a group of boys riding bikes on the pavement, no lights, no helmets, just black hats pulled down low and black scarves pulled up high over their faces. I watched them warily as they cycled along the pavement and then across the pedestrian crossing in front of me. “Nice bike!” one of them called out, and I grinned, because it is a really nice bike! The boy obviously saw my smile because then he shouted “and you are an absolute darling, have a lovely evening!” Curle an even larger smile, because I am a Darling (that’s my surname). I shouted back “you too!” And they cycled off into the dark, cheering.