The World is not your Pick Up Parlour

I have written repeatedly on here and in poetry about street harrassment and unwanted attention in the last few months the worst of these were ”it’s not halloween” when I was wearing what I considered fairly ordinary clothes and a floppy seventies style hat and the very worst was ”I should stab you in the vagina” the first comment was made on the street as i walked to a bus stop as they walked past. The second occurred in a pub after i had previously declined conversation with him earlier he was very drunk I humoured his comments about my outfit for a bit and then said I am off to find my friends and have a good evening, later he accused me of pushing in at the bar and then said with a smirk  I should stab you in the vagina” to which I kicked off I was appalled that the bar staff just looked at me like I was crazy for shouting which shocked me this has happened before when I kick off because someone has said something upsetting to me rather than humouring them which is the expected response. As I have mentioned before if I feel safe I always shout and make a scene to draw attention to what they have done and hopefully gain sympathy from onlookers, this has worked before but not always. It has been mentioned this is a section five public order offence so I may just say that next time I don’t know if anyone would have prosecuted him but I wish we lived in world that took this more seriously.

Last night I was out for NYE like everyone else and met some friends in my usual bar, however there were some guys I didn;t know there with them and when I appeared one of instantly started ”ooooh you smell nice sit next to me” and proceeded to aggressively chat me up and when I wasn’t compliant went down the ”I like a difficult girl” etc etc I felt put upon and annoyed that on an evening that is for me for friends primarily he was backing me into this corner and as previous experience dictates I didn;t call him out on it because I feared a reprisal. To top this off he then proceeded to ask my friend’s girlfriend if she was a man when she’d been introduced as a girlfriend he then got in a snot when it was pointed out this was offensive and you shouldn’t go around questioning peoples gender as if I had deprived him of some right or other to demand to know peoples gender. Which just confirmed my assessment of him.

the worst instance of this occured when I was twenty one, I lived in the country so had to get a long cab ride if I stayed out later than five pm or cycle, I got in a cab and the driver not english and in his forties started asking me out I laughed and said he was too old, he persisted. Including going on about his young son in an attempt to persuade me, he asked for my number I lied and said the battery was dead, he kept on I eventually thrust a piece of paper at him as I got out of the cab and said I’d call him to get him to leave the drive way. It was awful and whats worse, I paid for it, now I;d like to think I’d have refused, woken up my parents told them what had happened and got them to back me up, but being scared might change that. I wish I could say I had done something. I didn’t, I didn’t even call the cab company for fear of getting him on the line.

I know I am odd I generally don;t like being ”chatted up” at all if I like someone I like to let them know and generally I don’t chat up men I don’t know at all for safety reasons. However I think anyone could see, or hear that his behaviour last night was not appealing in any way. I am not and never have been the most attractive woman in the room but this kind of thing has happened all to often and its awful. Don’t do it. If you are reading this and your response is either ”men have a right to chat up anyone they like” or ”stuck up bitch” or even ”you’d miss it if it stops” you are an idiot.

Women have all manner of responses to avoiding attention, Jo Brand and others have talked about deliberately gaining weight to avoid attention, others lose weight to avoid appearing womanly as discussed here: as I’ve mentioned I’ve been all sizes from six to sixteen and have found little variation in attention it is not to do with how I look its too do with being a woman. Men say things and/or try and scare women when they are attracted to them or if they think its comical to find them attractive. Looking like you have a vagina is enough. Its this impulse that makes boys thump on bus windows to frighten women or jump out and scare us, or follow us home, or aggressively question where we are going and who with, make physical threats and personal comments.

When for example a man actually says something like ”that’s a nice dress” then its a shock or gloriously as I passed a building site ”nice shoes!” you are bracing yourself for something unpleasant. It is the volatile nature of some men that makes you fear all approaches it changes where we go and how, how fast we walk, plan ”safe” routes this changes the way we live our lives.

I can pinpoint when this happened, I was fourteen I had grown my hair and shot up in height so had to wear a skirt to school had my braces off and no longer looked like a boy or wallace and gromit character. I became aware of grown men cars saying things it bothered me then because i still felt like a child, twelve years on it bothers me because it happens all too often.

If you think this doesn’t happen you are probably one of the good guys who don’t do this or consort with those that do, as me and other women have said time and again, they don’t do this when other men are around as long as they percieve them worthy of respect.

In short don’t do any of this, call out men who do this, don’t get arsey with women who don;t want to be chatted up, no it is not your fault if you were genuinely being friendly but understand that she may have just had her idiot quota filled that day and finally stand up for the woman who suddenly starts shouting at a man who has upset her, it might be me and I have reason to act like a crazy person because it makes me mad.

Don’t be this guy:

The comic is a woman, only a woman could get this so spot on I think

or this guy:

(note one of the first comments is a man going ”wahh why can’t we chat up women” he may not have meant behaving like this guy but still, the point you have missed it. Asking what approaches women don’t mind is fine!)


The Stirred quad is formed of Rebecca Audra Smith, Anna Percy, Jasmine Chatfield and Lenni Sanders.

Posted in Anna Percy, Feminist thinking, Ramblings

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The Stirred team at Reclaim the Night Manchester 2015
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