I had an absolutely horrible experience the other night. I was walking home late at night in a pencil skirt and high heels (this is relevant, I promise) when a man lurking in the shadows leered, “Sexy, seeeeexxxxy” at me as I walked past.
A feminist friend of mine who I admire greatly, and who incidentally runs a rather good blog, has a policy of always shouting something back at creepy men like this. Inspired by her example I always try to pluck up the courage to give them a hearty “Kiss my arse” or if I’m feeling really brave, “Sit and spin”.
As I took a deep breath and considered exactly what expletives I would let rip with, I suddenly realised that I couldn’t risk angering him, because I was wearing a pencil skirt and high heels and could neither fight him nor run away if the situation escalated.
My frustration then turned to terror as he followed me home, chanting, “Seeexxxy, seeeeexxxy, I’m gonna fuuuuck you” in a horribly threatening manner. There was nothing I could do but to keep my head down and walk as fast as I could. I thought that he was going to rape me. And that, of course, was what he wanted me to think.
It’s time yet again to link to that fantastic I Didn’t Ask For It campaign. The London Feminist Network has an ongoing project to demonstrate this issue:
We are asking women across the country to send in a photo or painting of a garment or the garment itself, which you were wearing (or is similar to what you were wearing) when you were sexually harassed or assaulted. Use your creativity to mark the garment in some way. For example, you could write “I Did Not Ask For It” in marker pen or fabric paint on a t-shirt, or embroider “I Did Not Ask For It” onto a vest, or draw, paint or digitally design the message “I Did Not Ask For It” on paper and photograph that message on or pinned to a dress or pair of jeans.
The whole point is to highlight that male violence and harrasment is about male power and not about what women wear or drink or do or where we go. This will be made visual because the garments will obviously range from boiler suits to short skirts. We realise this is a sensitive subject, but we want to air these issues in public – because the shame is not ours. So let’s hang the washing out to dry and shame all those men who view our bodies as public property.
I did not ask for that man to assert his dominance over me. I did not ask to feel completely humiliated. I did not ask to feel terrorised. Women don’t ask for rape threats.