As far as days go, today was a pretty shitty one for me. I won’t go into the details, mostly because they are boring and financial-related (the joys of unfunded-PhD life) and they will sort themselves out. That’s not what I’m writing about here, but I’m just setting the mood, as all good writers do. So I am sent home from work early at 3pm (part of the problem stated previously) and I ponder what to do with my night. Initially I go home, get my pyjamas on and watch Secret of our Living Planet on BBC iPlayer and generally feel sorry for myself (by the way, that is an absolutely splendid show so do check it out, but it’s just not how I wanted my Saturday night to go…). Via Twitter I heard about a free comedy night that was happening in town and I thought… Ach ok, why not. It will at least get me out the house for a while and I like comedy! Excellent. I knew one of the acts that was going to be performing, but apart from that I was basically going on my own, but I’m fine with that. I’m a social primate, I like meeting new people. All is good.
So I make myself an omelette, pour a glass of wine and get ready to go out. At 6.45pm I leave the house, having consumed said omelette and single glass of wine. A few seconds after leaving the house, a car full of young men goes past and peeps the horn vigorously as they all shout at me out of the rolled-down windows. Let me again remind you that it is 6.45 in the evening. It is still very much broad daylight and there are lots of people about. Naturally this pisses me off and so I do what I always do in these situations: I give them the finger and move on. This is often considered by my friends to be an unwise move, but it makes me feel better so I don’t care.
I feel it appropriate to tell you at this point what I was wearing, although I hate myself for doing so. I know (or at least sincerely hope) that most of you who read my blog are not of the opinion that a woman deserves to be verbally/physically/sexually abused because of the clothes she chooses to wear, but there will no doubt be some stragglers who stumble upon this site and think “YEAH BUT U WER PROBABLY ASKIN 4 THAT SORT OF ATTENTION”. Not that I ever feel I have to answer to these types of morons, but I’ll tell you anyway, just so we’ve all got a clear picture in our heads. I was (still am) wearing 80 dernier black tights with shorts, a baggy t-shirt, a knee-length black cardigan and biker boots. Not that it matters, I could be wearing a fucking pair of knickers and a crop-top saying “I <3 COCK” and I should still feel comfortable walking around on my own before dark.
5 minutes later, as I begin to walk down a hill, I notice a 40(ish) year old man pushing his bicycle up the hill in my direction. I feel his eyes on me but think little of it. As he gets closer I can’t really ignore the fact he is staring at me anymore, and so I meet his gaze (which, it turns out, is combined with the sleaziest half-smile I have ever seen) and I try to make the least impressed facial expression I can (you know, that one that says “WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU STARING AT?”) But he clearly misreads my signals and his creepy half-smile turns into a full blown horrifying grin and he says “hello baby” in a foreign accent. I glare at him briefly, put my head down and continue walking.
I stroll on, with my headphones on in my own oblivious world for about 30 minutes until I arrive at the comedy venue. I have one beer, have a good laugh, talk to some lovely people, then decide at 10pm that it’s time to go home. So I get the headphones back on and off I trot.
So it’s now 10pm and it’s not fully dark but it’s certainly getting there. People always either consider me brave or stupid or a combination of both because I have absolutely no problem walking home on my own at such an hour. I can take care of myself and I’ll be damned if anyone is going to make me feel like I have to pay for a taxi out of sheer fear. Speaking of which, I got to a set of traffic lights (at which I was the only pedestrian waiting to cross) and a taxi was sitting waiting at a red light beside me. I saw the driver staring at me but, again, I ignored it. People stare at people all the time, human nature innit? Stop flattering yourself, Lauren! Then as the light turned amber and then to green, he tooted his horn and winked at me. If it’s a choice of getting in a car with that guy or walking on my own, I’ll take the latter thanks.
About 5 minutes later, as I’m walking through the centre of town, a group of guys in their 20s are fooling around as guys in their 20s do. As I walk past (with my headphones on but turned down), I hear them shout at me. “Alright darlin’?” When I keep walking without turning around or missing a beat, their calls become more aggressive. “Oi. OI!” When I still don’t react, they respond with “fooking slut” and then they all laugh. I can’t help but feel like I’ve missed the joke.
I’m not complaining that tonight all these awful things happened to me. Quite the opposite actually. I have heard stories of women who have been followed home, physically attacked, and had to go through so much more than this. Like I say, I really try not to let these stupid little things get to me. But this is really just an average Saturday night for a woman walking around alone. Most of the things I have described here, many women would just shrug off and not even see as a problem. And that is my problem. All of these things are acts of intimidation. They are not compliments. I hate that being a woman by default means that you are probably going to be subject to these sorts of things on a very regular basis. And I am sick of it.