It was cold yesterday. Not the kind of cold I’m used to growing up in the Midwest, but still a biting cold that is unusual for London. I was in King’s Cross having coffee and lunch with a friend before she had to rush to a meeting. I made it to my overground station with about 10 minutes to kill before my train left so, it being cold and I hadn’t brought gloves, I staying indoors before heading upstairs to the outdoor platform. I pulled out a book (Ender’s Game) and stood reading when I noticed a gentleman (I use that term because, at this point, I had no idea he’d turn out to be a huge fuck-wad) wheeling his grocery trolley towards the escalator.
I paid him no mind until he stood at the bottom of the escalator for a bit too long. I looked up only to find him staring right at me and giving me one of those creepy ‘I haven’t showered in 4 days, wanna bump uglies?’ looks. Gag me.
I calmly went back to reading thinking he’d just go away. When he didn’t, I moved to the opposite wall where he couldn’t see me. Unfortunately, this happens all to often. I’m a typical Midwestern gal, blonde with those Germanic facial features worthy of breeding or farming (probably both). I’ve never been ‘thin’ and I’m average height, but somehow all of this translates into ‘Of course I want to be oogled at, please feel free to slobber with your peepers.’
When it was time for my train, I made my way up the escalator and towards the car that I normally sit in to be the first out at my stop. Lo and behold! Sackface is near my car. I decided to hold my head high and head down anyway, refusing to allow him to take up anymore of my time and energy, but that got pretty hard when he constantly moved closer to me, staring right at me. I moved a few times to block his few with a hefty, tall man but he kept at it until the train came (which was 6 minutes late, thereby prolonging my agony).
Now, I should have yelled right at him on the crowded platform. If I felt polite, I should have said ‘Can I help you? Is there a reason you’ve been staring at me for the past 10 minutes?’ and, if I felt feisty, I should have said ‘I am NOT a piece of meat, here to be your lust-filled, fantasy plaything! Stop staring at me like I was brought forth for your pleasure.’ AND, if I was feeling downright treacherous, I should have given him my sweetest smile and spit right in his face before aggressively grabbing his genitals and twisting with the fury of Medusa.
The entire problem was not this one, sad man. The problem is that it is common enough in my life that I chose to not say anything, thereby allowing him to have control over my emotional state as well as physical body. I got angry, moved around, in the end changed cars, chose where I sat so I wouldn’t face him, scanned the crowd at my stop to make sure he wasn’t there…all of these things I allowed to happen to me because of one man’s inability to see me as a person. I gave up my agency as a human being, and a woman, when I chose to stay silent because I knew it wouldn’t change anything. I knew that my anger and rage at this man wouldn’t make him a better person and, in fact, may have actually more negatively affected me as I had no idea how the surrounding public would have reacted.
And you know what? I’M FUCKING SICK OF IT! I’m tired of feeling like it’s my job to teach others how to be human beings, capable of courtesy and manners. I’m tired of being afraid to wear anything remotely figure flattering because of how uncomfortable I get when people notice: quick glances, little comments, men following me on train platforms (sadly, this is not the first, nor last time, that this has happened to me).
And, most importantly, I’m tired that my male friends and relatives have NO IDEA that this occurs. I told my partner yesterday of my plight on the platform and he responded as was expected of a loving and caring partner. He was outraged, listened while I went through all the things I should have yelled at the guy, and was there emotionally for me until I had calmed down. Then he said ‘I just have no idea when this happens to you’.
And for me, that’s a huge fucking problem, because it’s in the forefront of my mind every single time I leave the house and has been since my twin and I were stalked by a man in a truck when we were 13 years old. If my partner cannot even see the frequency with which this occurs, even after numerous occurrences that he’s been privy to, how can I expect anything to change with other people?
I’m not suggesting that my partner, being male, inevitably is a bottom-dwelling creep because he’s not a woman, but I am saying that education takes a long time, and it must start with those we love and care for. Yes, yelling at the Penis-in-shoes on the platform may have made me feel better and allowed some in the vicinity to think more about that certain social situation, but the real education happens with those closest to us, those who love and care about women and girls, and that is the true place I can make a difference.
For further reading, please check this out. Zerlina Maxwell, a rape survivor, dared to suggest that men can prevent rape, and received a worrying amount of negative backlash after: