So a few hours ago, I was walking down the main street in town when I saw three young white Scots – I’d estimate they were about eighteen or nineteen – up ahead on the corner, hooting and making engine sounds in (presumably) appreciation of a car that had just driven past. Then they turned and started heading towards me. And as we passed each other, one of them glanced at me and asked, “Would you shag me for a pound?”
I was, quite literally, dumbstruck. The boys kept walking; I got two paces before my outrage had time to assert itself, at which I shouted after them, “Fuck off, you misogynist bastards!”
Quite clearly, I heard one of them laughingly ask the others, “What did she say?” And then, when his friend repeated the “fuck off”, he got angry and started to yell.
I couldn’t make out what he said next – I’d kept on walking – but just before I rounded the corner, I saw that all three had stopped and were shouting after me.
The encounter went no further than that. It was, after all, the middle of Sunday afternoon, outside a church, in broad daylight. At least one passerby stared at me when I yelled at the boys to fuck off, doubtless because she hadn’t heard their original remark. I was left shaking with fury for at least the next half hour, and though I’ve since calmed down – this was hours ago – I’m shaking again as I type this.
This was not a pleasant experience. It was vile and awful, a breathtakingly casual display of sexism. I did not know these boys. They were younger than me by almost a decade. A minute earlier, they’d been laughing about cars. I’d done nothing to offend them. Bad male behaviour is never excused by what women are wearing, nor do skimpy clothes count as provocation. Nonetheless, as some men clearly don’t understand this fact, you could be forgiven for wondering how I was dressed – after all, the lad in question clearly thought it was appropriate to proposition me for sex.
Behold today’s outfit:
Call me crazy, but I’m struggling to find a definition of ‘provocative attire’ that includes a rainbow beanie, glasses, a Gryffindor scarf, a leather jacket, an ankle-length velvet skirt, and barely-visible boots. I was shapeless and comfy; with my hands pocketed, hair covered and neck scarved against the cold, the only way I could have been showing less skin was if I’d been wearing a niqab or balaclava.
Which only leaves my gender. A stranger insulted me because I was female: nothing more, nothing less. And when I reacted with anger – when I called him and his friends misogynists and told them to fuck off – they got angry, because to their minds, they’d done nothing wrong. To them, the remark was a harmless joke, yet there was I, busting out the swearguns and shouting like a crazy lady with no sense of humour.
THAT IS BECAUSE MISOGYNY IS NOT FUNNY, YOU FUCKS.
OK? It is creepy and invasive and threatening. If a group of men said that to me at night with no one about, I’d be deeply fucking scared. The fact that it was daylight – that I was able to swear at them with impunity and keep walking – is down entirely to luck and privilege: luck, in that I found my voice before they were out of earshot, and that the incident happened in daylight in front of witnesses who would likely have intervened on my behalf; privilege, because I’m white, a fluent English speaker and a legal resident of this country, and therefore had absolutely no reason to think that, if my retaliation made them angry enough to hurt me, I would not be protected or believed by those in power.
This week in America, Republican Rush Limbaugh was forced to make a condescending apology to Sandra Fluke, a young woman he called a slut and a prostitute for her advocacy of birth control, after being shunned by members of his own party.
“In the attempt to be humourous,” he said, “I created a national stir.”
But humour never defends misogyny: not when you’re an idiot teenage boy, and certainly not when you’re a politician.
Grow the fuck up, all of you.