Anyone who has been following Everyday Sexism on Twitter (and I imagine that's most of my followers) will know about the current vogue for taking a stand against street harassment in all its insidious forms. With that in mind, I'm not really sure why I'm doing this, as it's not anything new or special, but the subject has been at the forefront of my consciousness recently, and after experiencing two very different forms of street harassment over the weekend, I thought I'd do a little compare and contrast.
Let me start my saying I'm very lucky in that I don't tend to experience too much street harassment as a general rule. Like almost everyone else I've spoken to about it, it got significantly worse when I moved to London, and both instances at the weekend happened in the capital as well. I'm not saying men in Essex aren't natural born street harassers (I'm absolutely certain they are), I really don't want to let Essex off the hook when it comes to any criticism I could level at it (I'm not a fan of my hometown, I'm not sure if you picked that up), but I've a theory I don't experience harassment so much in Essex because the only time I venture out in it is to leave it, and my route to the station doesn't involve much scope for human interaction (deliberate, let me assure you).
Anyway, I digress. I don't encounter a great deal of street harassment and my stories are far from as harrowing as some you'll see over on Everyday Sexism. No one has tried to touch me in the street that I recall (though a man in Subway did once pick me up and move me like a fucking human chess piece); I'm enamoured of the suggestion that it's because I look pissed off enough already, and most men realise it'd be the fastest way to lose an arm. A radio host did once say he "wouldn't want to meet me in a dark alley" and he hadn't even seen me, just listened to me ranting on some topical debate programme for 10 minutes. So this isn't a tearful plea for sympathy, I can handle myself. This is, simply, the tale of my weekend.
On Saturday I got off the London Overground at Brockley around lunchtime and was halfway out of the station when some bloke started shouting "LEGS!" at the top of his voice. The dearth of other people in the vicinity at that exact moment and a cursory glance over my shoulder at the culprit led me to believe that I was the target of his attentions, which never extended beyond him aggressively chanting "LEGS! LEGS! LEGGGGGSSSS!" like a cross between Father Jack and excitable two-year-old until I was out of view, which happened fairly quickly as I was feeling quite intimidated and in my flustered state hurried off down the wrong road and momentarily got lost yet again on a journey that legendarily takes less than one and a half minutes by foot.
Now this, is my opinion, is yet another example of how street harassers are getting lazier. Legs what? What was he trying to tell me? That I have legs? That he liked my legs? That he didn't like my legs? Was it a critique on my sartorial choices that day, which did involve a playsuit cut fairly high on the leg as I'd somewhat optimistically dressed for the fact that it was June, and not for the fact that it was Britain and the skies were grey? Come on dude, if your opinion's that important that you have to shout it across the street at me, you should at least properly enunciate it. It reminds me of the time a friend and I were walking down the main road just off my street in SE London and a car went past from which a man yelled "SUCK MY COCK!" (I'm not sure which of us it was aimed at, he didn't express a preference and my guess is he couldn't exactly afford to be picky), but he didn't slow down, much less stop the car, so how was I supposed to find him to suck his undoubtedly lovely and disease free cock? As is so often the case, he simply hadn't thought his harassment through.
On Sunday morning about 11am I was hurrying down a quiet residential street somewhere between Brockley and New Cross, late for the train again, and a young guy, younger than me, teenage, maybe, was walking towards me from the opposite direction. He looked me up and down, and in the fraction of a second as we passed on the narrow pavement he leaned in and whispered "You're gorgeous" in my ear, which managed to be both far less intimidating than the previous day's shouting and about a thousand times more creepy all at once. It clearly wasn't a genuine declaration of romantic intent because he didn't miss a step, and I very much doubt I was really a vision of beauty to him the morning after the night before with bad hair no make up. So who knows what this guy wanted either? If I had to choose which kind of irritating twat I had to deal with on a regular basis on balance I think I'd plump for the latter, but ideally, I'd prefer to be left to go about my business without the social commentary.