So in general, I drive a lot, I don’t like to walk far without my husband with me. I struggle with people walking behind me, I feel nervous and vulnerable around lots of people and similarly feel nervous when I’m on my own plus various other reasons I won’t go into right now… I just prefer to drive, it makes me feel safer.
Anyway, today due to a car issue, I had to walk with my toddler (in his pushchair) to pick up my boy from school. It’s about a 15 minute walk, (longer on the way back with slow, tired and moany child) and I have two routes I can take. The shorter one is down a footpath and under a railway bridge and is in general fairly quiet. Alternatively, I can walk along a main road, with lots of traffic, this road goes past a small Industrial Estate. I chose number 1, because in my experience taking the main road means unwanted attention from men, in particular the van and lorry drivers going to and from the Industrial Estate.
Unfortunately, I was the only one using the path on the way to the school and one of two families using it on the way back from school. I felt nervous and vulnerable and as a result I was less able to ground myself when I was hit by intrusive memories that were triggered by my surroundings (which I am so not going into right now).
To make matters worse, on the way back from school, just before reaching the footpath, a man in his van decided to beep his horn at me as he went past. I was jumpy as it was, but that was enough to trigger hyper vigilance.
It makes me so angry, I’ve put up with this kind of thing since I was 13 years old, local bin men would “wolf whistle” at me in my school uniform, I’d walk to town to meet friends and various men in cars/ vans would beep their horns. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m under no illusion that I’m “all that” it’s just what some men seem to do to women. What do they get from yelling out their car window or beeping their horn? As if yelling “Alright darling” and making me jump, is somehow suddenly going to make me want them. I wonder how these men would feel if they knew some other man was doing the same to their wife/ daughter/ sister etc. I wonder if they realise how intimidating they are being? Did this man today have any clue that he scared me? Would he stop doing it if he had a clue of the effect of his actions?
Over the years, I’ve had unwanted attention all over (I am not going into all of that right now); in night clubs, to the point of groping / “minor” sexual assault, which happened so often, my friends and I considered it the norm. It was just expected and even accepted as a part of nightclubbing. I’ve regularly experienced men beeping their horns at me or leaning out their windows yelling something or other. While I don’t like it, it is something I expect now, which is one of the reasons that I struggle to go out alone right now.
I doubt I speak for all women, but I am not sure I’ve met any that find it anything but offensive. It is not a compliment, I don’t find it flattering, I am not dressing to impress, I am not existing for men to stare at me. I am not here for some random guys gratification, I am merely living my life; as in the case today, I was just doing the school run with my two small children. Wearing a dress (which is recent progress for me (YAY!)- insecurities have kept me from wearing them in summer for years), was in no way permission to leer at me. I wasn’t asking to be ogled at. I felt intimidated, I was made to feel uncomfortable in what I was wearing, I was made to vulnerable alone with my children, more so than I already felt.
All I wanted to do was collect my child from school and walk home in peace (at least as peaceful as you can get with two small children). Wearing a dress, and walking alongside a road, does not give permission for men to scare me, because that’s exactly what this man did and countless others have done before him. I am sick and tired of being objectified by men.