10. An Open Letter to Creeps

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Can someone explain what the correlation is between sun and creeps? Logic tells me there shouldn’t be one and yet the evidence proves otherwise. It’s almost as if creeps store up all their year’s worth of harassment until the sun triggers their perverted ways.

I always opt to walk or cycle home after nights out. Being neither drunk nor ‘scantily dressed’ gives me the false confidence that nothing will happen to me, it makes me feel like if something were to go down I could get away quick. That thought in and of itself is tragic: neither alcohol nor clothing should ever be considered as an excuse for harassment or worse. I’ve been told I’m brazen, perhaps even rash, but I do it for many reasons. First, that women would prefer or need to take cabs or else require (usually male) company is an abhorrent idea when men don’t deal with the same burden. Secondly, and most importantly, I think the more women that demonstrate they are prepared to walk around alone at night, the more normalized it gets and the more comfortable we’ll feel to about doing it in the future.

But on Sunday night the logic behind these arguably utopian ideals were tested. After a night out I decided to make the 20-minute walk home through a relatively safe part of Paris. I bore no signs of having been partying, I was not loitering or ‘causing a scene’ I was just walking down the same road I’ve walked down scores of times, minding my own business. And yet, the level of harassment I received made me want to take a shower with bleach. A man followed me for a block then when I slowed down to get him to pass me he asked (freakishly politely) if I was wanted to accompany him to his car, when I respectfully refused he pleaded, sinisterly saying it was a ‘bonne idée’. Having successfully shaken him off, I got accosted by another man who followed me asking for a drink or a cigarette. This is not to mention the four cars who shouted at me out of their windows. And the cherry on the creep cake was a homeless man who called out for me to look at him – he was masturbating. I couldn’t decide what was worse, when the street was busy which meant guaranteed, but generally harmless, harassment; or when the street was deserted which offered silence but made me nervous, imagining something worse than jeers.

These experiences were horrific, a man would never have to face them on a walk home, even if he was half naked and smashed. We all know this as common sense but it drives me insane. What measures must a woman take to avoid this kind of behaviour short of not leaving the house? You dress ‘modestly’, it dun’ work. You ignore, it dun’ work, you retaliate, it dun’ work. It seems a woman can’t walk down the street without a man jeering, at any hour of the day. Since the weather’s got nicer, I see more and more men whistling, tooting their horns and cat-calling at women, as if by choosing to not wear winter coats and scarves we’re now allowed to be viewed and critiqued for it. These are generalisations but when you see and experience it, day-in, day-out it’s more than tiring – it’s downright infuriating. Of course, not all men are perverts, but the creeps give the sane ones a bad name. If you think a woman is attractive/pretty/hot – whatever, that’s cooool; it’s natural to appraise beauty, it’s biology even – I don’t know many women who don’t like complements but complements don’t come in the form of making animal noises at her, yelling out your car with your mates or following her home. Those are signs of a misogynistic psychopath. It shouldn’t be too hard to tell them apart.

Here’s the litmus test: if you wouldn’t want some bloke saying or doing those things to your sister or friend, best not to do it to some other chick. Kapish? It’s demeaning and vulgar and makes women feel uncomfortable. Moreover, whatever your end-game is, your creepy ways will 9 times out of 10 result in scorn or anger not a woman thinking ‘oh My Lordy Lord isn’t he wonderful? Take me now.’ Creeps, I’d recommend chilling out a little, get an ice-cream or a Fanta and calm down on the predatory ways. Preying on the ‘fairer sex’ will only infuriate us and if you insist on treating reality like it’s a jungle let me assure you, we’re not the delicate gazelles in the metaphor. We’re intelligent women and our bite can be as savage as yours.

 

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