lifestyle

Dear men: "Don't approach me in the street. You don't have that right."

He had black teeth and stunk of alcohol, the man who approached me on Tuesday night. He intruded into my personal space and stood centimetres away from my face. The man touched me and wouldn’t leave me alone.

Even when I moved away.

Even when I ignored him.

Even when I told him to stop.

I was standing at a train station about to make the commute home. It was dark. No one else was around.

So this man took advantage of an opportunity. He saw me standing there and he made the decision to ruin my night and scare me.

He felt he had the right to harass me and invade my personal space.

He didn’t.

train stalking

He took advantage of an opportunity. He made the decision to intimidate me. 

Even after I ran away into the safety of my train carriage, I felt fear and anger. How dare he, and others like him, think he has the right to touch me, to speak to me, to make me feel unsafe?

I’ve been approached countless times in my life; at least three times in the last week. I’ve been wolf-whistled on the street, groped in a nightclub and approached in a shopping centre. And I’m not okay with it. I’ve never been okay with it and I don’t believe I should have to be.

I should feel safe making my nightly commute home, or walking down a busy city street.

I should feel comfortable being alone in a town. As a woman, I resent the fact that I can’t walk down a street without frantically looking behind me and gripping my keys in my hand, ready to take on an attacker.

I resent the fact that women everywhere are treated like objects in certain men’s eyes – something they can pick up on their stroll home, with no regard for who they really are.

ADVERTISEMENT

Now I know #notallmen are like this.

But some are. And that sheer knowledge is enough for me to run home from my train station at night. It’s enough for me to lace my car keys through my hand. It’s enough for me to stay up for hours if a stair creaks in my house when I’m home alone.

woman walking in the street

I should feel safe walking down a busy city street. But I don’t.

Some men are, and these interactions always start the same.

It begins with a variation of “you’re hot”, “nice skirt”, or “you’ve got such great legs”.

Then, “what’s your name? Where are you going? Want to go out with me?”

There’s hardly a chance to answer and when you do get a word in, you want to seem polite even just so things don’t escalate. But when I walk away, my bag clutched tight at my side and my fingers scrambling for my phone to hear a comforting voice, I think about what I would say, if I could.

I would tell them this:

Did I look at you? Did I smile? Did I give any sign that I wanted to be approached?

If I didn’t, then don’t. It’s that simple.

Don’t speak to me and make me feel uncomfortable. Don’t make me want to physically recoil the next time I’m touched. Don’t put the fear inside my mind. Don’t make my ordinary journey home from work something that scares me.

Just. Don’t. You don’t have the right.

00:00 / ???