Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because it was dark and there was a man walking too close behind her.
Yeah, yeah I know: not all men, right? But tell me something. It’s dark, you’re nine stone wet through, couldn’t crush a grape and a 6 foot guy you’ve never met before starts walking too close behind you. What you gonna do? In fact scrap that; it doesn’t matter how big you are, or how small he is, it’s always going to be intimidating. Statistically speaking, scientifically speaking, men are almost always stronger than women. It’s not sexist to say it, it’s just the way we’re built.
Put yourself in my shoes. It was early evening on a Friday night. I was alone, on my way to meet some friends in a bar. My skirt short, makeup plentiful. I’d already had a drink, and I won’t deny it, I enjoyed the double glances I got from guys as I strode through the streets. Confidence tapping out a rhythm as my heels hit the pavement.
There’s one particularly dark corner I don’t like going past; a rougher part of the city centre, unlit. As I walked past it to the main road I pulled my bag round closer, hand on the clasp. I look around more frequently and that’s when I noticed him. He’d come up close from nowhere like a shadow. So close behind me I could sort of sense him before I even turned around to check. There was nothing other than his proximity to make him seem suspicious. He was just a guy. Probably on his way to friends in bars just like me. All the same my stomach clenched tighter, and my heart skipped a couple of beats.
So back to that question – what you gonna do? Personally, I picked up my pace, trying to make it to the main road where it’s busier and better lit. Got my phone out and texted a friend.
Does that make me a chicken? A misandrist? A man-hating feminist. Or just somewhere all too aware of the facts. I know full well that ‘not all men’ are rapists and miscreants. I know full well that it’s not fair to make assumptions and label someone before you know who they are. But when you’re in that situation, and you’ve heard the statistics, heard the first person accounts from women who’ve not been so lucky, fear does not seem so irrational. It certainly doesn’t seem prejudiced.
We’ve all been there. Walking alone at night, wishing that we weren’t. Keys between our knuckles, hands at the ready on a mini can of hairspray. My mum bought me a rape whistle for Christmas. She just wanted me to be safe. But how horrific is it, that we, as women, have to prevent ourselves from being victims. That we have to arm ourselves with rape whistles and designers are creating anti-rape pants for women to wear on nights out. Where are the whistles that a man blows if he fears he’s going to become a sexual predator? Where are the anti-rape boxer shorts?
Rather than women having to cross the other side of the road because their stomach is churning with the thought of what the men behind them might do, shouldn’t a decent guy just think what it might feel like and slow down, or cross the road themselves? And before you shout but that’s unfair! We’re not the rapists! Think about it – neither are we.
In this situation, it isn’t women you should be angry at, rather the small minority of men that give you the bad name. Rage at them. Rage about the fact that by the time a woman turns twenty she’ll have been felt up by enough guys without consent, been wolf-whistled on her way to school more times than she can count and on average 1 in 5 of the women in her life will have been victims of sexual assault. You don’t get to say ‘not all men’. You don’t get to be pissed at us. If you do then you’re part of the problem.
I can’t even begin to imagine what it must feel like for someone to look at you and only see a threat. For someone to fear you, and wonder what if…? I know it must be horrific, I know you are most likely innocent and haven’t ever hurt a fly. I know you probably feel awful when a woman crosses the street just to avoid you. But put yourself in her shoes. Stop saying ‘not all men’ because right now it doesn’t matter. Not all men are rapists but alone in the dead of night, all women are scared and that is not okay.