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Gobbing June 22, 2005

Posted by Winter in personal political, sexual harrassment.

I wasn’t planning to kick this blog off with a rant, but a man spat at me this morning as I was walking into college and this has somewhat affected my mood. There I was, trotting along, very happy to be out in the sun and thinking about some feminist graffiti I heard about the other day, and which I’m going to write about on this blog (it is absolutely beautiful here in Cardiff by the way and I hope you’re all equally blessed with sunshine today). Suddenly, a man walking in the opposite direction launched a gobful of spit at me at the exact same moment I walked past him. Fortunately for us both, he missed. It landed just an inch or so away from my bare toes peeping out from my summer sandals. He lumbered off quickly in the opposite direction and I was so surprised I didn’t say or do anything. If it had landed on my foot, or my nice clean jeans, things might have been very different because I have a short temper. The first thought which crossed my mind was, “He can’t have meant to do that.” But of course, I know nobody ever has to spit and, certainly, nobody ever has to spit in the direction of their fellow pedestrians, unless they want to cause some upset. It’s quite possible he didn’t intend to actually hit me with the saliva, but just to shake me up a bit, mess up my morning by spitting on me symbolically if not literally. Nice.

I’m quite lucky really, I don’t get much street harassment from men. A lot of my friends have a worse time. Oddly enough, this seems to have something to do with my short hair, because I used to get a lot of it when I had long flowing locks – long hair appears to signify feminine vulnerability to some men. But the experience did serve to remind me that the summer is really here, for this is the season for insulting women on the street. If there are any men reading this, when you see a woman getting bother from men, at the very least register it as a “bad thing.” If you’ve got the guts, show some solidarity, smile at her with sympathy, or, if you get the chance, say something like “They’re bastards, don’t let them get to you”. Try not to ignore it, because women do not like being harassed by strangers on the street. We don’t like being told to “Cheer up cos’ it’ll never happen” and we definitely don’t like receiving comments on the state of our “tits.” Most of us experience street harassment as rude and even intimidating. Some women will smile, or even laugh, but this doesn’t mean they like it – smiling can be a nervous reaction: smile, look down and hope that it won’t get any worse, perhaps they’ll leave me alone…or so the logic goes. Sadly smiling often makes it worse and this leads some of us to walk around with a scowling expression avoiding eye contact with men. Street harassment spoils a good day for many women and makes them feel anxious about going out, especially in the more revealing clothes necessitated by lovely weather, so be nice to women out there today. There’s nothing wrong with a friendly smile; there is a lot wrong with “Look at the tits on that!”

If you’ve experienced street harassment, check out the Campaign Against Street Harassment

But I’m not going to let it mess up any more of this beautiful day.




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