Call Me Cynical, But…

I can’t help but think that the reason there’s a manhunt on for Raoul Moat is not because he’s attempted to kill his ex-girlfriend, Samantha Stobbart, but because he killed a man and has threatened to kill police.

If he’d only threatened her – or even killed her –  do you really think anybody in the media would care? He’d be just another abusive misogynist (or, as we’re always told in these situations, “a nice guy really who nobody thought would ever do such a thing”), and she’d be just another expendable woman.

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The Moral Of This Story Is: Don’t Be A Pillock On The Train

I spent my formative years travelling around London. You’d think I’d be used to agressive men metaphorically (or indeed literally) dick-flailing in public. But.

  1. I haven’t had to deal with this sort of nonsense on a regular basis since I left our wonderful capital over a year ago.
  2. It’s fucking scary.

The train last night was basically Dick-Flailing Central. There was one drugged-up bloke screaming “we hate Rotherham” and yelling about football results and the miners’ strike (which, since it happened in ’84, he probably wasn’t even born for) and another six guys (boys, really) being drunk and loud. And there was yelling, and homophobia, and racism, and sexism, and all of the usual things that makes me stabitty. And the guy sitting next to me was laughing. Not shit-I’m-a-bit-scared laughing, but outright isn’t-this-hillarious laughing. I nearly punched him. Except, you know, that I might have ended up a little bit dead.

Anyway. Eventually the boys goaded each other into a fight. Involving a glass bottle. Which luckily didn’t get used, or broken. And I wasn’t too sad to see them getting kicked. It was a bit like a fight between UKIP and the BNP – you wanted them both to lose.

But glass bottles and drunken angry boy-men are a danger to everyone, sadly, not just themselves. And it wouldn’t have taken much to set Bottle-Guy off again. Like, say, someone looking at him in a funny way.

So with the carriage totally silent, and – no shit – every single person in the carriage looking at me, I walked out. Out of the carriage, past Bottle-Guy, Miner-Guy and all of their little friends, past every other fucker who’d done nothing, and down to the other end of the train. Where I found the conductors, tried to tell them what was happening and – burst into tears. Shaking, crying, the works.

How humilliating. And how fucking terrifying.

The good news is that this persuaded them to get the police out.

The other good news is that at least one of them will be charged for fare evasion.

The bad news is that nothing’s likely to happen about the guy who was waving the bottle around.


But. They were trying to get to Sheffield. They got arrested a stop down the line. The last thing the conductor said to me was that he sincerely hoped the police would keep them nicked until the last train had gone. And at least one of them will be fined for it. So. The moral of the story is: don’t be a pillock on the train. Otherwise, I’ll do my best to get you arrested.


Just In Time To Make Me Feel Great About Going Back To Uni…

… Terence Kealey, vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, has been an utter douche.

Joy. Of. Joys.

You know what’s reasonable for me to need to be concerned about when I go back to uni?

My modules, my timetables, my exams, my finances, my notes… the list goes on. It’s not pleasant, granted, but it’s kind of expected that you might have to think about those things.


You know what’s not reasonable for me to need to be concerned about when I go back to uni?

Whether my male lecturers are trying to look down my top.


How a man clever enough to be a professor can be stupid enough to be such an entitled, arrogant, heteronormative, sexist shit-for-brains astounds me.

Or, you know, maybe he’s not that stupid. Maybe he was smart enough to know that he wouldn’t really get called out on it. After all, it’s only the NUS Womens’ Officer who’s objected. Not anybody important, like that spokesman from the University and Colleges Union. It’s not like anybody with any power to do anything cares.

I feel stabbity.


A Bit Of A Breakthrough

On Friday night, I went out with the Troll, and some of his friends. Because I’m a masochist that way. And, more accurately, he invited me out, saying that I’d meet new people and promising, when asked, that he wouldn’t come on to me. So. I met up with him, and he bought most of the drinks, because he is rich at the moment, and I am relatively poor. We talked about silly things, inoccuous subjects, and managed, for once, not to argue. And I talked to his friends, at least two of whom were nice, and, around about midnight, said my goodbyes, because I turn into a pumpkin if I stay out too late. Five minutes later, he called, saying that the person whose floor he’d wanted to sleep on had bailed on him, and could he sleep on mine.

On the way back, we talked about more serious things. Things like consent. He started it; he reassured me that he would be “a perfect gentleman”. I told him I didn’t give a fuck about that, I just didn’t want to be assaulted. Which is pretty reasonable, I feel.

I also explained to him that while he can think of consent in abstract terms, I don’t have that luxury. I told him that, although I didn’t think that he would assault me, if he did, there would be fuck all I could do about it. I pointed out that nobody would believe me; I’d met up with him, I’d had drinks that he’d bought me, and I’d agreed that he could come back to mine. Given that, if I went to the police, odds are, they wouldn’t even investigate. And I told him that that kind of knowledge colours the way you see the world. And that what seems like a perfectly reasonable and innocuous request to him (asking to sleep on my floor) is actually not a small thing at all, for me.

I told him that there are different kinds of coercion, and that even if he didn’t use violence against me, there was nothing stopping him waiting until I was asleep, or nearly asleep, and climbing into bed next to me. And that anything that happened then would be just as much assault or rape as if he’d beaten me and forcibly restrained me.

Then I told him about having my drink spiked. Not in much detail, but enough. I don’t think anybody has ever told him anything like that before.

After I told him about it, he was quiet for a few minutes.

I asked him if he was ok (because women are not the only ones to have their drinks spiked, and if you have and only realise later, it can hit you hard) and he replied that he was fine, but that he was “thinking back through all my girlfriends to make sure I’d never done anything like what you’ve said.” He paused. “No, I haven’t.”

If he had, I wouldn’t have expected him to tell me, necessarily. I’d like to say that I believed him wholeheartedly – after all, he did stay on my floor, and I remained unmolested – but in all honesty, I’m not sure that I can. He had an awareness that there are some things you shouldn’t do –  hence the “gentleman” comment – but I suspect that he’d never considered things like nagging for sex to be wrong. What I would say is that if he has done any of those things in the past, I highly doubt that he’d do them again. Because doing them with a knowledge that they’re wrong would make him, in his own eyes, a Very Bad Person. And while pandering to one’s ego is not a particularly good reason not to rape, if it means that one less woman has to deal with the fact that her otherwise charming boyfriend has done less than charming things to her, it’s a good enough reason for me.


A Somewhat Disconcerting Observation:

Since moving to Sheffield, I have experienced an immediate, and vast, reduction in the number of unsavoury attention I recieve. By “unsavoury”, I mean the street harassment that plays a part in the lives of most urban women, along with its counterparts, harassment in social spaces like pubs, and harassment at work.

Some of the reasons for this are clear: I’ve gone from full-time work in London, necessitating two bus rides per day, into the city centre and out again, to full-time study in Sheffield, for which I rarely need to visit the city centre and for which I have no reason to use public transport other than abject laziness.

My work now is performed either alone, in the student library, in lecture theatres with one lecturer and around 200 students, or in tutorials, with one tutor, one PhD student and around 40 undergraduate students. Although it would be naive to assume that none of the young men I interact with ever harass women, I can say for certain that they have never harassed me. And, although of course it does not always follow, I would imagine that for the majority of my male lecturers and tutors the risks of reprisals are too severe for them to contemplate harassing a female undergraduate.

These observations are not what I found disconcerting, however. These observations merely are.


What is disconcerting, though, is what I have come to realise:

I cannot give up that way of thinking.

Or, rather, I would find it incredibly hard to do so.


What I mean is this: that I have lived for so long – a whole decade, which is just under half of my age – with the knowledge that, at intervals that remain largely unpredictable within certain parameters, I will be harassed by men, that I find it very difficult to relinquish the coping mechanisms that I developed in response to that knowledge.


Today, on my way to my afternoon’s work, I passed by two men, probably in their forties, wearing work clothes, who were sitting on a wall. I did all of the things I would normally do – I made eye contact, I made sure that I didn’t walk within a couple of feet of them, I didn’t change my pace… all of those things that I have trained myself to do, over a decade of having men leer at me, and shout at me, and make me aware of my own physical presence.

Those men didn’t do anything. They didn’t even look like they were going to do anything. They were sitting out in the sunshine during what was presumably their tea-break, having a chat. The only warning signal that they set off for me (and believe me, I have many different kinds of warning signal, ranging from the merely-annoying vibe to the get-the-fuck-away-from-this-man) was that they were men, and older than me.

That’s all it takes. To be a man, and to be older than me, in public, in a space where I am obliged to walk past you.

Never mind that I’ve only had one really nasty experience with a man in public, in Sheffield, and then only because he was bothering other young women and I intervened.

Never mind that I could see that they were likely to be employed, either directly or indirectly, by the university, and were therefore unlikely to do or say anything to me that could vaguely be construed as improper. (I have a sneaking suspicion that the university makes it very clear that it doesn’t want any negative publicity, because not once have I ever had any nasty shouts from any of the builders who work for them, though I have had the standard wolf-whistle from builders nearby who were not affiliated with the university.)

Those things don’t matter. The reactions I have now are the results of experience gained over a long period of time, and they continue to manifest themselves even when I believe that the actual chance of the men in question doing anything are slim. Since I find myself now working under the assumption that, however many men don’t harass me, the next one probably will, I suspect that these reactions will not be going anywhere, at least for the time being.

And this is the sad part. It’s all very well giving out leaflets, and campaigning on feminist issues, and blogging, and promoting events like Million Women Rise and Reclaim The Night and all those things I do just because, but when I still can’t walk past two men in broad daylight without immediately reverting to my how-to-minimise-street-harassment strategies, how much have I ever achieved?

How can I ever claim to accept men as equals, when I can’t walk past them without feeling afraid?

And how can I ever begin to make it better?


Dear Maintainance Men

When there are at least 5 of you in a flat, and a lone woman is the only occupant present, telling her that “you have ways of getting in” to rooms is not appropriate.

Lucky for you that I knew you were joking, and even luckier that you weren’t giving off active creepy guy vibes.

I keep knives in my room.

And I spent a year dismembering pigs’ legs. Believe me, their skin was tougher than yours.


Reposting: “How To Not Be A Creepy Guy”

This was something I originally wrote because I’d realised that a good number of the visitors to my blog got there by plugging in that very search term. Strangely enough, even though this is a whole new blog, people are doing exactly the same thing. So it probably bears repeating.

If you want to talk to a woman, or indeed a man, that you’re interested in, do it in a public place that is meant for socialising. This means pubs, clubs etc. It does not mean the library, you fool. It does not mean the street, even if it is still light. It does not mean the bus, unless you are getting very, very clear signals that s/he wants to talk to you too.
Because this is, I feel, the defining feature of a creepy guy, that he will approach you in an inappropriate place, or at an inappropriate time, or both. If you start disobeying this, you are already halfway to becoming a creepy guy. So you’d better have a bloody good reason for doing it, or follow the rest of what I say very, very carefully!

It’s a big one, this one – try having a real conversation!
Topics to avoid until you’re more comfortable with each other: their sexuality, their attitudes to the many and various sexual positions and/ or quirks that you may be imagining them helping you out with, their physical attributes (and that can range from telling them they have beautiful eyes to telling them that they are “well stacked” and beyond, depending on the circumstances), your level of sexual frustration, your wife’s lack of understanding, etc.
Try to remember that your person is just that, a
person, and they will have feelings and sensibilities just like you do.
Wow, I could write a self-help book on this.
Although I personally think that for many creepy guys, the only self help they need is the kind best done alone, in the privacy of their own home.

If s/he declines your advances (which will, I hope, have been polite, unthreatening and undemanding) do not cock up your good impression by saying, “but I just want to be friends”.
This is not the way to make friends. You have long past the age of walking up to another child in the playground and asking to be their best friend. Since you can have known nothing, or very little, of their personality, it is obvious to all concerned that you are interested in them for more physical reasons – and you would have to be very shallow to choose your friends on that basis.
If they accept, you’re unlikely to be a creepy guy anyway. However, if they don’t, just leave it. Concede defeat gracefully.
Oh, and – never, ever, follow them home. Because that’s really creepy.

Actually, I’m half-tempted to blame rom-coms for this.
Where else are we taught that crazy, creepy or just downright bloody stupid things like following someone to learn about their life are good ideas?
For the record, it’s not romance, it’s stalking.
Even if – especially if – you once went out with them.