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.


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.


Reposting: Creepy Guy, V 2.0

This was another post I originally wrote on my I-Ate-Toast blog, back in the days when I was still working in Big Posh Department Store.  April 2007, to be precise, so nearly two years ago now. It doesn’t seem any less creepy now. So to all men looking for a relationship, I say this: don’t do what this guy did.

You know what’s creepy about this?
Aside from the fact that it’s at work.
And totally unwanted attention.
And he’s 14 years older than me.
And I don’t really know him.
And I don’t really like him.
And he’s slow and stupid and irritating.
And I know he’s being overly friendly to other women in the food halls as well.

The really, really creepy thing is, he’s my manager.

There are so many levels of wrongness there I’m not sure I know where to start. But hey, I’ll try!

So he joined a few weeks ago, maybe just over a month. I’m not quite sure about time anymore, it all tends to blur into one long day in the end. And, you know, we thought, ok, give him the benefit of the doubt, give him time to make his mistakes and all the rest of it, just be nice.
Rachel. Don’t be so sarcastic! Jackie. Stop being so damn northern and brusque! Fulvio. For God’s sake stop muttering Italian profanities! And stop saying what you want to do to that woman on the other side of the counter. The last one understood you perfectly and you’re lucky she laughed at you instead of complaining to your manager!
Anyway, you get the idea. Because it’s pretty bloody obvious if someone’s slow and irritating, even if you are going to give them a bit of time to settle in. But I tried. Honestly I did, I didn’t take the piss or try to take advantage of the fact he didn’t know what he was doing, because that isn’t fair and tends to make managers resent you once they’ve worked out what you’re doing. Despite the fact that he never even introduced himself to me. Something I really hate.

Even from day one, he spent more time talking to the women than the men.
Fair enough, we thought, maybe he feels less threatened by the women. (This isn’t necessarily a sexist thing, we had a female manager who seemed to feel threatened by anybody over 5’6″!)
Or maybe he just prefers the company of women, like I prefer the company of men. Who knows?
But it’s carried on. And really, if you’re a manager, you need to speak to everyone, even if it’s just a little bit. But I’m sure he doesn’t speak to some of the men at all.

More to the point, he is always talking to the women. And not even just the ones that he manages, but others too, women that just happen to be in the office, like the one from Tea&Coffee who’s always in and out. And not just chatting, either. Asking people to have lunch with him, have their breaks with him…. stuff. Thing is, you can’t really get him for that, but it’s just not the done thing. If you’ve worked with those people, fair enough. If you happen to be passing, fair enough. But you don’t make an arrangement. It just doesn’t work. And it isn’t quite right.
He tried that with me. Bloody idiot.
Him — “Will you take your lunch with me?”
Me (impatiently) — “Are you on your lunch now?” [I was about to take my lunch break at the time and wanted to get away from the counter before anybody tried to get me to serve them]
Him (slowly) — “… No.”
Me (incredulous at such stupidity) — “Then no. I’m going now.” (To the counter monkeys in general) “I’ll be back in an hour” (under my breath) *incoherent grumbles*

But like I say, irritating though it is, you can’t really say anything about that.

On the other hand…….

5:30ish pm. The counter is quiet. Vince (fellow counter monkey) and I are standing talking and trying to look like we’re discussing work.
Manager walks over.
Him — “Rachel.”
Me — “Yes.”
Him — “So, we’re going to see a movie tonight.”
Me — “No. I’m going home. To bed. To sleep.”

There followed a few comments about the lateness of the hour, the lateness of the shift, the time a “movie” would most likely finish… all from him. I stayed mostly silent and can’t remember it word for word. I must have reiterated the fact that I was going to go home and sleep, because the next comment I remember was

Him (to Vince) — “Ah, she’d prefer her bed to my company”
Me (very, very sarcastically) — “Hmmm, my bed, you…. tough call….” (flatly, cruelly and accurately) “Bed wins”
Vince (to me, teasing, half-joking) — “you could at least say “no, not tonight”… or “no, I’ve made plans”… it might be nicer”
Me (mainly to Vince, unconcernedly) — “yes, but it would be less accurate… excuse me…”

At this point, probably luckily for me, I was able to walk away and serve a customer.
After serving her, I found that I was still so angry about the incident, small as it might seem, that I wasn’t in a fit state to serve anybody. Cue me walking off the counter to the till. Explaining to Fulvio that the manager has made me so angry I really need to just sit quietly, and would he mind serving. Of course not, because he gets very very bored on the tills, and thinks that I am doing him a favour.
So I sit, and I scan food and I pack it into carrier bags and I give people their change and I translate into tourist French or Spanish or American (yes, some Americans need things translating… like “lift”) and in the lull where I’m not serving anyone, I work out that the main reasons that I’m upset are:

He is my manager. What a bloody cliche, apart from anything else. At least I’m not a secretary, I suppose. There are many other reasons why that’s bad, but I think they’re fairly obvious.
He did it in front of Vince. To be honest, I found that embarrassing. And I felt that I couldn’t challenge him on it. Because (aren’t I nice?!) I reckon if you’re going to say something that could make somebody feel awkward, you ought to do it in a way that means they don’t have to display that awkwardness to other people.

Of course, the other thing is, I like to keep my professional life and my private life separate. That’s why my private life is, well, private! And because of the way he made me feel, all I wanted was to hide in J’s shoulder and wait for the world to disappear. And I was at work. And so I felt terrible, because I couldn’t.

Anyway, after an hour and a half on tills, I was back on the counter and feeling slightly less homicidal. Slightly. Enough so that when I was next able to speak to my manager alone, after some work-related exchange of information – who would be closing which counter and so on….

Me — “…… And…. Please don’t do that again.”
Him (confused) — “Talk to you about the pies?”
Me — “No. Don’t ask me out again.”
Him — “…….”
Me — “It made me very uncomfortable. Especially in front of Vince. Don’t do it.”
Him — “It was only a joke…. that’s why it was in front of Vince…”
Me — “Well I didn’t like it. Even if it was a joke.”
Him (as though lecturing me!) — “Yes. You do need to be careful because sometimes what you think of as a joke other people don’t take it that way….”
Me (interrupting) — “Right. And I didn’t like it. And I’m telling you now so that it doesn’t happen again. I don’t want this to be a problem.”
Him — “…. ok…..”
Me. “Good. Thank you.”

And I ended the conversation again, by walking off and serving.

But I’m still uncomfortable. The thing is, if it was only me, as a one off, I’d have left it there, no question. Because you’d have to be really, really stupid to try that with me more than once. Especially after the reactions I gave. Which weren’t exactly kind or polite.
But because there may be other women, nicer than me, who he does it to, I’m still worried. ‘Tis difficult. I only wanted to do my job. Grrrrrrr.


Appropriate Sentence?

From the BBC: a former head teacher pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography – 457 indecent images, to be precise, with “a dozen” at “the more serious end of the spectrum”.

He’s been given 150 hours of community service and 3 years of probation, which bans him from contact with children under 16 and monitors his computer use.

“Sheriff Alistair Noble, sitting in Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Tuesday, said the sentence was appropriate in view of his exemplary service as a teacher, the impact on his family and the fact that a relatively small number of images were involved, and a very small number at the highest levels of pornography.”

Doesn’t that imply that the sentence given was lenient?

And isn’t the fact that he was a head teacher with indecent images of children a good reason to give him a less lenient sentence? My brain, it melts.


I Have No Need To Search For Misogyny

Because it normally finds me.

I was really enjoying the new Nickelback album. And then Last Contestant started playing.


First line?

“I judge by what she’s wearing …”

Well, that got my attention pretty fucking quickly, as you can imagine.

It didn’t get any better either. To be honest, it feels like listening to a troll singing. And that’s not a nice experience.

Have the full lyrics, with a Patriarchy – English translation:


I judge by what she’s wearing
Just how many heads I’m tearing
Off of assholes coming on to her

I have anger management problems caused by jealousy. I believe that the clothes this woman wears are entirely responsible for the reactions of others.

Each night seems like it’s getting worse
And I wish she’d take the night off
So I don’t have to fight off
Every asshole coming on to her

I am fast losing touch with reality, and feel that it is my right to respond with violence to any person I assume to be a threat. I believe the woman in question to be my property.

It happens every night she works
They’ll go and ask the DJ
Find out just what would she say
If they all tried coming on to her

This woman works in a bar or club, and many of the drunken men there also act in a manner that appears to treat her as property; but not mine. This bothers me.


Don’t they know it’s never going to work
They think they’ll get inside her
With every drink they buy her
As they all try coming on to her
This time somebody’s getting hurt

I believe that she will not be interested in advances made to her by other men. However, I am still angry that these men would think about this woman in a sexual way.


Here comes the next contestant

[CHORUS]
Is that your hand on my girlfriend?
Is that your hand?

I have claimed this woman. She is something that I own, and I have not given my permission for you to touch her. As my girlfriend, she has no autonomy and is not capable of telling you to fuck off herself; therefore, I shall do it for her.

I wish you’d do it again
I’ll watch you leave here limping
I wish you’d do it again
I’ll watch you leave here limping
There goes the next contestant

I even fear the ladies
They’re cool but twice as crazy
Just as bad for coming on to her

I am terrified that my girlfriend might undermine my masculinity by leaving me for a woman. I also believe that, while lesbians may exist to serve as wank fodder for heterosexual men, it is crazy that they should exist in real life. Again, this causes me to doubt my masculinity.

Don’t they know it’s never going to work
Each time she bats an eyelash
Somebody’s grabbing her ass
Everyone keeps coming on to her
This time somebody’s getting hurt

My girlfriend is often sexually assaulted whilst at work. However, instead of advising her to take this up with HR, I have decided that the appropriate way to deal with this problem is for me to injure others. Although this is also a criminal offense and will not help the problem, it will reassert my masculinity and make me feel better. My feelings are, of course, the most important thing in this situation.

Here comes the next contestant

[CHORUS]

I’m hating what she’s wearing
Everybody here keeps staring
Can’t wait ’til they get what they deserve
This time somebody’s getting hurt

Although I am deeply angry that other people should stare at my girlfriend, I am once again blaming her outfit, rather than the people concerned. However, I am confused, since I also feel that the people staring deserve to be punished for their actions. I can only express this inner confusion with violence.

Here comes the next contestant

[CHORUS]
I wish you’d do it again
Each night seems like it’s getting worse
I wish you’d do it again
This time somebody’s getting hurt

There goes the next contestant

I am a NiceGuy (TM).


Thankfully, most of the other songs on the album are ok.

Well, there are references to stalking women (Follow You Home), the male ownership of women (Animals – “I tried to tell her dad it was her mouth that I was kissing”) and women as being willing to substitute sex for money (Rockstar – “the girls come easy”…”every good gold digger’s gonna wind up there/ Every playboy bunny”)…

But on the plus side, the other seven songs manage not to annoy me. And, to be honest, although I don’t listen to Follow You Home – it also fails for using the word “princess” – I can tolerate the Animals and Rockstar, because I can tune out one line of a song. Just.

Still. I’m very, very glad I only paid £5 for it. If I had to sum it up, I’d have to say…


Dear Nickelback:

Being respectful towards women; UR DOIN IT RONG

Rachel.