I often utilise women only spaces (officially ones or unofficial ones) to avoid harassment in public & at social events (toilets, gyms, kitchens at parties, clothes shops) and, you know what? It works. The issue of public transport is the issue of choice. Now, it would be real simple if you and your buddies could make the honourable choice to stop flexing your metaphorical members in a cat call-off on a Friday night, but my experience has concluded that you can’t. So the idea of women only coaches on trains and tubes (proposed for consultation with women by Jeremy Corbyn) is one simple (by no means 100% solve-all option to give women a choice to be in a carriage with no men in it. Now, whilst there may be problems with this idea (that would be useful for women to discuss together) men have taken to twitter to air their disgust at this policy idea.
I have been harassed on public transport since the age of 14. Telling me that this ‘could easily happen to men’ even though it doesn’t is telling me that I, at age 14 on the train from Southport to Appley Bridge deserved to be cornered and & have middle aged men interrogate me about body.
Because the truth of the matter is in the last eleven years I have grown to expect to be sexually harassed and assaulted on public transport with very little support from other passengers. And when that support comes it is usually from other women.
Every time I have been harassed on public transport it has been (to my knowledge) by a man 99.9% of these instances the man has been white 99.9% of instance he has been unchallenged.
-It was a man who repeatedly tried to touch me on an empty platform in Liverpool when I was 21.
-It was a man who harassed me on a weekly basis on the 395 bus from Ormskirk to Skelmersdale, who got annoyed when I refused to speak to him and followed me part of the way home when I was 19.
-It was a man who rubbed his genitals on my hip on the London Underground when I was 18.
-It was a man who intercepted another man who was drunkenly propositioning me at Ormskirk bus station only to then sexually harass me for the entire journey home when I was 22. Imagine that- getting sexually harassed whilst you’re being sexually harassed.
-It was a group of boys (age 12-16) who spat at me, threw food and drinks at me & chanted names at me every morning on the school bus in Shevington when I was 14.
-It was a man who touched my body without my consent on the 143 bus in Manchester when I was 23. And who got the funny looks when I shouted over to my friend ‘Ew this man is trying to grope me’? Oh yeah, me.
-It was a man who rubbed his thigh against my leg and read over my shoulder on the bus last night.
-It was a group of four men who made comments about my fat body this morning at the coach station.
I am 25.
I have been spat at, cornered, followed, groped, shouted at, whispered to, blocked from moving, stared at, spoken about, had pictures taken of me, been called names, been coerced into conversation, been sexually shamed & had my belongings confiscated.
I have tried ignoring it, challenging, discussing it, reporting it, shouting back, glaring, asking other passengers for help & physical confrontation.
Any whilst it might hurt a few feelings for men who have decided that this is ‘segregation’ (which is not only pretty flagrant use of a racially charged word but just horrifically incorrect) or that ‘all carriages should be harassment free’ (yeah, they should, but erm, they aren’t & I don’t see you looking up from your copy of the Telegraph to challenge other men on their behaviour) I can’t help but feel cheated.
Yet again men’s views are privileged above women’s safety and autonomy. That same privilege that comes into play when a man decides his desire to touch a woman comes before her permission. Your feelings are hurt? Your FEELINGS are hurt. Fine. That doesn’t make your beliefs correct. This isn’t Dawson’s Creek. This is the real world. And I have a life time of research called ‘Being a Woman on Public Transport’ to support my ideas.
So I’m sorry if the idea that women want to be safe from the daily barrage of crap you throw at us is hurtful. It seems so many of you are moved to tweet, maybe whilst on public transport, maybe whilst ignoring the awkwardness of a woman being harassed three seats down.
I am tired of pretending to be on the phone, pretending to know other women on public transport to defuse harassment situations and most of all I am tired of pretending to care about your feelings. Close your legs, get your hand off my thigh, log off twitter and shut up.