Published in Catalogue, 2016
About a week ago I was standing in a kebab store at about midnight – as I am wont to do – waiting for my order and dressed down in slack jeans and a t-shirt (having assessed my safety as a woman by herself at night fifteen minutes earlier I’d changed out of a halter neck singlet, because the world is an awful place). Over the course of my wait, I was pestered multiple times by a sloshed man in his mid-fifties, who insisted on leering besides me, asking me invasive questions and generally occupying my space. I was tired, I was hungry and I decided that no response was the best response, it was just another relatively innocuous, irritating moment in the capricious narrative of being a lone woman in public.
But here’s the part that really got me stirred up – when I expressed my irritation to my partner when I returned home, he was sympathetic but also took a moment to quickly tease that, had the man been attractive, it would have been a completely different scenario, presumably I would have enjoyed the attention.
I loathe this argument. And it’s one that seems to crop up repeatedly online, particularly in retaliation to feminist arguments relating to cat-calling and unsolicited sexual attention in public: “If he was hot, this wouldn’t even be an issue”. It’s always driven me up the fucking wall, particularly as somebody who spends a lot of time on Reddit (yes, I know, I’m antisocial enough to talk in an educated way about the social climate of a forum site, sue me), where the rules “1. Be attractive 2. Don’t be unattractive” are recited as a mantra for defining the bounds of acceptability whilst interacting with women. There are so many levels of misogyny and flawed logic here that it’s quite a confounding task trying to pick them apart thoroughly but you know what? I’ll do my best because I am annoyed and I have had a lot of coffee.