From the time high school hit, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t being hit on by creepy men.
It happened at my part-time hostess gig at a neighbourhood bar and grill when I was 16, and got more aggressive when I began working as a waitress downtown during university. It was glaringly evident during what I thought were “business meetings” with producers and directors as a naive early-twenties actress. It continues to happen in my daily life by men I’ve never seen before.
It could be a drunken dude at a bar, a creepy old man on the subway, or the construction workers on the way to work.
But my experience isn’t rare – pretty much every urban female can name a recent time where she’s received unwanted attention from a creepy stranger.
I used to awkwardly smile and shrug it off – now I’ve perfected the completely disinterested “don’t even try it look” and accompanying harsh words if the message isn’t received the first time. Sometimes, it works out for me. Others, it makes it worse.
The problem is that being vocal sometimes provokes the “you’re not even that hot anyway,” “who do you think you are?,” and the “you’re such a pretentious bitch,” complete with rant to follow. Not only does the drama invite stares from the curious public, but it’s also a total buzz kill to deal with – especially if you’re simply trying to enjoy a night out after a long workweek, or your overpriced cappuccino on the walk to the office.
As one UK journalist, Daisy Buchanan, puts it in a recent article in The Guardian, “when it comes to responding to harassers, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” She claims that most women remain polite to harassers as to avoid the potential repercussions – which could probably mean anything from hurting someone’s feelings to an traumatic torrent of insults.
For that reason, she feels safer at home and has imposed an 11pm curfew on her evenings. She mentions a female friend who has given up running outdoors to avoid comments from men in the process. For both of them, the anxiety and stress of the potential harassment is too much.
Personally, I feel “caging yourself in” is a little extreme, and likely could result in a larger anxiety disorder. But the fact that some women feel the need to do so is alarmingly backward in 2015. It’s also maddening to think that ignorant creeps have that much power.
Either way, it needs to stop.
Thanks to social media, in all its “shaming” ability (look at how it worked out for this guy), the powerful discussions inspired by the Jian Ghomeshi controversy, and the fact that gender issues are front and centre of all mainstream media, it feels like we’re heading for a change.
But we need to continue to ride this wave.
Because, as Buchanan puts it, “it isn’t flirting if it feels frightening.” Not to mention, all those pickup lines are getting really, really old. Just like you, creepy guy at the bar.