I went on a walk the other day in a really small village. To get to where I wanted to go I walked on a path which goes along the main road. I was beeped at twice, first by a big (loud and scary) lorry and second by a white van. I had no car to hide in, I didn't know where to look. It made me so uncomfortable and I started to worry that every passing car was a threat. This may seem like a little thing but it's part of a bigger problem; the attitude some men have towards women and the way they think they can treat us.
Why do we have to avoid scaffolding? Or even groups of boys on the street? Or look down when a van passes because the looks you get make you feel like something they want to abuse and destroy. It's everywhere I look. It's practically unavoidable. Why can't these men keep their sick thoughts to themselves? We don't want to know, and we don't want them forced on us when we are CLEARLY uncomfortable, and somehow that's enjoyable? Shouting at girls in public is not going to get them to like you. Idiots. It doesn't make sense. It needs to stop. Surely one in five of you knows this. Next time speak up. Most of the time I just laugh it off and maybe give them a middle finger but this time it really got to me, I'm sure lots of other women will agree. This is because it's been happening for half of my life, and to be honest it just feels antagonistic and aggressive, which I'm sure isn't the message these beepers are trying to put across to me, that's the funny bit. I'm soooo bored of having to worry about it happening if I'm alone. I'm so sick of feeling like the only thing that I'm judged on is the ability to look nice, or what my body shape is. Who. Fucking. Cares. What about my achievements and goals and dreams? It's about time women should be able to walk anywhere, without being gawked at, shouted at, laughed at when you retaliate or just all round ridiculed. Or worse.
A hard truth is that it seems men's sexual needs are more important than a woman's word - choice, safety, body, and the human right to say no. I know too many women who have been through awful things. Most of the time these men who bother me are twice my age, and their smug smiles make me want to punch stuff. But even when they are my age, it's still very wrong. The rage that builds up inside my chest. The audacity. The culture. The violence. The harassment. The shameless staring. The ignorance. The selfishness. The sexism. The misogyny. The lack of respect. The carelessness. The keys, taxis, paranoia. The abuse. The r*pe and the murder. Please leave us alone, we don’t want to be stared at, beeped at, or shouted at. Men, be good to women, and make us feel safe not scared. My thoughts are with Sarah Everard's family. Men, good and bad, you need to start talking.
Molly Valentine / @mollyvalentine_
'The Virtual Vigil' is a series of perspectives, emotions and poems written in response to the current political climate. As a feminist art collective we want to use our space to empower the voices of those affected by gender based violence. In doing so, we hope to challenge existing narratives and teach men that they have a collective responsibility to speak up and call out inappropriate and violent behaviours. If you would like to take part in our virtual vigil, please feel welcome to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Images by Emily Mort.