It takes six minutes to get to my old house from the tube after 9pm.
You have to run it – or as near as run it – for it to take six minutes. Walking takes ten.
I know, still, when the corner shop shuts, when the off licence shuts, what time the last bus comes and when the lights in the houses I’d have rung the bell of went out.
I can’t find my lipstick, but I keep my rape alarm in the top pocket.
Don’t walk home in heels. Don’t walk home alone. Don’t take short cuts, don’t dip down alleys, walk, if the road is quiet, down the centre of it, facing the traffic, because it is probably safer than walking hugged to the wall at the side of the road.
Remember to scream. Remember which parts of the male anatomy are sensitive. Remember where you last saw another person. Remember you are like a window left open or a door left unlocked. Always, unwittingly, you are an invitation.
I am scared of men.
I am scared of men in bars who try to talk to me. I am scared of men on buses at night. I am scared of groups of men at bus-stops, in cinema foyers, on trains.
I am frightened if men cat-call me and worried if a man I don’t know tries to engage with me.
Not all men are interested in hurting me – or anyone. Most of them are just like me, and are walking home thinking about what they’ll have for tea, or what they’re working on, or something they read in the paper. Most of them don’t think about violence much, against anyone, male or female.
But I can’t tell. I have never been able to tell.
Probably, I’m paranoid. Probably, lots of things, but I can’t shake it.
I’d like to walk around without the thinking about potential violence. I’d like to unlearn men-as-threat. I’d like to assume that there’s no difference between my body and the male body when it comes to vulnerability.
I’d like to walk home at night un-anxious.
And it isn’t just walking home. Its watching your drink and its people you know and its growing up not understanding that coercion is not consent because you’ve been taught that sexual interaction is a form of valuation and you want to be valued.
And its all the silence. All the brave-face silence and the not complaining because nobody wants to be that girl, because female speech is frightening and squashed in more ways than can be counted. Quiet perniciousness.
The assumption that somehow, by dint of being female [Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit] this stuff is my fault.
And it makes me absolutely fucking furious.
[And I loathe that we are so, so deeply entrenched in all this fucking shit that when I am not cat-called or harassed I have been taught to feel as if I have failed, as if I am not desirable, as if I am not valuable enough to be of notice.]
Lots of people say this better than me, more eloquently, use statistics.
Lots of people have been through worse. Lots of people will say – and rightly – NOT ALL MEN.
But I don’t know if you’re ‘Not All Men’. I have no idea if you’re about to strip my personhood away from me, violently, to enact societal power structures.
And if you’re not all men? Please compensate. Please cross the road away from me at night. Please acknowledge your status as potential threat and behave respectfully. Pull your friends up for making rape jokes. Stop making rape jokes.
Remember that women (and no, I don’t speak for all of them), go around with the threat of male-enacted violence somewhere in their consciousness all the time.
Imagine that. Imagine how fucking tiring that is.
Dismantle as far as possible your relationship with dominant power structures that teach you that my body has a different currency value to yours, and my personhood does, too.
I’m sorry about all of this. It might not be your fault, but it certainly isn’t mine.