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New submission from Lesley
I have experienced many cases of harassment in the street and at work, but this case sticks in my mind by being the only time I had the presence of mind to coherently respond and actually make an impression with my reply.
I was walking to the post office from my workplace at lunchtime. I was not daydreaming as I usually do when walking around town, but smiling, wearing smart business dress and focusing on plans for work.
A few charity collectors were in the busy street and one of them, a young man maybe 17 (from London by the sounds of his accent), rattled his collecting tin at me as I strode past and called loudly, “Excuse me love!” I turned head mid-stride and he said “Hey, you have a beautiful smile darlin’. I like your hair.” and leered a little bit, followed by, “Do you mind if I ask you a couple of questions, love?”
I swiftly replied without breaking step, “You’re not asking me any questions if you start off calling me ‘love’.” His face dropped instantly and comically.
It not nearly the most threatening, humiliating or annoying encounter I’ve had but maybe that’s why I could reply so easily. Combined with the fact he was a teenager, seemed otherwise decent and at least 5 or 6 years younger than me. I don’t think he meant any harm but he honestly seemed to know no better, and it’s ridiculous! Would he with any sincerity address a 23 year old man in a business suit in such a condescending way, and comment on his appearance? And then expect him to stop and pay him money? Of course not. I felt a light version of the usual feeling of humiliation as despair at the state of things…but less so than usual, especially when as I walked past him again on my way back I heard him addressing another young woman with “Excuse me, Miss?” in a much more respectful tone.
I truly hope he has learnt something, and am happy for it. Any teenage boy spending his free time fundraising for charity must have some good in him! It’s just extra sad that even someone like that thinks it’s OK to address an older more successful person in such a way just because they are a woman.
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