It’s Saturday night. I’m sat in my front room, watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It’s a great film.
I was out and about with some friends, celebrating a birthday. The birthday-ee (that’s a thing, I think) chose to do the famed Otley Run, which is a pub crawl through Leeds. As a general rule, I’m not a fan, because I find it incredibly nerve-wracking being forced to drink pint after pint at breakneck speed, especially if there are all kinds of other rules attached a lá drinking with your left hand, not saying the word table, and remembering that it’s definitely the birthday boy’s 21st birthday (and not actually his 30th).
The pub crawl was themed around superheroes and supervillains, and I dressed as one of my favourite characters, Rogue. I based my outfit on this picture, and honestly, I think it turned out quite well.
As it turns out, some other people thought I looked good too.
Except, unlike Boyfriend, who got lots of positive comments for his great Gambit outfit, my comments were very much directed at me. So let’s just talk about that.
A few years ago, when I lived in Morocco, I wrote a post about different ways I was propositioned. And it’s terrible to say, but I found it a bit funny, because it’s almost expected of men there. Because “they don’t know any better“, which by all accounts just shouldn’t be an excuse which works for anyone. But it does, and so I chugged along my merry way thinking that Moroccan men were a bit untoward but ultimately that was fine.
I somehow didn’t think it’d happen to me here. I’m sad to say that in Leeds in the last few years there have been enough incidents of harassment and assault that sometimes I don’t feel safe, but I didn’t expect today to be one of those times. I was apprehensive about today because I don’t really get on with social activity involving peer pressure and alcohol, but I can get past that for the sake of a friend wanting to have a good time.
The first comment I got was in between the first and second pubs on the pub crawl. It was just a sly “nice arse” from a passing man. Ok fine. You have no class. Move along.
The second and third comments were both in the second pub, both similar arse-centric comments under the breath. After that I very much stopped counting. Some guys shouted at me from the balcony of a bar, then stared at me the whole time I was in there. My skin crawled. A bouncer at another bar offered to “save me” from my friends (who were a little rowdy by this point) and then shouted my name after me. Two people shouted at me from their cars.
And here’s the thing right. This isn’t a mega-feminist rant. I’m not that person. This is just me being a human person and saying that you have a right to have any opinion you like about my body and how I display it. But you have absolutely no right to make me feel so uncomfortable that I decide not to carry on with my night.
And if you’re my neighbour, who from his open window shouted “go on honey, shake that ass” repeatedly as I walked home in broad daylight, then you probably should feel ashamed of the fact that for tonight, I don’t feel comfortable leaving the house and passing your window again.
There are hundreds upon thousands of beautiful men and women in the world. I’ve crossed paths with a great number of them. I’ve remarked on various aspects of their beauty to Boyfriend, or my friends. You know what I’ve never done? Said it so loudly that it might impact on their life. Because that’s not fair. They didn’t ask for that judgement, they didn’t ask what I think of them, so why would I feel the need to say it.
Congratulations to every person in the city of Leeds tonight who ruined my experience of just dressing up as one of my favourite fictional characters. Hope you’ve had a ball.