**minor content warning, sexual harassment**
I’ve repeatedly insisted over the last weekend that I’m going to write a ranty blog post, and now here we are. Get ready, you’ve been warned.
I have been known, at times, to wear relatively low-cut tops. My favourite most comfortable vest tops all have quite low scoop necks, and I am aware that I sometimes draw attention because I have quite a lot of cleavage on show. Let me be clear. It is in no way indecent, and I am 100% comfortable in the clothes I choose to wear. I understand that sometimes people catch themselves looking, and I don’t honestly mind. If I did, I’d wear different clothes. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with accepting the fact that we all sometimes find ourselves looking at something, knowing that social rules dictate we should look away. It’s fine. It’s a thing. Whatever.
I was walking along the south bank of the Thames, in central London, last Friday. About 6pm, still nice and light, still very busy. It was a lovely evening.
And then a person actively changed the path they were walking to make a bee-line for me, and once they got close to me, they dipped their head towards my chest and I could feel their breath on me for a moment before they carried on walking. Smooth as you like.
It made me want to scream. Imagine believing you have the right to do something like that. But of course, it’s a massive issue. I’ve been grabbed in the street before, I’ve been bothered in nightclubs, and I’ve been harassed walking down the pavement. And I live in an age where somehow, I feel lucky that I’ve gotten away with so little. LUCKY. As if.
The problem is, we’re still not teaching each other that personal space is a valid thing. Recently a new colleague quite emphatically rubbed/patted my arm in response to something I’d said. They were trying to be affectionate maybe, or show they were engaged in what I was saying, but all I wanted to do was tell them not to touch me, because we’re still basically strangers. And yet I didn’t say that, because I didn’t want to offend them.
I was in a coffee shop over the weekend, and a parent joined the queue behind me with about 5 children in tow. They were messing, and the parent was distracted, but two of them just kept bumping into me, elbowing me, and nudging me around. It was a pretty small coffee shop, and once again I kept my mouth shut, but it totally enraged me.
Listen. You can look at me and form views. Fine. You can just stare at me because you fancy me. Fine, whatever. But do not touch me. I am not yours. And teach your children not to touch strangers and to respect others’ personal space. Because you should already be teaching them that strangers should not be touching them, and should be respecting their personal space. It’s an incredibly simple, but apparently vital lesson that we are just missing as a society.
Some people are touchy-feely, and I do understand that. I know my colleague wasn’t trying to make me uncomfortable. I know those kids didn’t even know I was there.
But that doesn’t make it ok.
Because not teaching your kids to respect others, and not respecting others space when you should know better, is what leads grown adults to think they can go up to a stranger on a busy street and breathe on her breasts. And as I cannot stress enough – I am one of the lucky ones.