I was in Brighton a few months ago and went on a night out with a friend. At one point we went into a busy bar and he went to the toilet so I headed to a table by myself and took a seat. I couldn’t have been alone for more than a few minutes when a girl, maybe 21 or so, left her big group of friends and came to sit with me. I figured she was drunk or making a joke but she genuinely asked if I was okay. When I said I was fine and smiled she invited me to join her friends. There was nothing creepy about it, she apologised if she was bothering me but just wanted to make sure I was okay and not alone. When she went back to her table I could hear her friends questioning her and she honestly couldn’t see why it was weird. Another girl defended her with “empowered women, empower women right?!” High fives all round. Sweetest thing ever.
It didn’t surprise me at all that I was in Brighton when this happened. It’s a part of the reason I like Bristol too. They seem to be different to my experiences of a lot of other cities. People are way more open. Sometimes it’s annoying but most of the time I love it. Almost every time I go to the pub with my best friend, we end up sitting with randoms and chatting. It took me a while to let go of my suspicions but now I realise the majority of the time, they aren’t trying to hook up and they don’t want anything from me other than a conversation. A lot of the time, I never see them again but I love these kind of low pressure interactions.
Then there are the others. The people whose eyes you feel from a distance, the ones that shout from cars and might even dare to touch you for no reason (and that’s a big dare, trust me, because if a stranger touches me then my first instinct is going to be a backhand to the face). I have noticed that it happens a lot less often in Bristol, and when it does it’s far less intimidating. I think I feel like I have people by my side here. If something bad happened, I feel like people would have my back. That has never happened anywhere else. I was pushed in a busy road in Gloucester by a stranger once, in the middle of the day, and everyone ignored it and carried on walking.
I’m not going to try and explain why people act this way. Why they feel the need to holler obscenities from a distance, or approach people in a sexually threatening way. Frankly, I’ve not met anyone who can explain it to me rationally. What I do want to think about is society’s reaction to it. As a group, in the media we are disgusted and appalled, yet there has always been people that keep their heads down and ignore it. I’ve never been that person but it’s only been recently that I’ve overcome all the advise from older generations telling me “it’s none of my business” and “don’t get involved”. Fuck that. That girl who approached me in Brighton didn’t care about how she looked to her friends, she was totally pure of intention, and that has stuck with me. As a whole, I’ve decided to take less shit from people in my life and that should include from strangers in the street. Yes, I am aware that it comes with an element of danger and I won’t put myself at more risk than is necessary, but if we all aim to be that person that stands up for someone else in trouble then we’ll never be the one facing it alone. I know I’m probably going to be the minority actually acting on this. I know I’m not superwoman and I don’t have a bat signal telling me what to do. But I look super cute in that outfit, so I guess I’ve got to at least try.