According to surveys, Melbourne is the most liveable city in the world. No matter how good the quality of life it has to offer, as a woman you will experience it differently. Though I haven’t got a chance to thoroughly check how prevalent street harassment is in the city, my personal unpleasant experiences make me question the veracity of such surveys.
I first got cat-called by two workers at the car wash shop near my living area when I was walking down to Brunswick Market.
“Hi, walking alone? Wanna company?” he said. “Going to the market?” another one said.
Since I was in a good mood, I said back cynically, “Yes handsome, going to the grocery, wanna pay my bills?”. Once I gave fire-angry gaze right in their eyes, they smiled hesitantly then continued washing cars.
The second time, it was more intense than simple cat-calling. I was riding my bike to University, enjoying the spring breeze, when out of a sudden I sensed a car slowing down from behind. It then stopped right in front of me. A guy opened up the window and said:
“Hey, baby you look hot!”.
I was shocked and terrified. My heart pounded fast as I tried to paddle my bike away from him.
Another day in the tram, I saw a drunk man who sat next seat from me deliberately touched a lady’s boobs who was sitting in front of him. The visibly shocked lady frantically tried to move his hands away from her body. Another guy passenger exclaimed, “Come on Man, don’t do that. She doesn’t want to be touched!” The drunk guy responded furiously and tried to pick a fight with that guy.
When the drama was over, it was the lady and the passenger guy who got out of the tram. The drunk guy stayed behind only to continue with his vile behavior with another passenger lady. However, this time he went one step further, he kissed the lady without permission. My friend and I were just sitting there, scared. What bothered me the most was clearly noticing the fear and contempt from the assaulted lady when this random drunk-guy brazenly kissed her. I could see how terrified she was.
Lately though, this new harassment incident caused me so much distress and made me so angry.
I was sitting alone in the tram from the city to home. Three guys hopped in and sat on the seats in front of me. They formed a kind of barricade which caused me cornered. They spoke in the foreign language (I guess Spanish) among themselves. I was just silent and tried being indifferent. All of a sudden, one of the guys leaned forward, reached out to my body and tried to kiss me. Reflexes, I pushed him away to his seat.
“What the fuck man, what are you doing, have some respect for woman. Why did you touch me like that?”.
I was angry and terrified. Then I moved my seat up front near the driver to feel safe. Sitting there alone, I remembered the assaulted lady’s facial expression when the same thing happened to her. Yes, I can relate how it feels to be treated badly when you do nothing wrong apart from being alone and being a woman.
We live in a cultural perception that woman being alone means she is entitled to be harassed, that a woman wearing shorts and miniskirts means that she asks for it, that when a woman gaining weight means she has lost control over her body, that being a woman means she has to meet physical fantasy standard of our opposite sex.