This morning's commute (the 'ugh' edition)

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  • i complain a lot about street harassment. it's not because i like complaining, it's because it happens all the time and it's absolute crap. in my experience, it happens more to female than male riders, and not to all female riders at that. i seem to get it all the time - at least once or twice a week, and more in the summer - and it's horrible. it links into unbelievable misogyny like this and consists of things like*:

    • wolf whistling or cat calling as you cycle past, or shouting "ding DONG, mmm"
    • comments like "give us a ride love", "bend over a bit more darl" and my favourite "ooh, i wish i was your saddle" (bro, trust, you don't)
    • asking for your number while you stop to take a windjacket off
    • squeezing your back tyre as they walk past then laughing and continuing to walk away when you ask them what the fuck they think they're doing
    • slapping your bum when you're out of the saddle (this has happened TWICE to me from the passenger side)
    • generic "alright love" or "pretty bike for a pretty girl" etc comments which quickly sour to "fuck off then","you fuckin slag" etc when you give them the finger and cycle past, or even just actively ignore them

    (*not an exhaustive list - just the ones which first came to mind)

    however: i don't want to just be sad that it's shit and it happens. i'd like a thread where people can share the outrageous crap someone tried with them on their commute, because i think it serves a dual purpose. people who are subjected to it feel like they're not alone, and people to whom it never happens get to see how commonplace and unpleasant it is. i don't want to gender stereotype, but it happens a lot more to women than men (aware that i am citing only personal experience) and the knock on effect is that sometimes i have to actually convince people that it's happened and that i'm not blowing it out of proportion. mental.

    a friend of mine started the London Hollaback campaign - you get to share your story and report it. she's done so much work for things like this that she's now behind TFL's brilliant campaign to report more sexual harassment. just wanted to share the Hollaback link as a resource if anyone wanted to use it as a cyclist or a pedestrian.

    to anyone who thinks it's somehow a misguided compliment to be subjected to catcalling/similar, i've got two things to say:
    1) i'm gonna hedge a bet to say it's never happened to you - please dispute if you think i'm wrong
    2) please read this it will take about 90 seconds

    unsure whether this thread will die on its arse (i kind of hope it doesn't get any posts?!) and i couldn't see a similar/duplicate thread

  • "why don't you come sit on my lap" is one I remember.
    yeah agreed, this shit happens and when I give them the finger, they're all verbally abusive.
    ugh.

  • It used to happen to me a lot as a ped where it's more immediately and desperately intimidating as they can actually approach and walk alongside you. I'm protected from it on the bike by the fairly simple expedient of being deaf - if anybody says something while I'm moving, I can't hear them.

    It does lead to some uncomfortable moments at lights as it's impossible to tell at first whether the person speaking to me is asking for directions or saying something designed to intimidate, so I need to very politely ask them to repeat what they said 4 or 5 times. That does upset the ones who were only trying to cement their alpha male status within the public domain.

  • a friend of mine started the London Hollaback campaign - you get to share your story and report it. she's done so much work for things like this that she's now behind TFL's brilliant campaign to report more sexual harassment. just wanted to share the Hollaback link as a resource if anyone wanted to use it as a cyclist or a pedestrian.

    A friend of mine just shared your mate's video on Facebook and one of his girlfriends is so angry about it she's been sharing a petition: change.org/p/transport-for-l­ondon-reconsider-your-report-it-to-stop-­it-slogan

    I disagreed with her executive summary of the campaign and she shouted at me :(

  • 'Lucky Saddle' gets shouted a lot (this is the most common comment I have had between me and my friends) and it's so rank and offensive. And agreed when you then give them the finger or pull a face you get even more abuse!

    Of course gets worse in the summer when you have to get skin out. Hate it.

    Have to agree though, it's worse when you're walking as i feel a lot more exposed. White van man the other morning said 'good morning gorgeous', I screwed my face up and made a disgusted noise and he revved the van and shouted 'fuck off and die then you slag!!'

  • mmmmmm, okay. i can see her point in a way, that anyone should report sexual assault they see on tfl, rather than the onus being solely on the victim, but i think she's phrased it a bit poorly - it sounds like she wants to scrap the whole campaign, and hasn't offered any alternatives rather than "reconsider". but perhaps if i shared her POV and found it as structurally damaging as her, i would feel the same way.

    personally i think she is overlooking the very basic, positive aspects of the campaign - that, should someone want to report something, they now can with much more ease and speed and less stress than previously, because it was terrible before - but i'm basing that on my experience, and for me it's an unspoken corollary that i can use these channels to report anything i see and want to report, not just things which are happening to me, but if i see it happening to someone else. i don't feel like tfl IS putting all the onus on me as the victim to do the reporting and i don't need a marketing campaign to tell me to speak up if i see that shit happening - to me this is all about publicity around the fact that tfl is listening now, making support easier, and that's very positive. but if someone has a valid critique like "this is damaging and here's why" then they have every right to bring it up - i suppose it can only improve the service and support for victims of harassment.

    that sucks she shouted at you though! :(

  • Sorry to wade in here with my man-bits and hijack the thread, but I’m keen to find out if there is anything practical and direct I can do about this as a man.

    This kind of thing scares the shit out of me as it’s totally invisible to me as a bloke. I can’t recall ever witnessing it directly (presumably because the creeps who perpetrate it tend to make sure their victim is isolated). It feels like some sort of guerilla war against people I love where I never see the enemy.

    Is there a solidarity campaign that guys can join? Would something cycle-specific be helpful or just too narrow?

    I don’t want this to come across as “don’t worry, a man has arrived to solve your lady-problems” but I feel like action from men must be pivotal to combatting the problem.

  • ^^ Ah, I got over being shouted at pretty quickly. It's the internet, it happens. Thanks, though! From what I can tell, the problem seems to maybe be people watching the video and not visiting the companion website - the vid is quite sparse and doesn't contain the same amount of info as the site, so I guess people project their own guessed intentions and motivations onto it. Maybe its brevity is working against it.

    The site is very much "this behaviour is not ok. We believe you when you say these things happen. If you report it to us, we won't tell you that you're imagining it, exaggerating it, or making it up, and you will be with a trained officer who will help you". I think they're imagining going to the cop shop and trying to explain being groped to some bro in jackboots and shiny trousers at the front desk, rather than using the method that the campaign is advertising, of a dedicated line where you're in control. I tried to say these things, but the midst of an INTERNET CAMPAIGN is never the best place to do these things.

    Oh well. If somebody had asked me to predict the content of an opposing petition to the campaign I'd have guessed a guy in a ridiculous hat going "where's my sexual assault hotline?! Men get groped by females on public transport every day but there's no hotline for them! Misandry!"

  • This kind of thing scares the shit out of me as it’s totally invisible to me as a bloke. I can’t recall ever witnessing it directly (presumably because the creeps who perpetrate it tend to make sure their victim is isolated). It feels like some sort of guerilla war against people I love where I never see the enemy.

    You are correct, and as you have identified, this makes helping in the moment difficult. It's even more difficult if we're talking about things that happen on bikes - the incident will be over quickly as everyone will probably be moving, and in the off-chance that you do find yourself a stationary bystander, if you're on a bike and the harasser is in a car or on foot, you'll be at a physical disadvantage if you get involved, and they're more likely to be aggressive towards you because cyclist. All the same, here are some bystander tips, some of which might help in various situations: stopstreetharassment.org/reso­urces/male-allies/bystander-tips/

    Obviously those tips all rely on your being a bystander to street harassment in the first place, and you're probably not going to be in that situation very often. Outside of those situations IMO all you can really do is believe and support women when they share these kind of stories with you, and work within your own (male) social circle to create a culture where acting like a threatening bellend is unacceptable. The importance of peer culture can't really be over-stated, as the only thing that will really help is wider culture change, and you can't be that on your own. You would need to perform this work this publicly and loudly (try not to speak for wimmins if they're around when you do it, though), and my god, it will be work, you better believe it. More reading material on that: shakesville.com/2009/08/crank­-it-up-to-11.html

  • The comments you describe I dont think can be described as sexual harassment. Fair enough when physical contact is involved, then that's ott but not just light hearted comments?

    Ive had quite a few of the standard lycra based comments (sometimes a 'nice arse' if im lucky) which I would ignore or just say the usual thanks with a thumbs up. Maybe its different for a bloke I dont know, but I cant help thinking people take some stuff too seriously.

  • Maybe its different for a bloke I dont know, but I cant help thinking people take some stuff too seriously.

    OP says "street harassment", and shouting at people in the street is, of course, harassment of people in the street, and does indeed constitute street harassment, pretty much by definition. And yes, lots of men think the same way you do. Did you read #2 on lucyh's 2-point list of reading materials? Here's another one that might not help: robot-hugs.com/harassment/

  • That's like saying...

    verbal abuse isn't really abuse.
    Fair enough when physical abuse is involved. That's abuse.
    But verbal, yeah fair enough.

    Non?

  • @bothwell I have noticed someone half leaning out a car towards a woman on a bike and made an effort to stop/cycle between them. I think at the time it disrupted/prevented the flow of whatever was going on. I didn't say anything so I guess it would look accidental but reading what you said should I?

    Also I know one of my friends when we went shopping for cycling and jogging clothing she was making a compromise between what she wanted and what she felt she could wear to be more bland or whatever and attract less attention while just tying to go about her everyday stuff. I'd imagine it's something lots of women do and yet I can't think of a single time ever a guy would need to do that. It took me a while after to think about it and understand how big of an issue it was for her.

  • making a compromise between what she wanted and what she felt she could wear to be more bland or whatever and attract less attention while just tying to go about her everyday stuff. I'd imagine it's something lots of women do and yet I can't think of a single time ever a guy would need to do that. It took me a while after to think about it and understand how big of an issue it was for her.

    oh totally, in theory i'm more than happy to tell bro after shitty bro on my commute to get fucked if they try something with me but i'd really just rather go about my day. i'm a pretty mild-mannered person most of the time, and it takes a lot of energy to feel threatened, humiliated, worried then angry, and then either ignore it or say something back. do guys like this feel like i'm "asking for it" or something?! it's not a compliment, it's an assertion of power and it's not cool.

    i bought a disgustingly rad cheap fluro frameset recently and almost swapped it with someone for a black one because i knew i'd be about a thousand percent more conspicuous and the thought of having to deal with more shitty comments or attention made me cringe/not want to ride it. but i spoke it through with a couple of (both male and female) cyclist friends and it basically boiled down to "fuck the haters, ride your bike". i've definitely bought clothing and cycling clothing on the same assumption as your friend.

    i think it's good that you noticed and acted on it when you saw that happening. what would you feel comfortable doing? or would it depend on how uncomfortable the woman in question was?

  • I didn't say anything so I guess it would look accidental but reading what you said should I?

    Totally depends on the situation and as lucyh says, your comfort levels. I think what you did was fine, and it'd also be fine to ask her if she was ok/make supportive noises after douchebro had driven off. But do be aware that some women will be rattled just by your asking them if they're alright after somebody else has done something scary. Adrenaline and all that. People doing the leaning out of the car thing in traffic is terrifying because you have no idea what they will do - leave you alone, grab your bars, chuck stuff at you, swerve at you. Another dude approaching afterwards can just make you think "oh fuck, what now" and not reassure at all. It sucks, but it's the fault of the douchebros who started it.

    In the specific situation you've described I, personally, wouldn't have said anything to the driver or the passenger in that car, because the risk of their getting aggro and trying to injure me for intervening would be too high on my risk calculation meter to warrant it. I would have no problem with accidentally-on-purpose getting in the way like you did.

  • also, i just want to say, any bits (man bits, lady bits, any other bits) are absolutely welcome to post here

  • oh i just remembered - cycling over waterloo bridge last week i signalled to turn off to go down the cycle path down to southbank and some bro was coming towards me, cornering far too widely even though he could see me, and rammed into my front dura ace hub. i was predictably a bit pissed and shouted "prick!" at him as he cycled off, to which he replied with a short but largely incomprehensible string of expletives including "fuckin pussy" "cunt" etc. i appreciate perhaps he would have said this to someone of any gender but hey, it crops up a lot

    every day is a joy

  • @thiscocks It's completely different for a man to get verbals. It's easy for you to not understand why it is harassment because women have to put up with that shit every day, day in day out. When someone shouts something at a passing woman they don't know if their parents have just died, if they've suffered traumatic abuse or if they are just having a shit day and most of the time it is overtly sexual and pretty much all of the time it's unwanted.

    The shouter is instigating an interaction and assuming a position of authority (He wants it known that he likes the arse or would like to be that saddle regardless of anyone giving a shit about his opinion) as has been pointed out once the authority is challenged it often becomes aggressive which is distressing for a lot of women especially those who have suffered violence in the past. It also reflects an attitude that women are solely there for men's gratification purely as sexual objects, no one shouts "I bet you have a high IQ!" or "I'd love to have a discussion about Wittgenstein with you over some Italian food!" it's usually the same old boring tired shit and it's basically men attempting to deal with their own failures and insecurities. On top of that, it achieves nothing and is pointless and negative and so should be challenged. In 2015 women should have the right to walk around without their various body parts being loudly called to everyone's attention.

  • no one shouts "I bet you have a high IQ!" or "I'd love to have a discussion about Wittgenstein with you over some Italian food!"

    tangential: a car drove up really close behind me on townley road recently and i was just getting ready to pull in and let them pass me to avoid them when the passenger rolled down the window and a very sweet elderly couple inside commented on my "lovely balance" at the lights just prior to this. most polite heckle ever

  • Once made a polite grumble that a moped might let me filter through a gap too small for him, got yelled at full volume right in my face "FUCK OFF!". I was stunned, unsure what to say or do. The traffic didn't move for ages, so we just stood there. I said something about this being a bit of an overreaction, there was a pause and he yelled "I'VE HAD A SHIT MORNING, OK?"

    As I stand on the Highway waiting for a gap in the traffic to cross or for someone to let me through I sometimes think female cyclists might have an easier time on the roads. Maybe not...

  • there was a pause and he yelled "I'VE HAD A SHIT MORNING, OK?"

    Proper lol at this. Poor bastard. At least he had an excuse, if not a very good one.

  • It's definitely different for a bloke mate. I think mellion covered it pretty thoroughly, but just bear in mind context is everything. You and I have the luxury of being almost certain the woman shouting at you is being cheeky or even flirty. Women have to weigh these possibilities against the likelihood that the shouter is an aggressive misogynist, wife beater, even a rapist, something that need never even enter our minds it's so unlikely on the reverse.

    P.s. I have never had my arse complemented when riding, but then I have a bony arse!

  • Thanks for the explanation and the links, they make interesting reading. The somewhat indirect action advised is reassuring as its the sort of thing I would do, rather than the Chuck Norris style beatdown I picture in more Hollywood imaginings.

  • Agreed, I've had a few jokey comments from women (and the odd man) But never saw it as anything else but a bit of fun, the situation is completely different.

    oddly enough, I seem to get more harrassment on the road since I started riding a bright pink bike

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This morning's commute (the 'ugh' edition)

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