A few months ago I walked some friends (a straight couple) to the tube from our house after dinner. We’d had a lovely evening and lots of drinks so I didn’t think too much about why I felt so relaxed.
Later I realised it was because I had been walking the streets with a man - and it felt completely different. Different as in less vulnerable. I felt unusually invisible. It felt really good. In the anonymity of the street when a man sees a woman accompanied by another man there’s some kind of tacit agreement over ownership. For that short walk, I was owned, I was protected.
The amount of street harassment I get on my own or with my girlfriend has definitely felt more acute in the last year or so (even government statistics back this up). Very often I find myself bowing my head and looking down as a way of avoiding situations where the mere act of eye contact may escalate a situation to the point where I’m physically in danger.
But the point is that all women experience street harassment of some sort and in many different ways. My girlfriend experiences a particular racialised, sexualised type of harassment whereas I am often faced with the threat of imminent physical violence.
To walk the streets alone, or travel on public transport without a male companion is no mean feat and the struggle goes on. Mine, as I walk to the tube station today, and for the women around the world who aren’t allowed out of the house to walk the streets at all.