It was a typical pre-Christmas afternoon. I was on my way to see a friend of mine, I had made a reasonable effort, eyeliner was relatively even and I had brushed my hair into a state of rare submission. I certainly was not expecting any male attention, yet that is exactly what I experienced… in very strikingly different ways.
Situation male 1:
Sitting calmly on the bus, being a good student and reading a paper, and a man comes and sits next me. I realize we are overlapping slightly; no problem! I shuffle up, allowing both of us more personal space. But then proceeds the problem; he also shuffles up into me, his arm beginning to dig into my breasticles. At this point, I am a little miffed, the ability to highlight the paper I am reading has gone out the window. I shuffle a little more and make a defensive stance with my own arm. He retaliates with more shuffling and pressing against me. I am now pushed against the window, when I imagine my surprise as he starts to play with his penis! This is the final straw, I stand and move seats. Did I have the right reaction? I am still ponderous about this. Perhaps I should have been more forthright, and ask him what the hell he was doing? Yet, I could have been wrong, maybe I misinterpreted his actions.
Situation male 2:
Not more than ten minutes later, having disembarked, I am still pondering how exactly I feel about the previous situation. Was I being objectified? Whatever it was, it was uncomfortable. Crossing the road, I walk in front of a white van, as I reach the other side, the driver winds down his window and calls out at me (add a north London accent for effect) “Very nice darling! Have a Merry Christmas, yeah?”. I turned and gave him a quick smile and nod.
However, I continued on my way ever more confused, and more pointedly trying to suss out why my reactions had been so different. On all accounts, these were both examples of ‘objectification’. However, what I found interesting was that the second man had in fact dampened the negative effects of the first. He seemed friendly, innocent and besides, I have always appreciated festivity.
My anecdotes lead to this: Is objectification all the same? Is it all bad? Is it possible that when it is open, friendly and non-invasive, it is actually ok? Even little fun, ;)? I have to admit, that at times I am an avid objectifier of men, yet I describe it as ‘appreciation’. Maybe it is nice to be appreciated sometimes, as long as my personal space and integrity is maintained and the male appendage is kept out of it.
Check out TfL and Everyday Sexism's Project Guardian for more on sexual harassment on public transport - Ed.