A few days ago I was wearing a dress. Shocking, I know. I was wearing a dress on a train at winter, assuchI was one of few women showing ‘a bit of leg’. Ofcourse,that meant that not one buttwomen were allowed to ogle me.
A man got on the train the stop after mine and was walking down the aisle. I was sat in a two-seater by the window and the seat next to me was empty. He saw the seat, he saw my legs.
He stared at my legs.
He continued to stare at my legs.
He moved the seat handle to sit down, still staring at my legs.
He sat down, pulled down the tray and pulled out his phonestillstaring at my legs.
I felt so uncomfortable I took my cardigan off the seat hook and draped it over my legs. Only then did he stop staring.
My family laughed at this. They saw it as a funny, complimentary even, act by a man.
My father said it was a gesture of mating and I would feel differently if a younger, good-looking man had done it instead of this mid-40s sweaty businessman. But no I don’t think I would.
An appreciative glance, which we’re all guilty of, is completely different to blatant staring at a female’s legs in an enclosed and uncomfortable space. And making a conscious decision to do it without respect, her permission or indeed any thought beyond that of their own pleasure.
But to make it worse…
After getting up 30 minutes later to get off the train a man – a much older man to me – literally turned out of his seat,mouth open, to gape at my legs and arse as I walked away.
I looked at him, completely pissed off, and he turned back in his seat. A few moments later I looked back and he hadagainturned out of his seat to stare at mylegslike a child would do after being told off by a teacher for talking to the friend behind them.
I had to hide behind another person I felt so uncomfortable.
But again, my family and friends laughed. I don’t understand this.
People may say that these men were just staring at my legs, what’s the harm in that? But then does that mean there’s an acceptable equivalent for females? Staring at the space between a man’s thighs where his penis is, for example?
Then comes the argument that for every man blatantly staring there’s 10 morestaring, but not openly. Fine. I accept this is natural: a human biological nature of mating rituals and hormones! And women do it as much as men.
But fortwomen to make a woman uncomfortable in a public space is wrong and it is sexist to say that it is acceptable, funny or a natural part of human nature.
And to be told I should take it as a compliment is bloody annoying and incredibly ignorant of people who are validating thebehaviouras well as ignoring it!I refuse to take it as a compliment.
Clearly, I was uncomfortable! And if we’re going to teach everyone that making someone uncomfortable is wrong full-stop you cannot accept ‘smaller’ things, like staring at female body parts blatantly in public, as something that is ‘natural’ and allowed. Because it’s not! It’s wrong.