Street Harassment Specialised – road harassment

// 22 July 2008

Further to this and other posts on the same issues I was prompted to wonder about harassment and violence when driving or driving related.

The prompt? A guy threatening to dowse me in petrol today for daring to question his actions.

So I filled the car up today at my usual filling station which is a supermarket one. After I’d started to fill an attendant put cones out because they were expecting a delivery. The cones blocked off all the pumps. Shortly afterwards a mint green van (reg Y148 ?NK) pulled up behind me, sat there for a while and then the driver’s mate got out, moved the cones they pulled around me to the pump in front. Then they parked, skewed across all the available space. Out got the driver. Politely I said “Are you not going to straighten up?” – he looked at me, tutted and continued fiddling in his wallet. So, undeterrred I said “Sorry I do find ignoring me quite rude, are you not going to straighten up so I can leave when I’m done?”

“No.” He said. “Why not?” I said. “Because I don’t [expletive] have to.” he said.

Hmmm thought I. “No you don’t,” I said, “But you are blocking me in entirely which is kind of difficult.” He had now found his card to pay (it was pay at pumps).

“What is it with women that they are too fucking stupid to use reverse?” he replied.

I pause, but then consider myself too angry to let is pass. “I can use reverse perfectly well,” I say, “It’s you who appears to have a problem with reversing, given you can’t even straighten up your van”.

He looks at me (by now he’s putting petrol in his van, I’ve finished filling my car and am closing the gas tank cover). “Listen you [expletive] bitch, come here and say that.”

“No thanks”

“I’ll [expletive] pour this petrol over you and set fire to you.” He is now holding the nozzle facing me and occassionally pumping the handle until petrol dribbles out.

“Really,” I say getting into my car. I reverse out and think about getting a staff member involved but then realise it’ll do little or no good – they have CCTV, they’ve seen it and they’ve done nothing to help.

This was at 7.45am in the Home Counties. Anyone else has similar experiences?

Comments From You

frombosa // Posted 22 July 2008 at 9:37 am

Hmmm,I bet if you had a man in the car with you,he wouldn’t have reacted like that. Or pehaps I’m just getting cynical in my old age….

Anna // Posted 22 July 2008 at 10:24 am

When lighting up outside a forecourt – I should clarify that I was on the corner of the street about 10 metres away from the edge of the garage – an absolutely charming gentleman who was about 40, and therefore really old enough to know better, drove past, slowed down and preceded to give me a torrent of abuse; ‘put that fag out you stupid slut bitch’ ‘get in the car, how much do you charge for a blowjob, you look like you’ve given a few you whore’.. you get the picture. This when I was sixteen, dressed in baggy jeans and my boyfriend’s t-shirt… and his kids were in the car. They were about 10 years old; three boys, and they were all laughing at their funny daddy putting that woman in her place.


Sam // Posted 22 July 2008 at 11:19 am

Frombosa, it probably depends on the man, but I don’t think it’s accurate to suggest that men are not subject to aggression from other men.

Amity // Posted 22 July 2008 at 12:39 pm

Have I ever had this happen? Um, no. And I would’ve been phoning the police if it did. He threatened you with bodily harm and even death and that is not to be taken lightly. Next time get his license plate number and report his despicable self, please. Who knows what kind of horrible things he’s doing to other people.

Leigh Woosey // Posted 22 July 2008 at 12:53 pm

Report it to the store manager and to the police. What they did constitutes assault (threatening you) and the deserve action taking against them. If you let it slide they will just continue to use that sort of behaviour with impunity.

ConservaTorygirl // Posted 22 July 2008 at 1:45 pm

I take it that you reported this to the police as soon as you arrived somewhere with a landline.

Discussing it on here won’t make any difference to the knuckle-dragger.

Kimberley // Posted 22 July 2008 at 2:34 pm

That is appalling. I don’t have a car so driving harassment is an experience I’ve happily missed. I’m impressed you managed to get most of the offender’s reg though.

If it makes you feel any better, it’s entirely possible the staff missed the seriousness of what was happening (though I understand you must have been feeling pretty alone out there). CCTV isn’t exactly clear, even if it’s being watched like a hawk.

George // Posted 22 July 2008 at 5:12 pm

I’m actually not sure that all threatening behaviour is gender-related. In general, I actually feel safer confronting (strange) men than my male friends, because I think they are actually less likely to start a fight with you. I don’t know whether this is backed up by any evidence or not, but plenty of my male and female friends agree.

All I do know is that the comments would have been different (i.e. the whole ‘women can’t drive’ rubbish) – but comments akin to these can even be found in scientific studies (!), so are a different issue in my opinion.

Also, just to add my voice to those raising concerns about Marina’s posts – I really am very disappointed to see such comments on this site, but I am also happy that people immediately speak out against them.

Sian // Posted 22 July 2008 at 7:28 pm

In response to your post Louise, that’s a particularly horrible example, I would have felt shook up after that. I’ve never had it quite so bad, although I’ve had milder, yet still horrible, stuff many times when cycling to uni and work.

Kristy // Posted 22 July 2008 at 11:44 pm


He specifically used the word ‘Women’ – how could it not be gender related??

Louise Livesey // Posted 23 July 2008 at 8:14 am

Wow! Isn’t strange how the most unlikely post can generate controversy. Marina’s comments were out of order and I don’t know how they got published – I was caught up in meetings all day yesterday after posting so only just saw the whole thing (we have archives).

For all those wondering, and for Marina this was a white man, I don’t think emoliation is that culturally specific really. I do think it is presented as being an islamic or a middle eastern thing by our racist press but emoliation happens across the world.

In response to reporting it to the Police, I didn’t for two reasons – 1. I didn’t have a complete registration and 2. I didn’t fancy having to deal with the culturally sexist Police force when I had no witnesses. Given the van driver shifted the cones that the forecourt staff had put out and that didn’t prompt them to come over and intervene and given that forecoure has CCTV and they could see him waving the petrol nozzle at me (in contravention at least of Health and Safety, let alone the rest of it) and that didn’t prompt them to come over I kind of felt that my safety was most important and that involved getting out of the situation, staying out of the situation and being safe.

Sorry readers that there was a racist comment published – I am deeply perturbed that happened, particularly on one of my posts.

Nina // Posted 23 July 2008 at 9:00 pm

I think you should have called the police. This could easily have been someone who was known to them and the garage probably had CCTV footage. That means your description of him would have been backed up with video and they would have licence plate information on record… they do this so they can track people who forget to pay. That means if he had a record of violence against women they would have known from their database by matching it against the licence plate.

ConservaTorygirl // Posted 23 July 2008 at 9:37 pm

On reflection it seems that the insults he hurled were misogynist, without question, and the threatening behaviour you should have reported. However, it also seems unlikely that if a man had asked him the same thing he would have said “Course, mate, sorry about that…” or whatever.

The language and the threats were unacceptable but I am not convinced that the reason he kicked off was solely to do with misogyny.

Genevieve // Posted 23 July 2008 at 10:01 pm

Conservatory girl–

In my experience men are usually more respectful of other men. Therefore, even if he hadn’t moved his vehicle, it is likely he wouldn’t’ve made a comment about “not knowing how to reverse,” and it’s very likely he wouldn’t’ve threatened a man with the nozzle. (Unless, of course, he perceived the other man as being especially weak or ‘gay,’ but that’s just another form of misogyny, right?)

ConservaTorygirl // Posted 24 July 2008 at 9:38 am

Yes and that’s unacceptable but the reason he kicked off was because he’s a violent bully.

Misogyny is but one aspect of that.

Leigh // Posted 24 July 2008 at 10:56 am

Ah but, ConservaTorygirl if he would speak to a woman like that but not to a man, then misogyny is not ‘but one aspect’ of his behavior, but the critical and essential factor in his decision making.

George // Posted 24 July 2008 at 6:05 pm

Kristy – what I was trying to say was that although the words he chose were highly gendered, it wasn’t necessarily the case that the attitude problem was as well. It is surely conceivable that he would have come up with a whole plethora of nasty remarks even if the victim in questions was male.

I don’t think we should say that this sort of behaviour (not discourse) is always down to misogyny without being sure.

Louise Livesey // Posted 25 July 2008 at 8:38 am

George says

what I was trying to say was that although the words he chose were highly gendered, it wasn’t necessarily the case that the attitude problem was as well. It is surely conceivable that he would have come up with a whole plethora of nasty remarks even if the victim in questions was male.

George, you miss the point, in this case the abuse was gendered – it was directed at me as a woman. Not as a driver, not as a human being, but as a woman. Don’t become an apologist for misogyny.

ConservaTorygirl // Posted 25 July 2008 at 9:28 am

I really agree with George.

I worry that this analysis is suffering from the author’s own speed to focus on the misogynistic aspect whilst neglecting a more general aggression.

Nonetheless, this is a matter for the police.

George // Posted 25 July 2008 at 11:47 am

Louise: I wasn’t apologising for his misogyny – I completely agree that what he said was misogynist, and also agree that his behaviour was completely unacceptable, and I hope you are OK now.

However, it was more to do with what Leigh said: “if he would speak to a woman like that but not to a man, then misogyny is not ‘but one aspect’ of his behavior, but the critical and essential factor in his decision making.” The key word here is “if” – and I don’t think we do our analyses any favours if we automatically assume that misogyny is always the critical factor. I am more than willing to say that it may well have been the case – but I also think it could have been an all-round pan-gender abusive a*hole.

I think it might come down to being clearer about the distinction between ‘gendered’ and ‘misogynist’…

Anne Onne // Posted 25 July 2008 at 6:04 pm

George, the thing is, pan-gender abusive a*holes are fairly rare. Or at least, people abusing men for reasons other than being weak, seeming gay or effeminate are rare. These reasons for abusing men are misogynist, because they realy on the idea that anything related to things coded female are lesser. Hence a man can insult another man and still be acting in a misogynist manner. Many of the words used to insult men are actually about women, if you think about it. Can we truly say many people are equally judgemental of men and women? Can we say that most people, or most a*holes don’t use misogynistic or homophobic slurs in bullying men, too? If they’re bullying men, its nearly always because of a focus on an agressive stereotype of masculinity, which is by definition misogynist, since it is defined by separating oneself from and dominating women. I think that even if someone is nasty to both/all genders, if the basis for the threats and insults is fear and hatred of things seen as ‘feminine’, and a desire to dominate over people seen as weaker because of these attributes, how can we not say it’s about misogyny?

Kristy // Posted 26 July 2008 at 11:12 am

George, it appeared to me that his issue was more to do with the fact that it was a woman speaking up to him and by the fact that he deliberately used her sex as weapon in his speech showed me that Louise’s sex was a problem for him. I personally don’t think he would have reacted the same if it were a man who requested him to move which to me made it a gender attack.

George // Posted 29 July 2008 at 5:58 pm

Anne – I really disagree with your argument (as I read it) that most abusive comments stem from misogyny. I think they come from a much broader spectrum of “Othering” – that is, someone may be attacked for being effeminate, female, homosexual, black, Romany, poor, “disabled”, mentally ill etc etc etc.

I also think abuse often revolves around the use of Othering language, but I do not think that every time someone calls someone else a “stupid bitch”, it is a simple case of cut-and-dried Misogyny actually causing this sort of language to be used. The language itself *is* misogynist, but it is more how and why someone uses it that is important – and this is very complex and contextual.

Kristy – I agree that the fact that there is some evidence to say that his behaviour was directly caused by a woman speaking up to him. However, I just can’t accept that it was definitely the case, and thus that he wouldn’t have started being abusive towards a man. But, just to make it clear, I totally agree that it is was entirely possible (even probable) – I just don’t think jumping to conclusions is a good idea.

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