New feature: Alright darlin’

// 8 February 2009

Selina Jervis reports that sexual harassment in public spaces has reached critical levels

As I sat down write this, my sister arrived home and said a man tried to pull her into a car. She was walking home from the bus stop in broad daylight and a man cruised the curb for a while, trying to talk to her before getting out and grabbing her arm, pulling her towards the car. She pulled away, firmly said no and walked on. She is 17. This might sound unnerving, but as she breezed in, she told the story like a bit of gossip and went straight onto MSN.

I can trace it back to around the age of 14, when men start to catcall and comment in the street. Suddenly as you cross the road their eyes will follow you as they drive round the corner. When you walk past a pub the smokers will croon “hello gorgeous”. There are random encounters with men who may follow you off the bus to “ask you the time”, then ask your name and where you’re going. Women are exposed to harassment all the time, but, as a young woman, it’s worrying to think of the lengths it can reach.

In the past it may have been polite to say a good morning to a woman, so why is it OK now to beep a horn, call a rude name and ask questions. I am 19. In the last few months, men, none younger than 30, have followed me down the road I live on, approached me at bus stops and generally leered from cars as I wait to cross the street. That’s only in the past few months. Since living in a student-dominated part of Manchester for the past year, this summer I noticed the difference at home in inner-city Birmingham and don’t want to take it anymore.

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