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Sometimes, when I am in public and watch what happens around me, I notice how much it is controlled by a specific group of people. Mind you, this is the experience of someone in the middle of Europe who walks and takes public transport a lot, and enjoys walking in forests and parks and goes shopping by foot in city centers, and went to public school, a trade school and university.
I see a lot of society bend around young groups of men in public. No one tells them to be quiet in the tram. They get to spread out in a part of it and be loud and put their feet up or jump around like a jungle gym, and people let them. Not worth engaging. Could be dangerous or make things worse. They don't wanna be disrespected or beaten by a group.
People old and young, no matter which gender, change the side of the street for a group of young men, or sidestep onto the street while the group doesn’t give up even an inch of sidewalk for anyone coming their way. People walk a wide berth around where the group sits and are often still yelled at with stuff meant to impress each other in the group. Catcalls seem to be very impressive among them.
Sometimes people have a good time minding their business at a park or a bus stop or train station, just for a group of young men to arrive who slowly drive everyone away with their behavior. The people pack their stuff and leave, or opt to move far away from them, giving up their seat to yield to them.
The loud group then sprawls out further and gladly takes what’s given, monopolizing the only area with benches, or shadow, or whatever advantage that spot might have. I wonder if they don’t even notice they have this effect, or if that is the goal. Be as disruptive, loud, and threatening as possible; standing a little too close and putting pressure on people to stand up, maybe surrounding them like a pack of wolves, or sitting right and left from a person while talking to each other until that person gets up; playing loud music and smoking and spitting on the ground until people are too uncomfortable to stay, especially as more and more people leave and they don’t want to stay there alone. What they often leave behind are their cigarette butts, saliva and snot, energy drinks, beer cans, and fast food packaging. That makes it unattractive to be there even long after they left. Not to mention the types of groups that love to vandalize and destroy glass elements, like of the little bus stop or tram stop huts.
But the street and tram isn't the only type of public. There's schools as well, playgrounds, and all that. And that takes me back to when boys also controlled the school experience.
It was fairly normal as a girl growing up here to expect boys to harass you or try to embarrass you, take your stuff, threaten to break it or acting as if you were not gonna get it back; all just to get a reaction out of you. My mum carefully controlled what I wore based on what the boys at school might do (try to pull at decorative knots in my clothing to unravel them, attempt to uncuff my bra through my shirt with a quick pull and twist, cutting off my braids from behind while sitting in class and so on - and all of these happened sometimes or were attempted). Stuff I wanted to take with me to school sometimes (think, a little plushie or figurine or whatever) was better left at home because we could not risk a boy to break it, cut it open, draw on it or mess with it in any other way. This wasn’t just based on what I might tell her happens at school, but also her experiences as a girl at school, born in the 60’s. That doesn't even take into account all the times where boys would try to distract the girls in class by continuously throwing paper balls or bits of food at them.
I was also used to get any type of hat (like a beanie for example) stolen off our heads and tossed around, same with our pencil case or electronics. Our hair pins taken and bent out of shape. Our keys hidden. I left my bike with a bunch of boys I thought were my friends for 10 minutes while I went to pee; I came back and they had purposefully broken off the bike dynamo for fun. In 7th grade, it was normal for 5th grade boys to run past us and slap our asses as a type of game before running away again.
On a class trip, I had worn underwear stolen out of my travel bag by boys and passed around. It was completely normalized not to acknowledge any physical boundaries for girls and their property. It wasn't targeted bullying in my case, this is how all of us girls were treated.
All that is not just the usual friendly ribbing and teasing to me and many other girls and women at least. I think if I was a man reading this though, I would feel as if it is exaggerated and a non-issue, because men treat each other like that all the time and it’s okay in their circles. They seem to never put a stop to pantsing each other or giving each other wedgies, kicking each other in the balls, putting disgusting stuff into each others bags, throwing their stuff around, or other similar things. They seem to be used to making a game out of annoying someone or making them uncomfortable, and having that done to them, as a form of camaraderie and proving you’re one of the boys. Sometimes the game was to see how close you can come to breaking someones possessions (or how many to break) before they get bothered. The line seems to be crossed fairly early for girls and they immediately yell “Stop! No! Give it back!” while the boys laugh at each other or wrestle. I never knew if it was a genuine laugh of being okay with it and having fun as well, or laughing along to not show weakness or provoke the other boys further by showing you care. That could make it worse after all and also make you sound like a girl, which is obviously the highest insult.
I get it; teen girls can be mean and cruel as well. They can also be annoying, by screeching loudly or their voices being more high pitched when they laugh. There is barely an incidence I remember of a group of girls loudly laughing that wasn't immediately followed up with one of the boys mocking their laughter in a deeply offensive way that wasn't meant kindly at all.
But still, I don't see them controlling the public like this. I've never had girls catcall me. I never had girls and women come up to me to harass me by telling me "Nice cat!" or barking at me when I walk my (medium sized, not-cat) dog, just to make me feel... unsafe? Weirded out? Girls in public don't run up to me or make a move as if they were gonna jump against me, to see if I twitch or look scared. Girls in public don't spit around or encroach on my personal space. Girls in public haven't thrown snowballs at random strangers on the street here. Girls aren't yelling words about their genitalia at me.
Once a month or so, it happens to me that school boys on bikes will just pass me and other pedestrians and yell obscene words or weird sounds loudly at us to be confusing or intimidating. They think it's fun and it's a dare among them to do it even louder and more shockingly at the next person. Women are their favorite target, because they are easier to scare and less likely to lash out. Adult men hold a lot of authority in their minds, it seems, so those are safe from this harassment.
I don't know. I don't think it's fair or right. I think it is absolutely insane that we live like this. I think it's insane that women are told they are distractions because they have boobs, legs, and shoulders and should cover up, hide away, etc. when we have been dealing with harassment and distractions for so much of our lives. The true distractions are boys escalating the above stuff until you have no choice but to react; and they won't stop until you beg or even cry or maybe start physically fighting. Literally starting at kindergarten, so much of my daily energy as a girl and woman is spent trying to counter or avoid the attacks of the boys around. And I know my experience isn't extra bad or a single case, this is common. All the girls I grew up with dealt with this. I still deal with this today, in the tram, at bus stops, in parks, on the street walking the dog. It's nasty.
This is something I gathered and wrote bits and pieces of over the last few weeks. Whenever a memory popped up, whenever I was harassed, whenever I watched people be disrespected and pushed away by a group of men. It really happens a lot. I wish it wasn't like this though. And I wish I didn't remember the boys I grew up with by how much they took away from me and threatened to steal and destroy, but I do. And those weren't an exception or the same 2-3 people, it was all boys we had in classes, no matter which class, and even after a school change due to a move. And the shittiest thing? All you get told is that they do it because they like you. Because they want your attention. Because he has a "bad home". Because this is allegedly normal for boys (boys will be boys). It sucks. I had to beat 3 boys in my entire school life because they took it too far. It could have been more than 3 if I didn't practice self restraint. It should have been 0.
Now all these boys from back then are adults like me. Some might still behave like that and be the group of young men I see. But now I stand no chance, physically. It's chilling, sometimes.
𓇽 ° . ༻ 𓈒 ꒪ ๋ ° .𓏲⠀ ๋࣭ ♡ ͘ ࣭⠀⸰ ⋆ ֗ ִ ᨒ .⋆ﾟ. ͘ ࣭⠀⸰ ♡ 𓂂 ◌ 𓇽 ° . ๋ 𓂂 ⠀✼ 𓇽