Lili La Scala met some creeps on a train. Turns out you all did too.
Picture the scene: It’s late on a Saturday night, a woman stands alone on a cold platform awaiting a train. She boards and assumes her usual corner seat. Within a minute, five burly chaps with shaved heads and football wear claim the adjoining seats.
Immediately their attention is drawn to this lone female and they launch into direct conversation. That woman was me. I’m a rather taciturn being so I politely fended off their advances.
It was my bad, so perhaps I might remedy my error and answer them here.
Where have I been? I’ve been to work.
“You’re beautiful.” Thanks. I wasn’t looking for a late-night affirmation from five men I’ve never met. I’m not sure any woman would welcome this sort of attention over and over again. While being stared at in a rather obsessive way. But, you know, thanks.
“Your eyes are blue. I like blue eyes. Blue is my favourite eye colour.” And a few more times, just in case I hadn’t heard. Not creepy at all.
“I bet you’re naked under your coat?” No I’m not. It’s winter. Who travels home on a train at 11pm wearing nothing but a coat? If it were summer, maybe? Even then, it would still be nothing to do with you.
“Stuck up cunt.” I’m not. I just don’t want to make conversation with five drunk, sexually aggressive men I’ve never met before. Who’ve already asked me if I’m naked under my coat.
You want to cum on my face? That’s nice. I’m flattered. Such a kind offer but, you know, I’m on my way home from work. I’ve done a show this evening, my serotonin and adrenaline have been spent so I’m tired. Also, your courtship is so terrifyingly aggressive I can’t imagine it working on any woman.
“We must continue to stand up for ourselves every single day until every single man knows that womankind is not here to be the pleasure park of the patriarchy.”
You seem to have the wrong idea, as though I’m enjoying the taunts, jibes and come-ons from all five of you. I mean, I obviously am? As you discuss me, you laugh and jeer. And me? Well, I’m stony silent, staring at my phone with my headphones on, shrinking into the corner while you mime something that appears to be me gargling, no, gobbling, your man seed. Your mime was utterly clear to me, maybe it could be a career path for you once you stop hassling women on trains.
Finally, after 15 minutes, I can’t take any more, I’m blazing with humiliation. I get up. I speak up. I tell you all what I think of you and how ashamed of you I am. Ashamed that you would think that this is a decent way to treat a woman travelling by herself late at night.
Several of you have the decency to look sheepish, some of you tell me that you were, “Only havin’ a laugh, innit?” I gather my things and stalk up the train.
It’s only when I find safe haven that I notice how much my hands are shaking.
It might not have been me tonight. It might have been someone younger, less assertive, someone who was from another country. Someone for whom sexual assault is not just words. Someone for whom it could have been a deeply traumatic and triggering experience.
I am a daughter. I am a wife. I am a mother. Even more than that, I am a human. A human being, a person for whom that experience was distressing, embarrassing, humiliating and shaming. How dare any human take it upon themselves to use my gender against me?
“‘Stuck up cunt.’ I’m not. I just don’t want to make conversation with five drunk, sexually aggressive men I’ve never met before. Who’ve already asked me if I’m naked under my coat.”
Since I first put fingertip to keyboard, hundreds of women have contacted me to offer their own stories. Their pain, anger and humiliation has burned through me as I have read their words. Hundreds of women. Hundreds. How can this be acceptable in 2015?
I have read delights such as “Can I spunk in your hair?”, “Stupid frigid bitch. You have a face that even a bulldog wouldn’t lick” (this woman was 12 when that was said to her. 12!), “Yummy, yummy, yummy, yummy” as a man walked behind another, aiming his words at her backside, “Are those tits homegrown or bought?” and on and on and on. It sickens me that even today there is still so far to go.
Words like ‘humiliated’, ‘intimidated’, ‘panicked’ and ‘scared’, but also words like ‘common’, ‘regular’ and ‘normal’. There is nothing here that should be considered normal; normal should be being able to get from A to B, alone, without fear of being accosted at any time. Confident in the knowledge that your fellow human beings have respect not only for themselves but for the sacred space in which you walk.
We must continue to stand up for ourselves every single day until every single man knows that womankind is not here to be the pleasure park of the patriarchy.
I have the right to travel home in silence.
I have the right to travel home alone.
I have the right to not make small talk with drunk men I’ve never met.
I have the right to not be intimidated
I have the right. Women have the right. Every single woman has the right.
No one has the right to take my right to feel safe away from me. No one.
Lili la Scala, ‘Songbird of Trafalgar Square’ (“Ravishing retro glamour” The Telegraph; “Pure joy” Adelaide Advertiser) www.lililascala.com
Lili la Scala sings a bit, writes a bit and spends more time than is probably necessary discussing the toilet habits of her son. Bona fide vintage addict, though she is sure she sounds less tragic when described as a 'collector'.