Oh blog, I had such hopes for you. I will write once a week, I promised myself. Even if it’s just sketchy poetry. Then a fatigue crash happened in late December and I currently struggle to piece two coherent thoughts together one after the other, and don’t even try linking them eloquently. I will come back to this properly, it might be a winter darkness thing, or it might be the Mystery Heart Condition or just “hey you have chronic fatigue, this is just what you do”. But I’m not abandoning this one, even if I’ve already taken a small leave of absence.
I’m here today to rage about insidious sexual harassment.
It’s not easy for me to leave the house right now. It requires forward planning: estimating my energy levels, timing painkillers correctly and working out which of London’s many stations are accessible enough. I failed on the last front yesterday evening and found myself changing trains at Finsbury Park – which necessitated climbing a flight of stairs. I do not generally do well on stairs, it’s usually slow going and often painful and I’m concentrating hard on both coordination and not passing out. Still, I recognise the click of an iPhone camera when I hear it.
That’s a bit odd, I think, who would take a selfie on the stairs at Finsbury Park?
Then it hit me, as a man pushed up the stairs past me, with his phone in his hand, the screen still set to camera. That man has just taken a picture of my arse. Or up my skirt.
There is a control room at the top of the staircase where the North and Southbound passages intersect. I fully intended to be late to meet my friend in order to report the guy right then and there, but as I reached the top of the stairs I realised he was right there, leaning against the wall of the tunnel, looking at his fucking phone and I got so freaked out that I just got the hell out of there as quickly as I could manage.
Once I was at the pub with my friend, I couldn’t get comfortable for a long time. The idea that some stranger had taken a photo of me without consent for sexual gratification made me feel really gross and upset and anxious. It felt like a part of me had been taken without my consent.
I started fretting about going home and going back through the station, and eventually asked my friend to come back with me. Having him there made me feel brave enough to stop at the control desk and tell them what had happened earlier. They called the British Transport Police and we were taken to the station next door to make a statement. It’ll go down as intelligence, so they can build up a pattern of this guy if more people report him, if he’s a repeat offender for this kind of thing.
I feel the need to stress the importance of reporting even minor harassments such as this if you feel able to. The trend for photographing women without their consent is really disturbing – from numerous Facebook groups for posting pictures of women in nightclubs (“Sluts Embarrassing Themselves” famously took weeks to be closed), to Women Who Eat On Tubes (misogynistic AND food shaming!) and it’s totally media-endorsed – how can someone taking a photo of me be any different to a paparazzi photographer shoving their camera up the skirt of a young actress as they get out of a cab? We’re viewed as public property. We’re on show, so why can’t people take home a souvenir? I’m incredibly pleased that it’s being taken seriously by the police, even if it’s not a serious crime. It’s insidious, creepy. Most women who are photographed like this probably don’t even realise it’s happened at all – even when the cameras make noise it’s hard to hear when you have headphones in, or when there are lots of people around.
I’m just thankful that I probably won’t be travelling that way through Finsbury Park again, thanks to the stairs.
(It’s worth noting that up-skirt shots were apparently such a problem in Japan that you cannot silence the shutter click at all on Japanese iPhones, and there’s no in-camera mute function on any iPhone.)