But despite the apparent deluge, it’s not yet enough.
The very lovely owner of possibly the best name on the planet ever, Jamie Thunder, recently wrote that his friend was subjected to harassment on a bus. She laughed it off, as many of us do, but the story clearly struck a chord with Jamie:
If it had been me sat on a coach journey with a stranger trying to feel me up I’d have screamed the place down… Why would I make a fuss? Because it’s unusual and very unpleasant. But would I have if this sort of experience was part of my daily life? …it’s quite a shock, as a guy, to realise how pervasive this sort of thing is.
Jamie’s not stupid, and he’s not oblivious to the world around him: he’s a journalist at a major newspaper. If you’re going to paint someone with the clued-up brush, it’s Jamie. But if, up till now, he’s not been aware of the scale of the issue, then how are other men expected to be?
I single men out because I’d be willing to bet that 99 out of 100 women who are reading this are well aware that this goes on with horrid and alarming regularity and have been subjected to it at least once. Talk to any woman you know – friend, girlfriend, flatmate, colleague, sister: they’ll all have a story to tell you about their experience of harassment, whether it’s “only” that they were hollered at from a car or, in more sinister vein, that they were followed around on the tube.
And it’s not that we’re getting our knickers in a twist about nothing; it’s not that women everywhere need to lighten up and learn to take a compliment. None of these instances of harassment are compliments: they don’t make us feel good about ourselves, and they’re not designed to.
What woman do you know enjoys being treated as nothing more than meat? Are you sure that there’s a woman in your life who subscribes to the view that her body isn’t her own but instead public property, to be commented on in public as people see fit? Do you ever think the response to an incident like this would be for the woman in question to turn round and proffer her number and next available Thursday evening for dinner and drinks? No. Because that’s not the aim.
At its least damaging, public harassment is disrespectful and annoying. At its worst, it’s intimidating and threatening, preventing people from being able to go about their day-to-day business in a public space without fear. Which, I’d argue, is a pretty fundamental requirement for life.