There are a million different ways women are forced to move through the world in the name of self preservation.
We stand with backs to walls, avoid the middle pole of the tube, wear trainers for traction. We are told to hold ground, but make space for people, for men, who pass us on the street.
We carry bags in hand, sharp keys jutting out between white knuckled fists. We wear headphones to deter unwanted conversation, but we keep the music silent — all the better to hear you with; your lewd comments as we walk to work, from the supermarket, waiting at school gates.
As the streets darken we become acutely aware of the flash, shadow, flash of street lights. We cross the road at 45 degree angles, zig-zagging lest you get ahead, block our path, see our face. The whites of our eyes whilst we skip, hop, pace in a distorted game of Run! Don’t Run!
We acknowledge women on the street in solidarity, in recognition, a silent entente — ‘see me. Remember me. You saw me on this street. You saw me at this time.’
We’d rather not exercise after dark. We’ll wear a hood to allude to a more masculine shape.
We go to club toilets in groups, insist on buying our drinks. We dance in dizzying circles in case one gets pulled out. We flash eyes, we drape ourselves over one another, we link arms and hold hands and one always checks over our shoulder.
We are told to take cabs, busy night buses — to never walk alone. Don’t have your name next to your buzzer — keep the old tenants name on.
We drop pins, send messages — ‘leaving now’. Let me know when you’re home — ‘home now. Tonight was fun x.’ A good time punctuated with adrenaline and the foolish sigh of relief as you step over a threshold. The banner broken at the finish line.
Don’t talk on the phone — unless you tell them why — ‘I’m just walking home. Just… stay on the line.’