First published on Wednesday the 4th of December, 2019, this piece comes in at number 20 in the top 30 most read Villainesse stories of 2019.
I had woken early with plans to spend the entire day, or as much of it as I could bear, working on a uni project. It was the kind of project with a ridiculous, astronomical word count; the kind of thing that couldn’t be crammed. I caught the bus into the city, wolfed a coffee and bagel, and set myself up at the Auckland City Library. I was feeling pretty good, to be honest. I always felt good when I made plans and followed them through. I felt so good in fact, that rather than rock my usual bare-faced look, that morning I’d slapped on some cherry red lipstick
I’m on the top floor of the library where it’s silent, where I can chew on my pen and gaze across the construction sites. It’s empty, just how I hoped it would be, and I spread myself wide. My laptop I place in front of me, my books to the left, notepad and pen for brainstorming to the right. Water bottle just so, secretly sneaked-in coffee stashed by my foot. The floor remains empty except, now, for one single man. And he’s making his way towards me.
I try to ignore him, but his smell is impossible. Cigarettes and age, and something vaguely faecal. I don’t like that he’s taken the spot right next to me. But he’s looking at his phone, not at me, so at least that’s something.
Except now he’s looking at me.
He’s looking at his phone then he’s looking at me.
Phone then me.
Phone then me.
I can’t concentrate on writing, so I’m going through emails. Opening old ones and reading them over. Pretending I’m occupied. Pretending not to see him.
He’s trying to show me his phone, so I steady my eyes my screen. My heart picks up speed. Why are there no librarians around? How is this happening in silence?
When I eventually glance at the phone he’s all but shoving under my nose, peripherally and for the splittest second, I realise he’s showing me porn.
I fold my lips in on themselves. I curse myself for wearing lipstick.
And then I try to strategize.
My shit is everywhere. Like, absolutely everywhere.
as if there’s nothing wrong
I gather my things and leave.
On the way out, I tell the librarian everything. She’s very concerned and says she’ll do something. I don’t stick around. I don’t write a word of my paper that day.
Read the news and you’ll realise many men are terrifying. Spend a day as a woman and you’ll learn the same thing.
We all live our lives understanding there’s a risk for violence. We could be mugged on the street. Relationships could turn abusive.
But those risks are exponentially worse for women. And when it comes to male victims, the perpetrators are very often men too.
That’s not to say there aren’t violent and abusive women out there. Of course there are. There are violent and abusive every-kind-of-people.
But all of us suffer at the hands of patriarchal, male violence. Sometimes its gay men being beaten to death for being themselves. Sometimes its trans women being killed for living authentically. Sometimes its men killing each other. Sometimes its women going on dates.
I’ll get shit for saying it. I know that I will. But until it’s no longer true, I’m shouting it from the rooftops: under patriarchy, men scare the living daylights out of me.
I’ll keep saying it until it I no longer need to, until it's no longer relevant, until it's no longer urgent.
If you or someone you know is in danger call 111 or contact:
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