Recognising privilege

On the back of the awful (not the word, but I don’t have the words) case of Sarah Everard, the stories every woman has been sharing in the aftermath, I got to thinking.

Some years ago, I was walking home from the pub. It was late. Very late. Walking in the same direction but faster than a young woman, as my shadow drew into alongside hers she turned and launched a furious tirade at me, exact details of which are lost in time. In short, I was intimidating her by my presence and I should cross the road. It being six lanes, I said I wasn’t going to do that, asked her to wait in the brightly lit spot while I passed as wide as I could on a reasonably wide piece of pavement, then we could both continue on our way. And it angered me. I know I’m a big soft lump, and while she couldn’t possibly know that, it seemed grossly unfair to be labelled as a danger. I really didn’t understand.

Some years later, but still some years ago, I was accosted by two lads on my road. It was an attempt at a mugging. I told them to fuck off. I know I’m a big soft lump, but they couldn’t possibly know that. What they did do was attempt to rob someone standing over six feet tall and of reasonably large build. ‘Pick your battles, lads’, I thought. They fucked off. Then the penny dropped.

I – you, us (as men) – can’t have it both ways. I can’t congratulate myself on seeing off two muggers merely because I’m a sizeable bloke and not appreciate how I may look to a woman on her own. I can’t say to myself ‘they don’t know I’m a soft sack of shite’ regarding those muggers without the self-awareness to also say ‘she doesn’t know I’m a soft sack of shite’ regarding that lass who bawled me out.

I haven’t got answers. I guess that all I’m saying is be aware. And be better. Learn. This is on us, men, far more than it is anyone else. We have to be better.