So I was making my way home one evening when I was studying in Adelaide. I wasn't in a hurry because the train back to Mawson Lakes wasn't due for another 45 minutes, so I was walking at a casual speed. I had my laptop bag with various anime badges slung across my shoulder, and was listening to some Michael Franks and some light J-Pop to calm myself down from a long day.
As I was making my way through a shortcut towards North Terrace, I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. Before I had time to react, I was spun wildly against my will with enough force to knock the wind out my lungs.
I was 19 at the time, and the man standing in front of me was in his mid 20s. I don't remember much about his face other than his piercing eyes, and the fact he had a black shirt on with some obscure band I'd never heard of scrawled across it in grey writing. All he would have needed is an obvious scar across his face or a limb, and a black ute with rims parked next to him and he would have been a walking cliche!
Needless to say, realising the girl with long blond hair he'd touched was actually a guy, my look of surprise was met with one of horror mixed with disgust. He made a loud "OH!" sound, then turned the other way and ran.
I stood there for what seemed like an hour, my mind still racing trying to figure out what I'd just experienced. When I made it to the train station I realised the whole ordeal and my standing there couldn't have lasted for more than a few minutes. Racing through my mind the whole time were thoughts of how I'd narrowly avoided something nasty. Had I been a girl, would I have been less lucky?
That's the first time I've ever made that experience public. Back then I was terrified, now I just wish I'd have taken a picture of him so I could do a TinEye, found his Facebook page and got revenge on him Nerd Style.
All this came flooding back a few days ago, when I was walking home with a close friend from my new university in Sydney. Suffice to say, she was hugged against her will by strangers. I attempted to fend them off, but not before she'd been made to feel vulnerable and scared.
My sister has told me plenty of tales of when guys have leered at her and her friends, and the number of times she's narrowly avoided confrontations.
Around the world and particularly in Australia, sexism and abuse are still rampant. If you don't believe me, chances are you've never been the victim of it, or you're wilfully ignorant. I myself confess I had no idea how bad it was until I experienced it myself, and saw it happen to my sister and friends.
During my Long Hair Days, I was mistaken for a girl all the time, and no less than three times it got physical. I've been whistled at many more times, by people who clearly need better glasses. Interestingly enough, I grew up in Singapore and only ever had problems when I came to Australia. Go figure.
Maybe it's my relatively petite build in proportion to my height, my hair, perhaps I have an effeminate swagger, who the fuck knows? I suppose the fact my favourite colour is purple and I have cute anime girls on my backpack may send mixed signals. Still, a person's gender or appearance shouldn't be an excuse for any behaviour. I suppose that was what those Slutwalks were all about.
Men are vulnerable to different kinds of sexism, but I think it helps to remind ourselves that our female friends and loved ones go through a different kind of hell on a regular basis. And again, I only know it because I've been mistaken for one.