Geography of Fear

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Aujourd’hui, j’assiste à un cours de français au collège.  Je vais au collège en l’autobus.
Today, I attend a French course at the college.  I go to the college by bus.

Taking the bus made me recall some of the different experiences I’ve had taking the Kingston Transit.  On 12 February, I witnessed a particularly unpleasant incident involving two girls and two guys, in their late teens/early twenties, who boarded the bus together with me late one night going back from the college.  The girls got on after Guy A, sat one in front of the other, and settled into a very loud conversation; all the while glancing back at Guy A and snickering away with what I had then thought was simply juvenile girlish glee.  Guy B boarded, and the whole scene quickly turned ugly.  The girls decided to pounce and started taunting Guy B, asking him if he had a date for Valentine’s (hence I remember the date of the incident so clearly) and without waiting for an answer, told him that Guy A was available.  They proceeded to detail the homosexual acts that Guy A allegedly appreciates, ostensibly as an “enticement” to Guy B, which, given its usage in this context of bullying-verging-on-verbal-assault, are simply too rude for me to reproduce here.  A few bus stops worth of this nonsense later, a petrified Guy B couldn’t take it anymore, and stopped the bus to get off at some deserted stop in the middle of nowhere, to which the girls mockingly cried out, “Getting off already?  But you haven’t gotten his number yet”, their malicious laughter reverberating through the bus.

I was angry because I realised that the girls had created precisely the kind of climate of fear that females around the world have had to endure from males for centuries.  But I was also in shock, because it says something about a society where the tables can as easily be turned thus.  As I sat there stewing, it occurred to me that this was not what the feminist movement was fought for; turning the tables is not the point.  We, men and women alike, need to be breaking down the geography of fear, not contributing to it.  Too late, I realised that I should have gone up to the girls and told them to lay off the guys, and that they should be ashamed of themselves, or at the very cowardly least, have gone up to the bus driver to tell him that passengers were being harassed.  But I know better now, whether the perpetrator be male or female, and perhaps you’ll think about it too.

Image by Kingstonist at flickr.

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