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I’m not going to wear the obscenities

To the driver of a silver Astra who honked at me on Monday evening – how would you feel if it was your mother who had been honked at? Your girlfriend, daughter or sister?

From the age of 10, most young girls are taught not to walk late at night. Told not to wear revealing clothing, and not to walk alone. When do young boys get taught these things? When do they get told that women don’t like being gawked at, honked at, or made to feel unsafe?

Just because my bike shorts were starting to ride up, in no way was that an invitation. The noise shocked the life out of me. My terrier was pretty peeved as well.

My first instinct should be to flip them the bird, but between shock and checking that the tooter wasn’t a friend, the moment to make an obscene gestures was gone.

This wasn’t the first time I’d been honked at in Masterton on an evening walk.

I remember the first time. About dusk, I decided to stroll around the block. My friend said she was never harassed at night in Wellington because she walked with purpose and covered herself up.

I followed suit with a hoodie and track pants and a Wednesday Addams facial expression. I felt like I meant business, but it wasn’t enough. A white pickup truck came past, tooted, and the man in the passenger side kept his head out the window, staring at me as he drove past.

Do I need to wear a Michelin suit to look less enticing to potential attackers? If someone tried to attack me, I could just bounce him away with my tyre-sized torso and arms.

What can I do to feel safe, running with my terrier on a Monday evening in Masterton?

Walk in a safe neighbourhood, they said. What about the jogger killed in affluent Remuera?

Walk with a dog? I always imagined myself as an old person with a dog.

Partially because dogs are more pleasant than the average Homo sapien, but also, the perception of safety. However, that perception has been somewhat blighted, after the unprovoked stabbing in a Christchurch park recently.

I may not live in a country where harassment and violence are commonplace, but we shouldn’t accept any violence against women.

A hypothetical question was posed on social media recently: “What would you do if the world had no men for 24 hours?”

It went viral, with the top answer being: “Go for a walk at night”.

“Run around at night while blasting music into my headphones”, “ride bikes with my best friend at night without our guy friends having to be there for safety”, “wearing whatever I want”.

Should we accept this in 2022? When gender equality has so many other things to fight for, is this the one that men can finally address head-on?

Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Why do I have to argue for such a small thing? I just want to walk alone on a Monday night without being honked at.

Helen Holt
Helen Holt
Helen Holt is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age and enjoys reporting on a variety of topics, regularly covering Wairarapa events, tourism, local businesses, and the occasional health story.

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