“Nice bum” he shouts. He can’t be older than 10.
I cycle on, to ignore as usual, but then
I stop. I turn. “What did you shout at me for?”
No reply, shifting eyes, shifting feet, mumbling, looking at the floor
a group shrug. The answer comes “dunno”
Another replies, bolder than the shouter “you know
girls like it when you shout at them innit.”
“I’m a girl, and I don’t like it.”
Surprise on their faces, disbelief,
I turn to go, to their visible relief
but the exchange follows me home in my head;
the sense of shame, concern, dread.
Who taught them that a women grown
knows less of her own
mind than they? I pay my rent, have a degree,
a group of kids barely three
feet high telling me “but you like it really”
after I’ve said that I don’t very clearly.
What are we teaching the boys of our world?
That it’s ok to shout at women and girls
because “they like it” even if they say they don’t
they say no but they mean yes even if they won’t
say it aloud.
Are we proud
of this nation of youths with a twisted and bent
understanding of the meaning of ‘consent’?
I want to ask these future men –
who shout at women and then
say it’s ok we want it that way –
Who taught them this was the way things are?
who told them that women are things?
Who told him that girls say no and mean yes
that girls are different, that a short dress
says more about her than the words
that she says?
In what ways
are our kids are learning ‘facts of life’
in which women are sister, mother, wife
before they are people deserving respect
for who they are? Shouldn’t we expect
and want better?