The Shouter – a poem


“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?