Boys Who Hit Girls and Boys Who Don’t

CW: violence against women, sexual harassment, assault.

Let me tell you a story. Today, a friend of mine jostled into a man on a rush hour tube. The man turned around and threatened to punch her in the face. She cried.

Let me tell you another story. Once, when I was walking home in the dark, a man ran towards me and screamed in my face. When I leapt backwards away from him, he laughed hysterically. I went home, turned on all of my lights and sat in the corner of my living room between the sofa and the wall. And I cried.

Let me tell you another story. A while ago, there was a post circling around the internet about a man who noticed that the woman walking in front of him had sped up to get away from him. He walked faster and so did she. Eventually, she broke into a run. When she tripped and fell, he ran past her and screamed “Who are we running from?!”. A lot of people shared this post. A lot of nice male friends of mine shared this post with notes on how funny it was. They laughed. I bet the woman cried.

486691_10151270110214439_1617374119_n

In at least two of those stories, the men involved thought they were kidding around. Not having been there for the first, I can’t say for sure whether the threat was a thoughtless, idiotic, off the cuff remark or a genuine threat. But here’s something I am sure about: being able to frighten women and think that you are joking or that we shouldn’t take it so seriously is an act of supreme, huge, massive privilege.

When you say or do something like the guys above did, you know that you don’t really mean it. Here’s the thing: we don’t.
We don’t know until we’ve ignored your shouts of “Hey beautiful!” whether you’re going to throw a bottle at us or not.
We don’t know until we’ve awkwardly returned your smile at the bar whether you are going to shove us against a wall and assault us or not.
We don’t know until we’ve refused to laugh at your inappropriate sexual joke whether you’re going to tell your friends that we were throwing ourselves at you or not.
We don’t know until we’ve pulled you up on sexist language whether you’ll send us photographs of mutilated women or not.
We don’t know when we sit next to you on the bus whether you’re going to start masturbating at us or not.

None of those examples are hypothetical.

I don’t presume to speak for all women here because I can’t. So I’m just going to speak for me. I live my whole life in the knowledge that pretty much every single man I come into contact with is stronger than me. In every interaction, I carry that thought in the back of my head: that you could hurt me if you wanted to. I’m smart, I’m funny, I’m brave, I’m strong, I’m confident and not one of those things would stop you killing me if you decided to.

I am afraid of you. And the numbers back me up in being afraid of you. The numbers say that actually, it’s quite likely that I’ll be seriously hurt by a man in my lifetime. It’s only a matter of time. It’s only a matter of who. It’s basically a miracle that women get out the door in the morning with that knowledge hanging over them. The only thing that stops me living in fear all the time is sheer, indefatigable stubbornness.

We have no idea whether your “joke” is a joke until it’s too late. When you make jokes like that and I give you the hilarious, terrified reaction that you’re looking for, I’m doing that because I’m afraid that you’re going to hurt me. I’m afraid that you’re going to kill me. So I’ll let you choose. You can be funny, or you can be frightening. Because trust me, you can’t be both. Violence isn’t always committed with a fist. Just because we’re not bleeding doesn’t mean you haven’t hurt us. Weigh your damn words, boys. They’re heavy.

The Triumphant Return

I hope you all missed me terribly. I’m thrilled to announce that National Novel Writing Month has now ended and I have returned to you bearing one of these bad boys:

national novel writing month

30 days, 50000 words, nae bother.

Having somehow come out the other side of this frankly ridiculous challenge, I thought I would impart some pearls of wisdom that I learned throughout the month. Because I’m wise now. Super wise. Totally.

You Can Definitely Eat An Elephant

You know that old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time”. It works. 50000 words is too many. 1667 is still too many really, but not by much. Writing a novel is something that I’ve wanted to do for literally my entire life and this month I did it. It took literally 30 days to accomplish something that I’ve always wanted to do, for no other reason than that I broke it down into baby steps and committed to taking those steps every day. You should definitely do the same with that thing you’ve always wanted to do.

There Are More Hours In the Day Than You Think

I am the mothereffing queen of “I don’t have time”.

“I’m far too busy to do this pile of productive things!” I exclaim, hitting play on another episode of Once Upon a Time. Disclaimer: I do not advise using every second of your day productively for an extended period of time. It will drive you crazy. But I definitely learned that when I say I don’t have half an hour to exercise or tidy up or cook good food, it’s a lie. If I have time to write a novel around having a full time job, I have time to clean my damn flat.

Being Creative Is Bloody Exhausting

Oh my god, creating a world is tiring. Creating at such an intense level for such an extended period of time totally wrecked my brain for anything else. I started watching Disney movies on the weekends because they were about the level I was operating on. I almost fell asleep in the shower one night. Every so often, Niall would come home to find me literally lying on the living room floor because I was too tired to do anything else. Hats off to all the creatives out there, it’s a hard, hard job.

There Is Nothing Like Doing Something You Love

I feel like, after this month, I have gained a new understanding of “my heart is bursting”. Being absolutely absorbed in something that I love to do was the most infuriating, brilliant, inspiring, exciting, exhausting thing I’ve ever done. I felt invincible all month, like I was walking on air. I felt alive on a whole new level. Make time to do what you love, people. You owe it to yourself.

Normal blogging schedule will resume soon, which is exciting considering that I’ve never had a blogging schedule in my life. As a huge, massive thank you to everyone who has supported me, cheered me on, cooked me food, given me ideas and put up with questions like “Do all birds bob their heads though?”, I invite you to enjoy a little snippet of my newly finished masterpiece, The Waiting Room. You’re all the best. I love you.

Nicholas kicked open the door and stepped into the room. He strutted over to where Cait was sitting, painstakingly polishing a silver crossbow.
“What an influx we’ve had today. Days like this make me wish I could still drink coffee.”
“You don’t remember coffee. Coffee probably wasn’t even around when you were alive. You spend too much time eavesdropping on the humans,” murmured Cait without lifting her eyes.
“I can’t help it. They’re all so delightfully screwed up. You get anyone interesting?”
Cait sighed and reluctantly put down the crossbow, deciding that shooting a demon with an arrow probably wasn’t a good idea, even if it would make her feel better.
“Not today. Just some kid. She seems a bit weepy. I doubt she’ll last long. I give her about a week before she’s at my feet, begging me to take all her memories and let her move on.”
“See, that’s the problem with you angels. We get all the fun ones. I think you picked the wrong side.”
Nicholas stepped closer to her, tracing a long fingernail across the back of her neck. She could feel his lecherous breath hot on her face. She seriously considered crossbowing him again. She hated demons. She especially hated Nick. She couldn’t understand how in a dimension with literally infinite space, she always seemed to end up in a room with him. She looked up at him and rolled her eyes. Most demons wore simple black trousers but Nick liked to pair his with a white shirt, unbuttoned to the point of indecency, an undone bowtie and a pair of shiny black boots. He had seen a human dressed like that once and thought it made him look distinguished. Cait felt like telling him that it made him look ridiculous.
“And that’s the problem with you demons, you think that the people you get are fun. Evil isn’t fun. Murder isn’t fun. Torture isn’t fun.”
Nick rolled his eyes and flopped down on the sofa across from her, hands behind his head. He pulled a long dagger from his belt and started to clean underneath his nails with it.
“I’d have to disagree with you there. Because when we dole it out, evil and murder and torture isn’t just fun…it’s justice. And I know that you’re into that. I think you’d quite enjoy a trip over to the dark side. I think you’d see that we’re not really the bad guys. We’re the ones who get to punish them.”
Cait went back to cleaning her crossbow.
“You don’t get to be a demon without being a bad guy. It’s kind of in the nature of the job.”
Cait actually didn’t know that. It was all part of the deal. If you got the nod, you could choose to give up all memories of your mortal life and your afterlife in exchange for being bumped up to archangel or demon status. They said that the wipe was so you could perform your job without your previous hangups and biases…distractions, they called them. Cait sometimes wondered about the credits, whether they had ended up in someone’s pocket. She didn’t really care. Caring was not in her job description. So she didn’t know for sure whether she’d been a good person, and was rewarded with wings instead of horns. But considering most demons’ natural knack for cruelty, she had always assumed that was how it went. Sure, she liked raining down justice as much as the next celestial being and loved the thrill of the chase on the odd occasion a ghost made a break for it, but when it came to the demons, it was a whole different game. There was nothing like a demon on the hunt. She had never seen bloodlust like it. She suppressed an involuntary shiver, not wanting to give Nick the satisfaction. Not that he actually went on the hunts anymore anyway. His predilection for inventive and horrifying means of torture meant that he had risen through the ranks quickly. Petty criminals and escapees didn’t see Nick. If you were seeing Nick, it was because you had done something really awful. Although that was nothing on what he was about to do to you. Or so he liked to brag. He made her skin crawl, strutting around in those shiny, pointed boots, flicking his tail boredly as he regaled his adoring fans with tales of his eternal badness. She often considered telling them about the time he fell on his own pitchfork as a newbie. That would put him in his place. She glanced up to find him watching her carefully.
“Maybe you just don’t have it in you anymore,” he said softly, “Maybe you’ve been acting angelic for too long and all the fight has gone out of you.”
She couldn’t resist it anymore. She picked up one of the bolts for her crossbow and tossed it at him like a javelin. It whirred a centimetre past his nose and embedded itself deep in the wall opposite. She relished the shimmer of fear and surprise that flashed across his face.
“Trust me,” she warned, “I’ve still got it.”
Nick opened his mouth but she raised her hand to silence him.
“And no, that was not flirting.”