Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Girl on the Tube

This morning on my way into work, I was on the Overground train reading when I suddenly heard, quite loudly, "No I don't want to go for coffee with you." said very firmly, very strongly, and with enough annoyance to cause a few people (not just me) to look up.

Packed into the rush hour crush, a frustrated looking woman with a huge suitcase and several bags was stood facing me. Behind her was a hugely tall and broad man with a smile on his face.

"Why not?" He said slowly. "Where is your stop?" To which she just desperately huffed and lifted her shoulders to block him off. This led to him saying things like "Why are you in a bad mood?" "Lets go for coffee." "I'm in a very good mood."
This last comment was said so indescribably creepily that I was seriously worried for her. She was keeping her back to the man, not engaging him at all, even calling attention to the fact that he was a creep, and yet because of how densely we were packed, and how bug her suitcase was, she was in no position to get away.

The train stopped, and she very quickly pushed through the crowd to get off. The man followed her.

Since I was at the door, I placed myself between the man and the door to slow him down a bit after she got off, and the last I saw of them was the woman jumping on the next carriage, and the man walking down the platform. I'm fairly certain that he didn't get on after her, but I was the only person who moved to get in his way.

What the hell, Londoners?

The way he was looking at her, and the way he followed her off the carriage was seriously creepy, yet no one tried to intervene. The suits in her way did move quickly to let her through but they didn't crowd back together when this guy followed, and they certainly weren't saying anything to him.

Why did this woman have to put up with the guy's attentions? She was obviously angry, and obviously frustrated. Yes this guy was huge, yes it was rush hour, and yes she did end up safely in another carriage but still!
Why did no one do anything?

More importantly, why didn't I?

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


I don't really remember a time when I wasn't conscious of the differences between gender stereotypes. When I was very young I had a close friend called Daniel whose absolute favourite colour was pink. I remember turning to him and declaring that "Pink's my colour. Boy's can't like pink."

The first time I remember thinking that it was unfair was in the playground at primary school. Jake and I were chatting to the supervising teacher and Jake was showing that he could wink. For some reason this earned him a lot of praise and naturally, being the gobby brat that I was (am) I demonstrated that I too could wink.

This earned a raised eyebrow and the throwaway statement that "It doesn't work when girls do it."

Both of these examples are stupid, tiny, insignificant things but I remember them so clearly that it beggars belief. I can't remember visiting Disneyland, or my first day of high school but I remember these two pathetic events from when I was about six.

But as is generally known, these ideas are printed into us at a very early age. I can wink, very easily, but I never do it. I don't wink at girls or boys, and I certainly don't wink at my teachers (which was, in hindsight, a bit weird).

I'm sure many people know about the rising number of parents raising their babies Androgynous- ignoring gender-specific colours and clothes, and just dressing their child however the hell they want. In order to ignore Gender stereotypes these parents are going as far as to keep the gender of the child a secret from even close friends and family. In that online article, the androgynous model Andrej Pejic is also mentioned. Andrej took the fashion world by storm when he appeared in Paris, with everyone asking "who's the blonde girl?" (Obviously I'm paraphrasing) Andrej became the face of androgynous fashion.

But is hiding a baby's gender going too far? Do our adult identities take form so early on? If so, what could this mean? Will an androgynous boy grow up hanging out with the boys or the girls? Will they hang out with anyone? I remember a very strong divide between boys and girls at school- boys were gross and naughty, whereas the girls were clean and sneaky.

I don't think anything's wrong with letting a child play with either Action Man or Barbie, regardless of gender, and I don't think clothes necessarily need to be sectioned into 'girls' and 'boys' either (particularly at young ages) but growing up without anyone knowing what to call you must have some dangerous ramifications. However the way a child is raised is up to the parents, and we have no right to condemn what they're doing.

But on the flip side, maybe the androgynous children of this new generation will teach us something. It's entirely possible that these children will grow up incredibly sure of themselves and who they are regardless of what their peers are doing. Maybe those children won't smoke just because the other boys look cool doing it, and maybe they won't dress too skimpily just because the other girls are doing their best to grow up faster.

Maybe Androgyny is the future for the modern family, and maybe it's just a quirky new thing someone thought they'd try. Like baby cages.