As a female student in a nightclub, I expected to get some unwanted attention. What I didn’t expect was for feminism to turn me into someone so terrified of unwanted attention I stopped going out.
In the past, someone groping me would only annoy me for a minute – that would be the extent of it. If they were being really pushy, I’d go to my male friends and stay with them, because they’d enjoy making it clear that the guy’s attentions were unwelcome. And yes, other men were more likely to listen to my tall, imposing male friends than me – a shy, skinny 18-year-old. You could call it male privilege, I’d call it the benefit of self-confidence.
And that was all fine. No harm, no foul. That was, until I discovered the (now-infamous) Oxford feminist group Cuntry Living. It was a big thing in Oxford; everyone was talking about it and, curious, I joined. I read the posts, I contributed and I engaged in discussion about everything from rape culture to misogyny in our curriculum. I learned a lot, and, slowly, I transitioned from a nervous, desperate-to-please ‘gender egalitarian’ to a proud, full-blown feminist.
Along with all of this, my view of women changed. I stopped thinking about empowerment and started to see women as vulnerable, mistreated victims. I came to see women as physically fragile, delicate, butterfly-like creatures struggling in the cruel net of patriarchy. I began to see male entitlement everywhere.
The experience also changed my attitude to going out. I would dress more cautiously and opt to stick with female friends in clubs. And, if the usual creeps started bothering me, I became positively terrified. I saw them, not as drunk men with a poor grasp of boundaries, and certainly not as misguided optimists who might have misread my behaviour, but as aggressive probable rapists.