Earlier in the week I was dragging a heavy shopping trolley in one arm with a stuffed sack over the other shoulder out of Superquinn, as I do at least twice a week. The trolley bulged to the degree that I was unable to close the flap with the paper towels poking from the top. I crossed the street to the sidewalk in front of the Frascati Centre here in Blackrock and made it to the exit lane of the parking lot before a mini van, behind which sat a driver who blared the horn despite the fact that I was through it without his vehicle needing to slow or brake. When the honking continued, I flipped the driver the finger and kept walking. Once round George’s Avenue, I met the vehicle at the first intersection there at Frascati Park. He was waiting for me, red-faced and angry. I attempted to maneuver the cart around the mini van until he pulled out to block my path, so that he could scream at me for the criminal offense I’d committed, for which he claimed to have just reported me to the guards. His accent was watered down Cockney like he was a reject from a Guy Ritchie production. The man berated me for rogue jaywalking and for flinging an obscene gesture in the presence of his daughter. I glanced at the passenger seat to see what looked to be a fourteen year-old girl, eyes wide with interest. She didn’t look embarrassed, more like excited to see dad giving me the verbal assault.
For days I have been kicking myself for missing the teachable moment, for not pointing out the real lesson her father was imparting that day, instead of the lesson in vigilante justice he thought he was passing on to the girl. No, lovely young one, your daddy showed you what you have to look forward to for the rest of your life as a woman. Strange men will not hesitate to bully you on the street, to harass, belittle, hector and badger, just because they see you as lesser than. Bidisha’s recent article on casual sexism up at the Guardian focused largely on what was said about women behind their backs, but holy crap if a woman’s personhood isn’t in fact held in open disregard by far too many men choked by privilege and entitlement. Bidisha’s spot on to point out that you can tell a woman hater by the language they use, not to mention how they engage women directly. Any man who follows a woman in his car to yell that she doesn’t have a right to the sidewalk is carrying a virulent strain of misogyny. You can’t help the misogynists you’re related to; give all the others as much distance as you can manage. That’s the lesson I wish the girl had learned this week.