Loud whistling and catcalls made me look outside my window the other night, only to find the usual crowd of youngsters loitering around. The whistles increased, and several moments later, my doorbell rang. By this point, I was hardly surprised by the bag of rubbish on my doorstep.
London is known to be a melting pot, where people of any religious, cultural, or ethic background are accepted. This seems to be the case in central London, but straying even a small amount out of Zone 1 can be a severe wake-up call.
Living in the East End has obvious advantages for a student: cheaper accommodation, a vibrant nightlife, and a variety of markets to explore. Unfortunately, my flatmates and I didn’t read the small print, which would’ve warned us of the verbal abuse we would have to deal with on a daily basis.
At one point or another, all girls have been the object of unwarranted male attention, such as silly drunken comments, or excessive whistling. What I am referring to, however, borders on utter disrespect. Besides the stares, the hisses, the crude comments, and the cars slowing down to drive alongside us (all of which during broad daylight), my flatmate and I were once called prostitutes on our very own street whilst we were walking to the bus stop at 10pm.
If we’d been wearing short skirts, staggeringly high heels, and three too many layers of makeup, it would have been mildly understandable. But can anyone explain why two girls wearing jeans and winter coats would warrant such attention?
I’ve only encountered this behavior within this specific community, and only in this area of London. To be fair, the comments have lessened in vulgarity since they’ve realized we live on their street. But that has started a new trend: the rubbish on the doorstep ‘joke’.
I hate to say this, but it saddens me how hard it is to remain tolerant in the face of such intolerance. It makes me think twice about renewing my contract, even though the flat is lovely and the landlord surprisingly nice.
Worst of all, for these men, any reaction is a good reaction. All I can do is keep my chin up, my skin tough, and pretend they don’t exist. After all, I wouldn’t want to be labeled as intolerant, would I?