Andrew P Street is a music writer and broadcaster. A contributing editor at Time Out Australia, his work also appears regularly in Rolling Stone, GQ, The Big Issue, Cosmos, the Sunday Telegraph, TheVine, Daily Life and more. He also has weekly segments on ABC Radio in Sydney, Canberra and Darwin.
I can’t remember ever having not having considered myself a feminist, but there is a very specific reason why I support SlutWalk so passionately. And it is because, like pretty much all men who haven’t had it specifically pointed out to them, I had an embarrassingly huge blind spot about personal safety. And that blind spot is this: I can take it for granted pretty much all the time, because I am a man; and my girlfriend can’t, because she is not. And that is laughably, ridiculously, obviously unjust.
Now I should make clear that I was aware of all this in an abstract sense, but it wasn’t something that I ever really thought about in practical everyday terms. Because I don’t have to. Because I’m a guy.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that this unforgivably obvious point was made immediate and personal to me.
My then-girlfriend and I had both been out at different gigs in Sydney one night, and were both heading back to the flat we shared close to the city at around 1am. I walked home from the venue, drunk, with headphones on. She caught a taxi.
We both got home at around the same time and I made some mild joke about her splashing out on fancy cabs while I was schlepping around the city on foot, and she told me – in a very matter-of-fact way, without an ounce of rancour – that yes, she always caught a taxi home because last time she walked along our well-lit main road in a very pleasant inner-city suburb at one in the morning, a guy tried to chase her down and she ended up hiding in the bushes outside the library until he stopped looking for her. And that’s why, no matter how broke she is, she always makes sure that there is a $20 note secure in her wallet so she is never, ever in that position again.
I can’t tell you how astonished I was. Or how angry. Or how ashamed.
The last time I felt my own physical safety was at risk I was maybe 12 – maybe. I’m a solid guy. I look like I’m more trouble than any hassle would be worth. But when I asked my best friend about what my girlfriend had told me, she said much the same thing.
And when I asked my sisters about it, they all said much the same thing.
And when I asked my female colleagues about it, they all said much the same thing.
And when I spoke to my male friends about it, they all looked at me like I’d just told them that women need to take pills every morning to avoid being liquefied by the sun.
Even with my oh-so-feminist principles, the reality of the daily experience of most of the people closest to me didn’t even cross my mind until I was in my goddamn 30s and someone I loved told me – like it was the most natural thing in the world – that every single time she leaves her own house she checks for her phone, wallet, keys, and the $20 note that might save her from getting raped and killed.
And until all of the people I love can all be as blithe about moving around their own city as I can be, I will passionately support SlutWalk.