So this weekend I WAS going to go to Reclaim The Night, the annual march around Leeds to highlight violence against women and girls and campaign for safety both on the streets and at home. I WAS going to write a long blogpost about the history of the march and the ones I’ve been to in London and Leeds and how I don’t agree with everything about it but support their general aims. But I can’t, because I didn’t go, and this is why.
I had a lovely day on Saturday. I woke up slightly hungover, went into town after another delicious breakfast at Cafe Enzo on Kirkstall Road that does the best Eggs Benedict in the city, did my shopping, got threaded (where they rip your hair out of your face with a bit of thread-I go to Pam’s Stall in the Merrion Centre and get my lip done and it hurts like nothing else and I instantly loose fourteen Feminist Points for it). Then in the early evening I went to Be@ at Arcadia and had a look round the lovely art stalls including Miriam Trent’s fabulous screen printed lamps which are 70s chic to the max and would make wonderful Christmas Gifts to the more stylish home maker (she does Christmas wrapping paper too, which I used last year and is just stunning.
Then I went into town, got off the bus, and a 6’5″ at least man stood over and screamed that he wouldn’t **** me into my face.
What a bizarre thing to do, ruin a complete strangers day.
Now of course I know I should have kicked him in the naughties, told him to bleep off and walked on tall to Reclaim The Night with my sisters, but I was scared. I’ve been assaulted a few times before, mostly when working in pubs in the town centre as a younger woman, but not for a few years, and this really shook me up. Trying to walk from the top of town (the bus dropped me off outside Yates) through the First Payday Saturday in December Hell that is Millennium Square/Woodhouse Lane after being screamed at was horrible. I got as far as the Headrow near the Light when a tiny little voice in my spinning head called out to me ‘you don’t have to do this’.
So I didn’t, I got on the bus, text my friend who I was meeting later, and ran away. I didn’t have a panic attack, but I would have done had I not gone home, where its safe, where I live with a nice man who wouldn’t scare me and there are no crowds of angry shouty noisy unpredictable people.
I went on Twitter afterwards (thank God for Twitter and good friends) and had a bit of a moan and it turns out that quite a lot of people find Saturday night in Leeds a no-go area. We have a choice, leave it alone and have a nice time at home and in nice pubs, or go out and suffer. I’m not going to feel bad for keeping myself safe, but I wish that I didn’t have to, and could have carried on, but more than anything else, I wish that man hadn’t decided to harass me and I hope that he didn’t take his anger out on anyone else that night.
I also hope that anyone who did get to Reclaim The Night had a wonderful time!