I think every woman has experienced them at least once. The stares you get when you’re going about your (usually mundane) day. They’re the laser beam, penetrating stare when you’re sat on the tube to work. The ones that make you feel vulnerable and naked, they burn into you and you look away, unsure of what to do to make it stop. They make you hyper aware of what you’re wearing, the lipstick you chose that day, the way your jeans fit or that dress that shows a conservative length of calf. They’re uninvited, unasked for, but they’re persistent and they make you unbearably aware of the features that make you so apparently appealing.
My usual response to being stared at is to look away and pretend it’s not happening. But that does nothing to tackle the problem, or make me feel more comfortable. In fact, it makes me feel submissive and weak in a situation that I didn’t ask for and by no means am a willing participant in. I’ve decided to change this, and to be less fragile in these situations. It’s not ok to stare at someone, anyone, whether it’s because you find them attractive or amusing. It’s rude. It’s anti-social and it’s time for it to stop. None of us are put on this planet to be ‘the entertainment’, we’re all human beings and deserve to be treated with a base level of respect.
I’ve thought a lot about the best way to tackle being stared at, and unfortunately I have to consider the fact that if I am too confrontational I run the risk of further physical or verbal abuse. So I’ve decided to give what I get and stare back. I wonder how comfortable these men that stare at me would feel if I channeled the disgust I feel at their actions into a hard stare shot straight back at them. Would they squirm in the uncomfortable focus I have? When we look away, or feel vulnerable when stared at for an uncomfortable period of time we put the power in the hands of the person doing the staring. I want to redress that and feel more in control. So I’m going to stare back, and I’m going to stare back hard. I’m going to make it clear that I am not amused, or flattered, I’m annoyed. And I’m going to make them just as uncomfortable as they make me feel.