The other night, two friends and I were on our way to Gus' Pub, and, on Agricola Street, we encountered a man and two of his friends coming the opposite direction. The most obvious guy was a large, fairly intimidating dude who was staggering and holding a beer in each hand. He came up to us and, slurring his words, asked where to find Spring Garden Road. My two friends backed off and I was definitely wary of him, but because I'm used to encountering mostly good-natured drunk guys, I told him to follow Agricola Street, keep going straight, and he would eventually come across Spring Garden Road. I didn't give him detailed directions because I wanted to keep my encounter with this guy to a minimum.
Then, they started laughing at us and said that that they were "doing a survey" to find out how many people in Halifax would help this guy out, because they thought that people in this city were "assholes who wouldn't give someone in need the time of day."
I tried explaining how this guy didn't exactly seem like the sort of person that strangers would feel comfortable around. He was HUGE, carrying beer, seemed very drunk and therefore potentially a dangerous person. But they were insistent that we were "scared shitless" of them.
This is when one of this guy's friends—smaller, lankier, but looking like a pretty scrappy Tough Dude with neck tattoos and full sleeves—turned to a woman who was walking by herself across the street and started yelling, "HEY, YOU PIECE OF SHIT! HEY! FUCK YOU."
I asked him if he knew her. He said he didn't, so I asked, "Why the fuck did you just yell at her, then?" thinking that I would play the role of The Pedagogical Feminist, explain why it might be kind of a shitty thing to yell at a woman who was walking alone at night when he was with a group of large male friends. I pressed him on it. "Did you think about how that might have scared the shit out of her, maybe? Why did you think it was OK to do that?"
To which he replied, "because, who fucking cares?"
I lost it. This asshole just yelled aggressively at a woman walking by herself, and I felt this thing in the back of my head just snap. I started going off on him.
It ended anti-climatically. I told him he was a shithead, that he should think twice about what he was doing, the effect he had on people, etc. I was mean, and it felt good. As my friends and I left, I called over my shoulder that I thought he was a fucking asshole and that this "social experiment" of theirs was rude, mean bullshit. He insulted my appearance, and that was that.
People like this are the reason that women feel unsafe in their own neighbourhoods, and this is one of the reasons women can't walk by themselves at night without fear of verbal or physical harassment. Were these guys physical with us? No. Were they complete shitheads who deserved every vitriolic word I could spew at them? Absolutely.
But I still felt powerless, because did he get the message, did he understand where I was coming from? No. He wasn't receptive to anything I had to say, even-tempered or angry. In the end, this guy left feeling vindicated by the fact that he was criticized by someone wearing glasses that weren't his aesthetic preference.
This is all just to say that this is still a fucking problem. There are so many men out there who have absolutely no awareness of the power they have to make women feel unsafe and uncomfortable, and have no idea whatsoever that it ISN'T FUNNY, it ISN'T COOL and it's VERY DANGEROUS AND SHITTY. I wish there was more that I could have done without putting myself in harm's way, but if I ever see them again, I will cut them no slack, and I'm spreading the word that they are among the worst kind of men: the kind who intimidate and posture without any mature conception of the repercussions that their behaviour can have.
Send your essay ideas for consideration to email@example.com