Women are fair game in Perth bogan culture
I was standing on the corner of William and Wellington streets in the city, minding my own business, waiting for the lights to change. It was just like any other early Friday night in the city. Late-night shoppers scurried in and out of stores, eager foodies queued outside Jamie's Italian.
As I waited to cross the road, a car full of six men - men, not teenagers - pulled up at the lights. The driver took one look at me and launched into an aggressive tirade, calling me a dog, an ugly bitch, and on and on it went, commenting on what I was wearing, the fact that I have short hair and glasses - which, in one of the jock's eyes, made me a "dyke" - and my apparent lack of sex appeal.
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His mates joined in, with one knucklehead shouting at me through the window.
On and on it went. I was rooted to the spot, unwilling to walk away in case it gave these idiots the impression that I was intimidated.
But I was, because this wasn't a group of silly schoolboys. Here were six grown men, who appeared to be sober, but were expressing such hatred, aggression and viciousness towards a woman they had never met that it defied belief.
Apparently, I didn't fulfil their criteria for "hotness" - and was therefore deserving of the most vitriolic and unapologetic abuse. (I'm sure if I had ticked the boxes - blonde, busty and scantily clad - I would have still copped a mouthful, of an entirely different, but equally offensive sort).
I am not easily intimidated, nor am I easily reduced to tears when confronted with comments about my appearance. But shocked and appalled, I burst into tears as these idiots sped off into the night. My heart raced with anger and disbelief.
Somehow, despite my best efforts, those Neanderthals had succeeded in making me feel truly ugly.
I don't fit the mould of what our porn/raunch-infected culture deems sexually attractive. I dress to please myself and to express my personality. Some people get it, others don't. But to be verbally abused for looking different? I thought we lived in a liberal, tolerant, open-minded culture.
I went home where I posted about the incident on Facebook. No other post I have ever put up on Facebook has received as much feedback as this one. There were expressions of shock, outrage, anger, disgust and disbelief that this had happened, from my male and female friends. Supportive words flowed in the next day. Clearly what had happened touched a nerve with a lot of people.
I had started a conversation that kept going for much longer than I expected it would. It branched out from initial expressions of disgust to questions about why this sort of behaviour was still happening in our supposedly "post-feminist" era.
Was this a particularly Perth thing, this puffed-up macho thuggery? What were young men learning at school - or at home - that enabled them to think what they were doing was not only OK, but also funny?
How did the mainstream media, the porn industry, our ingrained raunch culture, contribute to the way men viewed the opposite sex? How could anyone claim that feminism was redundant when incidents such as this - and much, much worse - still happen to women on a daily basis around the world?
As one of my friends wrote in response: "Please remember, it's not about you, it's about them and the power they need to feel . . . Although I hate that this has happened to you, I'm glad you posted it, because all men who are right-thinking need to stand up against this. And mothers and fathers of boys and men. Good men need to call it out and teach others why it is unacceptable to make a woman fearful, upset and awful, just because you can."
Social media is a two-pronged sword. It can be, in this case, a wonderful place of support for intelligent and impassioned debate.
Friends can make you feel better when bad things happen.
But sites like Facebook and Twitter can also encourage a culture of instantaneous judgment and verbal bullying. The mainstream media and the fashion industry are also, in part, to blame, for fostering ideas about what women should look like - and for concentrating more on what women look like than their career achievements, intellectual accomplishments or contributions to community and society.
Our obsession with risque pop stars and reality TV celebrities seems to have narrowed down our ideas about what makes a woman noteworthy or newsworthy (the more scantily clad the better).
What are our young girls, and boys, learning in this environment of semi-nude twerking pop stars and bikini-clad Miss Universe contestants?
These images are drummed into our consciousness over and over again - through the internet, TV, social media, magazines, porn, the lyrics of rap songs, music videos and newspaper headlines.
Women are collectively reduced down to their body parts and their levels of sex appeal.
And it seems anyone who is not willing to buy into the look - or the primitive mentality behind it - remains fair game for street-roaming jocks with nothing better to do than upload their misogynistic hate on to the unsuspecting.