To recognise relationships of privilege over vulnerability – @WomenEd 2020 pledge

He ran at us aggressively. His arms spread out wide and he was roaring loudly. A moment of fear for us until he stopped inches from our faces and then he walked away, laughing with his friends.

I was with my daughters (aged 11 and 14) on the 22nd December in Canterbury. We’d just come out of Zizzis, it was early evening and we were walking back to our accommodation along the high street. A group of men were walking towards us when suddenly, a well built man, dressed in a Santa shirt and rolled up jeans and a hipster beard said to his friends, ‘Watch this.’ He then ran at us, full speed while roaring loudly and aggressively. One of my girls screamed, another remained silent but gripped me tightly and my teenager was just embarrassed by the whole incident. My response was to shield the girls and then realising it was a prank shouted after him what an idiot he’d been.

It’s not the first time stuff like this has happened to me, women are used to being guarded when seeing a group of drunken men. It was the first time with my girls however and it made me mad. Why did a man, the size of a prop forward think it was acceptable to scare three young girls with their mum? And why were his friends, all mid 30s, laughing at him rather than calling him out? This was a group of men using vulnerability for sport while in privileged positions. The story for me however was not so much this incident but the kindness and compassion shown by two other men who would know only too well what this type of fear felt like because they were homeless. Disgusted on our behalf, they approached us and checked we were OK. I’m sure they have experienced cruelty for kicks from a group of advantaged people too, we were united in vulnerability and their companionship was welcomed. I only wished I had been calmer to thank them properly and give them money for a night in the hostel. I hope they are warm and dry and have a hot meal to eat. I hope my girls remember their kindness and compassion rather than dwell on the thoughtless behaviour of the privileged man in his Santa shirt.

My #WomenEd pledge is to call out cruel behaviour, to recognise entitlement over vulnerability and ask people to wear their privilege well, including my own. We all need to be sensitive to those in less advantaged positions and to keep being kind.

I have donated to two charities due to this incident. One is for women who have been victims of domestic abuse, often alcohol related at this time of year: https://www.refuge.org.uk and the second is Shelter, who provide safe places for homeless people and without them will often experience cruelty while living on the streets. https://donate.shelter.org.uk

This blog has been written as part of the #WomenEd #DGmeet #Pledgeforchange20 event. Please follow these hashtags to read other blogs where the community is pledging to be #10%braver.

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