How is your summer going so far? Mine started off in a flurry of activity but is slowly calming down, which is nice. We’re at the end of July which means it’s time for another piece of flash fiction. Every month I find an image on Instagram that inspires me and flex my creative writing skills.
This month, I found an image by Bronte that immediately got my mind whirring. I’ve been following Bronte since she was ‘Bookish Bronte’ and focused on bookstagram content. I loved her rebrand to @frombeewithlove, sharing her feminism journey and self-love content alongside brilliant book chat.
Recently she’s been using Instagram in a really creative way, sharing fictional stories and using the platform to create characters. As a fellow writer it’s been inspiring to watch.
So, let’s see what words spill forth from this image.
“Nice tatts love” a white van man spewed from his open window with a menacing wink and wolf-whistle. It was the height of summer and Rose was wearing shorts and a vest, displaying skin and ink for all to see. Rolling her eyes she quickened her pace to get home.
It happened so often now she had learnt to shrug off such comments, but for some reason today the incident got to her. Safe in her flat, she looked at her thigh tattoos – portraits of her cats surrounded by graphic line work. They made her so happy, but she wished they didn’t give men an excuse to shout their dirty words at her.
While the words themselves aren’t inherently dirty (the men shouting them would no doubt argue they are clean and complimentary) the way they’re delivered makes them feel decidedly unclean.
Thrown without invitation, invading personal space, unwanted… these words are dragged through the mud.
They made her feel threatened and small. Like she shouldn’t be showing her skin. Like she should cover up to stop drawing attention to herself. But was that really what she was doing?
After stripping off her clothes in a sweaty flurry, she poured a cool bath to sink into. All of her tattoos were on show now, the misguided Chinese symbol on the small of her back, the stars lining her collarbone. Each drop of ink told a story and she treasured the memories attached.
She wondered what the white van man would say if he could see her now. Would he make more comments on her tattoos? Or would he jump straight into discussing her anatomy? Frowning, she questioned why her body was up for discussion. Why is any woman’s?
As the water began to cool her down, she felt the dirty words wash away. The questions circling in her mind settled and her heart rate slowed. She was clean again. Clean of his words, clean of the way he made her feel.
She was ready to strap on some armour and face the world again.
Part of me really wanted a profound ending here. Something to tie up what we can do as a society to stop catcalling or, I don’t know, something to help people feel safe. But I don’t have the answers, in the story or in real life.
I think perhaps it is as simple as washing off the words, strapping on armour and not backing down. There is a fantastic activist account on Instagram called Cheer up luv which addresses the issue by sharing stories of harassment.
My most recent experience of cat calling was a couple of weeks ago when myself and Dan were taking out the bins. I was bending over and a car full of guys drove past, shouting cheers and ‘waheys’. Without looking up, I instinctively threw up my middle finger. I was putting out the bins. I was with my boyfriend. It really can happen anywhere I guess. I’d love to hear how you deal with it, if you come up against it. Let me know in the comments.
And finally before I go, I just want to remind you about the Growth Spurt email challenge I’m running in August. There’ll be four emails complete with journaling prompts, exercises and resources to help you plant, grow and nurture your self-belief. Learn more here and subscribe here. If you’re already on my mailing list, please email me to let me know you want to join in.
I’ll be back next week with some tips to help you fall in love with reading again.
Save for later: