If you love me, the least you can do is believe me

Image by the fantastic Stuart F Taylor

There are three parts to this story. You don’t have to believe them all. In fact, if you don’t believe any of them it doesn’t matter much to me. There are many of you I love and respect, but few who I rely on for the kind of intimacy I’d expect of a partner or friend. But if you’re my friend, my lover, or anyone else who cares about me, I need you to believe me when I tell you about my life.

Part one: women who eat on tubes

It’s a tiny thing, really, part one. It starts on the Jubilee Line, when I – flustered and hungry on the way to work – take a croissant out of my bag and start eating. I used to eat on tubes quite a bit. I hate being late, and I hate being hungry, and sometimes the only way to avoid one or the other is to grab a croissant or a sandwich on the way to the station, and snaffle it while I’m waiting on the platform. Or find a carriage at the front or back, sneak into one of those blissfully-usually-empty seats right at the end, turn away from other travellers and eat.

A man takes a photo of me.

At least, I think he does. He’s holding his phone in his lap to read it, and out of the corner of my eye I see him slowly lift it up – pointing the lens directly at me. Frowning, he adjusts the angle, and presses a button. I look right into the lens, and he twitches in surprise, before fumbling and putting his phone away. His face glows red.

Part two: once more with shaming

A couple of months after that, same thing. Same train line, same carriage, same hunger. Same eerie feeling of being watched as I take a bite.

This time, I’m certain I hear a click.

I didn’t confront either of these men: I was too ashamed. Because, hey! Eating on the tube is naughty, right? So naughty that there used to be that Facebook group ‘Women who eat on tubes‘, to shame women like me who couldn’t keep their hunger at bay until they got off. Or women who were too busy in the morning to grab breakfast before their commute. I never fully understood why this was shameful, only that it was, and that it was worse for me to do it as a woman. Women are meant to have better control over their bodily functions. We aren’t meant to feel hunger.

Anyway. Those are parts one and two. Entirely unsurprising: I suspect most other women in London have stories of similar things. What’s more, both of these incidents happened years ago. I rarely get that tube line any more, and I very rarely eat on tubes now (I freelance, so I don’t usually need to, which is lucky for me because it means I don’t have to confront the uncomfortable fact that perhaps I don’t do it because I’m frightened). I hadn’t thought about these surreptitious photos in any conscious way for two or three years. It had never occurred to me that these events were shocking or unusual or… well… unbelievable.

Part three: believe me

I’m drunk. On a train platform with a man I know well. We bought sandwiches from the overpriced shop in the station to keep us going till we each get home. As we’re choosing a train carriage I ask him to keep walking along the platform, because we’re more likely to get empty space if we go right to the front of the train.

Him: Why? There’ll be spare seats here.

Me: I always feel a bit uncomfortable eating if the train’s crowded.

Him: Why?

Me: At least a couple of guys have taken photos of me eating on trains in the past, and it creeped me out.

Him: Nah.

Me: What?

Him: I think that’s unlikely.

It’s such a tiny thing, this. Teeny tiny. I didn’t demand he step up to challenge sexism. I didn’t ask for his help in reporting an assault. I didn’t enlist his help in seeking vengeance upon the guys who did this. I didn’t request that he call out a friend who had said something crass and misogynist, or ask him to overturn any of his deeply-held beliefs. I just asked him to move along the platform. I asked him for a tiny bit of consideration, in light of something icky that had happened to me.

At worst, if pressed, I could imagine him offering a counterargument: “if we sit in this middle carriage, we’ll be nearer our stop when it’s time to get off” or “the drunkest blokes tend to sit at the end, maybe we should pick the second-from-last carriage?”

Never in a million years would I have predicted he’d simply not believe me.

It was so bizarre. Dude: you know me. You have known me for years. You tell me, repeatedly, that you love me. And yet when asked to believe that this tiny, insignificant, common thing happened to me, your immediate reaction was ‘Nah.’ I must have been mistaken. My experience can’t be trusted. Where’s the evidence?

In the wake of #MeToo, I’ve had a lot of conversations about trust: can we trust men now? How can we rebuild trust that has been lost? When is it OK to trust a man again, after he’s expressed remorse for bad behaviour in the past? My answer to this is nebulous and unclear, but somewhere in it we have to recognise that trust needs to be reciprocated. Our experiences need to be believed, not dismissed.

As I said at the start: I don’t really care if most of you believe me. I could receive ten thousand comments in response to this post, from men questioning whether I was paranoid when I thought I heard a camera click, or wondering if the guy sitting opposite had been taking a snap of a particularly witty advert instead of my face. It doesn’t matter. But this man… this man loved me. He loved me! Yet he couldn’t trust my experience or judgment, instead choosing to offer the benefit of the doubt to two total strangers he had never met in his life.

Like I say, this is a tiny thing. But it gave me a powerful jolt of shock. This guy said he loved me, yet couldn’t take my word on something tiny and simple and entirely unsurprising.

Did he love me? Maybe. Did he believe me?




  • Golden Hare says:


    It’s so tiring, the constant fight, even with our nearest and dearest.

  • Lexy says:

    Thank you for writing this. 🖤

  • Phoenix Rose says:

    Things like this NEED to be spoken about more. As a cis-man I’m aware of some of the creepy things men do but not how specific they are. For instance, I mentioned the picture taking part of this article (but not the website part) to my wife with a tone of voice as in “can you believe this shit happens?” she casually replied “Oh yeah, there’s a whole website dedicated to it” as if it were common knowledge!
    There’s so much crap that women face daily it becomes part of the undercurrent hum which I will never know about, have to deal with or understand. But, having the bravery to share the specifics of your experiences might be the first step in shining a light on them and banishing them to the history books.

  • Coxy says:

    Long-time reader, first-time responder….

    I’m very ashamed to say in years gone by, I probably would have reacted in the same way as identified in your post. To cut a very long story short, I had un-diagnosed issues with mental health until a couple of years ago, which I now am able to manage appropriately. That was the catalyst for my wife and I to re-connect, and over the last two years we have grown significantly closer and our bond is better that ever. However, occasionally (in a bid to emphasise the positive steps I’ve taken), she will remind me of something or I’ll ask about a situation, which reminds me of the person I once was and it makes me shudder….

    Where I would have been very dismissive if presented with a similar scenario, I am learning to understand and appreciate her feelings much better than I have previously.

    Thank you for this post, as it really does inspire me to keep making an effort to be a better person.

    • Speedbird says:

      Your comment really struck me, Coxy, mostly because I’m struggling against my partner disbelieving me over lots of things. I’ve been outright accused of making up that someone has been to fix our oven and failing to do it, he didn’t believe me that a man was aggressive to me on the road, and lots of other such incidents. It never really occurred to me that there was an underlying mental health problem. I’m reaching the brink of complete frustration and I’ve no idea what to do about it.

  • fuzzy says:

    Well I don’t know what to say, really. I can imagine myself saying something thoughtless, but if it were pointed out to me I’d hasten to say that it *was* thoughtless.

    I’ve practiced for almost 20 years now to not interrupt a female who is talking, and to listen rather than construct what I plan to say next. And I still slip up sometimes – when I notice it, I apologize to the woman and let her know I realized that I interrupted her.

    All I know is that it takes work when you (I) are raised in a culture like I was raised in (1960s south, USA), and it is worth it.

    I believe you.

  • You are so right. It smarts to be dismissed by someone you think is on and by your side in life 😢

  • Erbe says:

    Eugh. What happened to that fucking FB group? I forgot it was a thing.

  • Mrs Fever says:

    I absolutely believe you. And I’m sorry in a similar-experience way that someone who claimed to love you, found such a common believable thing to be so ‘unlikely’.


  • This bugs the ever living fuck outta me. While it might be little, it could be huge – would you get the same reaction? Most likely! And it’s bullshit. Nothing pisses me off more when I say something and someone questions it only for me to confirm yes ,that was accurate to them disagreeing again… Like where you there? No so how the duck can you argue with me?!

    I instantly lose respect for someone who can easily disregard my feelings and sadly, this happens equally with women as it does men!! Maybe folk don’t realise it – at least that’s what I tell myself. It makes them ever so less toxic !

    I send you all the hugs, lovely!! 💜💜

  • Bex says:

    Oh I hate that. Especially when the dismissal of your experience is so nonchalant.

    What I personally find worse is when I learn to expect that from people I love and trust. I told my husband a story a while back about a sleezy man trying to get into the women’s toilets in a bar on a work trip. He then told me a story about toilets in bars on a work trip. For a moment I completely tensed up, ready to defend my experience, even though we love and respect each other, he’s a femenist, etc etc. Then I heard the rest of his story. A female collegue asked him to walk her to the toilets as she felt unwell and two members of staff clocked them and loitered to make sure she was ok. His point was he found it reassuring that the staff were looking out for her and recomends the place to others.

    I believe you.

    • Bex says:

      Just to clarify, I don’t mean ‘my story trumps yours’. I mean I hate that I expect people to dismiss my experience and get worked up in advance. We should be able to trust the people we love to trust us always.

      Time for bed I think.

  • Zebra Rose says:

    AAAAGGGGHHHH!!! This makes me so fucking furious! I’ve had very similar conversations, and rounded on my questioner with “well, what the fuck would YOU know, when was the last time you lived a woman’s life?” It’s time men learned that denying a woman’s lived experiences out of scepticism because *they* wouldn’t do That Thing, is EXACTLY the same bullshit sexism as they’re dissociating themselves from. GodDAMMIT

  • Butch NH says:

    Ouch! What an insensitive thing to say……may i never make the same mistake. BTW I think watching woman eat is super sexy and I also know when my wife is hungry, she needs to eat now! We carry emergency granola bars to keep her hunger monster at bay.

  • blue says:

    Life is a series of tiny things. This is not a tiny thing! It’s a big thing because it happens every day to millions of women. What a perfect way to illustrate how significant a tiny thing can be. Thank you for this!

  • Alison says:

    And the worst thing (for me at least) is that it then gets you questioning something you were already questioning and so begins a long cycle of being unsure of yourself and others!

  • Zoe says:

    The bad ones are just assholes, but good men do this too. I think the good ones are just unthinking, they walk through a kinder world than us afterall and so have less experience. This isn’t to explain it away but if something is completely out of someone’s experience there can be a reflexive denial, ‘oh no that didn’t happen’ – especially if he loves you because it’s easier to think ‘Nah’ than think about you in a nasty situation. Again, I am not limiting your experience of it, I’ve had someone say something similar and genuinely felt winded by it, rapidly followed by you fucking prick and ‘do I even know you?’ Im sure you will have talked it through and I hope he understands how painful his denial of your reality was and won’t do it again.

    • zoe says:

      Oh dear…hang on, I’m not saying you must be responsible for teaching him! I think they walk down the same street but different worlds. Like, I (female, 30s) may be walking down a street in Islington and looking at the birds on a sunny day. But the Islington street is a gang boundary. A 14 year old kid walking down the same street may have a totally different experience walking down that street.

      • Girl on the net says:

        Don’t worry, I totally get what you meant and yeah I agree. Different experience is at the heart of it, and I think probably I’d call it privilege combined with a lack of empathy.

  • Hazelthecrow says:

    Oh my god. I’ve felt this so many times, over little things and huge, life changing ones. Its horrible every time.

  • Joanne says:

    Interesting to read, thanks for writing it.

    This is a subject troubling me currently as my significant other has also not believed me on a couple of occasions and I let him convince me I was wrong. I don’t know who I’m more annoyed at.

    The subject itself isn’t particularly sexist related. The first one was that my car was making a funny noise. He convinced me that I was wrong and it was fine. Three weeks later it’s much worse: take it to the garage and told it was nearly breaking down.

    The second was potentially more serious. I smelled a whiff of gas in our house. I asked him what he thought and he said he couldn’t smell it. We both decided to agree that he was right. Flash forward to a gas safety engineer visiting yesterday and detecting a leak in the pipes.

    Now I’m kicking myself and also feeling confused and responsible. Why is it assumed that a man’s opinion is right and a woman’s is wrong? And why have I internalised that to the point I no longer trust myself or my senses? It’s really making me think about my own internalised sexism as well as that of my partner. He’s certainly not a bad guy and I have never thought of him as sexist but I think we clearly both have some deeper held beliefs we were not aware of.

    So, while I agree with some of the comments about men not being aware of the experience of females because of their differing experience of life, I do also think it’s more than that. A deeper issue involving the value of our thoughts, experiences and opinions.

    • Girl on the net says:

      Joanne, I’m so sorry you went through that, and you’re right, it’s awful. That internalisation of this stuff is a huge problem, and it’s so pervasive in our culture. Many’s the time I’ve been embroiled in a heated pub discussion and when a dude friend (or partner) of mine reiterates my point, the other person will back down a little, as if they needed a man to say it before they really took it seriously.

      It’s about our value, and about whether we are seen as people, and I’m really gutted to say that even some of the men we really love still struggle to fully *get* that. So sorry to hear both your stories, and I hope your significant other realises what a horrible thing this is to do.

  • Phillip says:

    Forbid that this sounds too much like an imparative. His “nah” could be like a small stone in your shoe. The farther you walk the larger it will feel. I hope that he comes to you with an apology that the both of you believe. You could ask to have a heartfelt discussion. The relationship is obviously very important to you an it appears (past posts) to him as well.

    I don’t have any trouble believing that the two guys took photos.

  • Phillip says:

    I went to the link about women who eat on the tubes. I don’t think your significant other gets it. I don’t go on social media platforms. When my wife retired I gave all of the social media sites to her and I never trespass there. I am shocked that guys would be so rude and I don’t even know what to say. We don’t have that much mass transit on the West Coast and most of it is new. We have a car culture. If you want to go someplace on mass transit here, mostly it doesn’t go there or takes a couple of hours. Perhaps it is a gap in knowledge? I sure didn’t know.

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