In an opinion for news.com.au, Imi Timms describes – in way that will be depressingly familiar to many females – how women often defer to a four-word brush-off to deter unwanted advances from strangers.
The words she describes are: “I have a boyfriend.”
In the article, Timms describes how, on the day after Australia’s March 4 Justice rally, she was approached by a man as she fumbled to find her mask before getting on a train. She writes: “When I tried to walk away, he followed up with: ‘Just two minutes’.”
Worried about the risk of the man following her into the station, Timms paused to speak to him, describing how she felt it would be better to “deal with it now”.
He went on tell her she was “f****** gorgeous” – and apparently only desisted when she eventually said: “No, sorry I have a boyfriend.”
Timms questions why displaying “possession” by another man appears to be the most certain way of avoiding being pursued.
She writes: “We can’t reject outright for fear, so we apologise. We soften the blow with thanks and a feigned flattered appearance. When that doesn’t work, we pull gender rank. ‘I’ve got a boyfriend.’
“It’s the line that finally demands personal sovereignty, as if possession by another person is the only worthy reason we can decline someone’s approaches.”
The article resonated with many women, who shared similar stories.
Timms also quotes an expert who suggests that Hollywood could be in part to blame because it “normalises the idea that men pursue women”.
In her article, Dr Lauren Rosewarne, from the University of Melbourne, also suggests this form of rejection could be linked to the notion of letting someone down easy.
“Women have been socialised to be nice. Even in situations that are thoroughly not nice, we’re still expected to smile,” she says.
We’re not sure which is more depressing, to be honest.