Subway shirt TikTok trend highlights reality of women facing unwanted attention on public transport – Screen Shot
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Subway shirt TikTok trend highlights reality of women facing unwanted attention on public transport

This weekend, London is set to be basking in sunshine, with highs of 20 degrees. As summer begins, so do the weather-appropriate outfits we’ve been planning all winter to help motivate us through the cold, depressing and overwhelmingly grey season. I can’t wait for sundresses and sambas, linen and lace, and of course, Birkenstocks and bikinis. Might even throw in a platform Croc or two.

However, as we jump on the tube for drinkies with the girlies, we also run the risk of facing a lot more men with pointed uncomfortable stares. While we spend the winter looking forward to what is, in my opinion, the superior season, being made to feel uncomfortable in an outfit we’re proud of comes with nothing but dread. Sadly, this isn’t a new phenomenon, but women across the pond in New York City have come up with a makeshift solution.

Influencers on TikTok have been sharing their “subway shirts” to help protect against any unsolicited stares. Essentially, your baggy, graphic T-shirts are making their way out of your pyjamas drawers and into your handbags to be thrown on before heading onto the dreaded subway in your favourite clubbing garms.


stay safe ladiessss #nycsubway

♬ Coconut Mall (From "Mario Kart Wii") - Arcade Player

T-shirts can definitely be a girl’s best friend in times like these. Summer clothes can often provide pretty minimal coverage because of the fact that it’s unbearably hot outside, and even hotter underground. Also, despite the fact that a number of us are often fans of the oversized Adam Sandler look, there are other times when we just want to wear something a bit more flimsy—particularly when it’s scorching weather.

Although we should never perpetuate the idea that it matters what a woman is wearing when sexual harassment or assault occurs, every woman will have in common the experience of being made to feel uncomfortable by men as a consequence of their outfit, no matter how “appropriate” it may be considered. So, the “Subway shirt” or “outfit dampener” acts as protection. But should it seriously be up to us to protect ourselves from this kind of behaviour?


I didnt realise everyone else did this too 🥲 its a huge problem in london. Theres so many outfits ive just never worn out, or had to change so much, just because i knew people would make me feel uncomfortable for wearing it - be it catcalling or stares. #catcalling #subwayshirt #tubeshirt #subwayoutfit #tubeoutfit #ootd

♬ A work of art by s_johnson_voiceovers - Stefan Johnson

Going viral on social media, girls have been comparing their actual, hot weather appropriate fits with their public transport looks. TikTok is a platform predominantly used by gen Z, meaning girls as young as 12 are relating and becoming accustomed to this kind of unwanted staring.

Between October 2021 and September 2022, there were 2,361 sexual harassment offences on London’s public transport, and that doesn’t include the incidents that went unreported, a sad reality which is often the case. This prompted TFL to launch a campaign to combat the issue. A series of posters and social media posts tackle four main offensive acts: staring, upskirting, pressing and touching.

One poster, on the other hand, advises passengers on what to do if they witness sexual harassment or are indeed a victim. TFL suggests asking a question, such as “what’s the next stop?” or “do you have the time?” to a fellow passenger in an attempt to distract the perpetrator. Like the subway shirt, the onus falls on women rather than preventing sexual harassment in the first place.

The subway shirt is a fun fad to make light of a dangerous issue that runs rampant across the world, whether you’re on the New York City subway, the London Underground or the Paris Metro. While I may be guilty of a Marilyn moment when a gust of wind blows my dress up as I go up the escalator, I can’t combat the elements but I can hold men accountable. Public transport is a means of getting from A to B, from home to the office to school or to meet friends. It should be as simple as that.

Why is #gymcreep trending on TikTok? Unpacking the newest trend empowering women at the gym

The gym can be an extremely daunting place. Every turn you take you’re confronted with either ultra-macho men hogging the squat rack, or toned beautiful women who leave you quivering with envy. Now, imagine finally plucking up the courage to start, but before you’ve even had a chance, you feel a pair of eyes lasered into you. What follows is almost always an uncomfortable exchange that leaves you feeling rattled and frustrated.

Moving forward you choose your workout times carefully and favour a pair of long leggings over shorts. These creepy encounters have been occurring for decades, but thankfully today we have the technology to capture them.

Catching these scenarios has become commonplace on TikTok. Primarily sitting under the tag #weirdguysatthegym—which has already amassed over 18.8 million views—numerous users have posted videos covertly documenting their experience. Setting up their phones in a discreet place, they’ve managed to record the moments in which men begin to harass or bother them.

While this doesn’t happen exclusively to women, it’s important to recognise that they are the primary victims of unwanted attention.


before you come at me, he knew I was recording and has made multiple highly inappropriate comments to me. #fitnesscontentcreator #gymcontentcreator #gymsafety #gymtok #gymvlog #girlswholift #gymcreeps

♬ Creepy and simple horror background music(1070744) - howlingindicator

This the first video I’ve ever taken in the gym of myself working out🤦🏼‍♀️ #gymcreeps #mncheck

♬ original sound - Emma Mueller

One such example is TikTok creator Gina Love. In a video that currently has almost 700,000 views, Love is filming herself while she does a leg workout. The caption reads “watch this creep come over to my personal bubble.”

In the clip, the man stands directly behind Love as she lifts dumbbells before deciding to leave. According to Love, the gym was practically empty but the stranger still chose to take a spot directly behind her.

Speaking with The Guardian, the creator explained: “I would say I experience creeps 15 per cent of the times I work out. It’s almost like they’re trying to undress you in their heads.”

Love continued, “It makes me feel disgusted, anxious, and my survival instinct kicks in. I’ll typically cut my workout short because I can’t get back into feeling comfortable with that person around me.”


Be careful out here girlies cause wtf #creep #weirdo #gymcreep #k18results #gymweirdshit #awareness #awarenessvideo #creepyguys #fyp #viral #fyp #gymprobblems #gymissues #inconsiderate #inconsideratepeople #selfawareness #selfaware #danger #creepy #creepyguystaring #creepyguystory #creepyguywithacamera #workingout #fitness

♬ original sound - Gina

It’s also incredibly crucial to remember that unwanted attention can also come in the form of unnecessary and unwarranted staring. Being on the receiving end of some heavy staring can be an incredibly uncomfortable experience—and it’s often something we as women are told to simply “get over,” or “take as a compliment.”


Don’t sit there and tell me you’re not doing something when I have proof. 😡 #gymtok #fittok #influencer #viral #trending #tiktok #fitness #gym #gymgirl #fyp #fypシ #foryou #foryoupage #gymcreeps

♬ Real As It Gets - Lil Baby

A study in 2021 by My Protein showed that 76 per cent of women felt uncomfortable exercising in public. Moreover, 63 per cent of women stated that they change their behaviour depending on who is in the gym around them.


It’s actually annoying, the last time I tried to expose this guy tiktok took it down #gym #cantstretchinpeace #creepy #fyp #lafitness

♬ Somebody's Watching Me - Rockwell

Often, women who speak out about this form of harassment are told that they’re overreacting, and some critics even say that they’re acting out of line by deceiving the men and hiding their cameras. Did I hear someone say victim blaming?

Some of the comments under Love’s video for example indicate this kind of mentality. One user wrote: “you don’t own the corner,” while another put “bruh some girls are delusional.” There were also, of course, a slew of presumably male users who deemed it appropriate to comment statements such as “nothing to look at anyway” and “what is there to stare at?”

The problem with this kind of nonchalance in regard to unwanted attention at the gym, is that it normalises viewing women as physical and sexual objects—a misogynistic ideology that doesn’t seem to be disappearing from society.

It also further perpetuates the idea that these forms of harassment are illegitimate and should not be taken seriously. The more we talk about these encounters, the greater empowerment we give women to expose them.

Women exercising should not be some kind of spectacle or show. They shouldn’t have to adjust their wardrobe choices out of fear or anxiety and they definitely shouldn’t have to wield an iPhone in order to work out safely and comfortably.