I often hear the stereotype that Londoners aren’t friendly people. I can understand where this impression comes from if you are a tourist. Londoners tend to keep to themselves. Especially in enclosed shared spaces, like public transport, Londoners will rarely (if ever) interact with strangers.
As a Londoner, born and raised, it was ingrained in me from birth to not draw attention to myself. We sit together in a packed carriage on the Piccadilly line to Cockfosters, all within less than a couple feet from one another and yet we would rather die than acknowledge each other. During my long commutes through the city, my sole aim (besides getting to where I need to be on time) is to avoid any kind of embarrassing scenario like the plague. And by embarrassing, I mean even accidentally making eye contact with a stranger for a millisecond too long.
So when I came across a TikTok on my For You Page of a young girl, probably around the same age as myself, filming herself lip syncing and dancing to music whilst on the Tube (the Central line too!) I felt immense second-hand anguish. God, just imagining what that must have been like for her. To film herself with the wind from the carriage windows blowing through her hair as if she were in a professional photoshoot only to finish the video and have to go back to normal, knowing everyone else on that carriage witnessed what you just did. To have to wait for your stop to arrive with the elephant in the room (or carriage) ever expanding, suffocating you in an already fairly claustrophobic space.
But Sabrina Bahsoon does not feel that way. My shock, and almost outrage, at this TikTok led me to her page, only to see she was a repeat offender of this heinous act. She really didn’t seem to care and that did astound me. I think if the TikTok were made on the New York subway, my reaction would not have been so visceral. Witnessing the unspoken rules of London Underground decorum be so unashamedly broken, rules that I have piously adhered to all my life, shook me to my core.
It seems many people who watched these TikToks, belonging to 22 year-old Bahsoon (or ‘Tube Girl’ as she is now known), read this outlandish public display as a call to arms for people, and especially young girls, to stop following these dumb silent rules of public transport. I had always interpreted these rules as a way in which to minimise inconvenience to others. When I am sat on the Tube, I wish to blend into the crowd as much as possible as a means of offending people as little as possible with my mere existence. But I can now see how this mentality, particularly for young girls, is inhibiting them, forcing them to diminish their presence which can certainly carry on into other elements of life besides just Tube etiquette.
It is only since this trend has blown up on TikTok, with Bahsoon currently possessing 519.2k followers and 18.7 million likes on her videos, that I’ve been able to reconsider this doctrine I’ve always held to be true. Some have called it the Tube Girl Movement, as thousands of young girls are attempting to overcome the fear of judgement we all seem to have deeply engrained within ourselves by recreating Bahsoon’s videos. Whilst I had initially felt almost repulsion towards the first TikTok I had seen of Bahsoon having fun to ‘greedy’ by Tate McRae, I now feel a sense of proud camaraderie with the girls brave enough to give it a go.
Most girls I’ve seen trying to imitate Bahsoon remind me of myself. They’re clearly terrified of what they’re doing and so their attempts are never quite as pristine looking as Bahsoon’s. I think the virality of her videos were definitely aided by the fact that she is a conventionally attractive young woman with incredible hair and chic outfits. But the transparency in everyone else’s videos about not being the finished product is what I admire. Most of us are not as naturally confident and unafraid of public opinion as Tube Girl. She insists that ‘trust me, no one cares’ and as much as that may be true, it’s so difficult to come out of that shell when you’ve been told to stay in it for your whole life. The many, MANY girls I’ve seen with the hashtag TubeGirleffect are on their way to breaking out of a repressive mentality that the Londoner in me so firmly upholds. I hope one day to be able to do the same.