Oh what fun it is to walk down the street and be threatened with rape.
A couple nights ago, while walking two long city blocks to my car after dark on a fairly well-traveled but still less savory street, some shenanigans happened.
I was initially walking behind two men who stood shoulder to shoulder. They were walking slow and I had no room to pass them, so I walked slowly behind them. The two men stopped, and stood on either side of the sidewalk, and looked at me. “You go on ahead, sweetheart. We won’t rape you.”
“Thanks,” I muttered, and passed between them.
I got a couple feet in front of them and then heard, “Not that we don’t want to.” My blood simultaneously froze in fear and boiled in rage. The two men then proceeded to talk about how girls like me make them want to do things. Some pretty awful things. They were speaking very loudly, meaning for me to hear it.
I wanted to turn around and tell them what fuckasses they were being. But more than that, I didn’t want to let them know I was afraid, that they had gotten to me. I didn’t want to provoke them from thoughts to actions. Which just made me more angry. By the time I got to my car, I was too angry to be scared, which I was thankful for. I’d rather be angry.
But now I’m back to having that fear. I have to make the same walk again tonight, and it’s enough to make me dread going to my nightly activity. And then I get angry again, that these fuckasses and their threats make me think of canceling my plans for the sake of personal safety. Today I wore my shitty brown shoes. I hate these shoes. But my other shoes weren’t good for running or kicking or jumping if it came to that.
I don’t deal with this every day, thankfully. There are people out there with much thicker skins than me, who have built up mental callouses from repeated events like this and worse. There are women who will see this as a cakewalk compared to what they go through. And that makes me angry. That we have to balance being afraid for our own personal safety with getting shit done that we need to do. That we’re made to get used to this awful stuff because it could be worse.
This paranoia is a result from being in a culture that says it’s my responsibility to avoid getting raped. The fear that if I get attacked and show up at the police station in heels and cute clothes and tell them where I was walking after dark, that I’ll be written off. That if I do certain things, or don’t do certain things, it’ll be a stroke against my case. The fear that confronting these fuckasses will be seen as asking for it if something happens to me, that not confronting them will be seen as allowing them to do what they want.
This is spinning in my mind, driving me nuts.
You want to know what terrorism is, it isn’t just bombs and guns. It’s this everyday little stuff. These constant little reminders of the million ways I’m powerless against certain scenarios. They way it worms into your psyche, pings your imagination in all the worst ways.
Geez, I didn’t mean to write so much, but it’s bothering me a lot. >:(
Just Another Day on the Sidewalk
Yesterday, I decided that today would be the day I hiked Runyon Canyon. I used to do it a lot, but that was almost two years ago, before I got hit by that horrible drunk driver. This was to be my first real exerted exercise I’ve done since then as well. Oh yeah, also, the canyon is 4 miles from my apartment, and since the parking is horrible, I decided I would walk there as my “warm-up”.
In anticipation of today’s event I scheduled for myself, I was worried about being able to do it physically, but also, I got really upset/scared about the accident and how things played out. I’ve probably mentioned to some of you how in this accident I was hit from behind and went over the freeway and down forty feet into an embankment, only after spinning around twice and hitting a couple of trees on the way down. First responders said based on the scene, it looked like I should have died. Not a fun thing to remember.
Kind of a big deal for me.
Anyway, I start my walk towards the Canyon, and get cat-called twice before going a block. Whatever, shake it off. Then, after a few more minutes of walking, I hear a man - through my headphones, and he is making comments about my butt. He’s basically grunting at me, as a way of commenting that he “likes what he sees”:
Uh. Uh yeah. Uh, uh. Shake that thing. Yeah, shake it more for me. Like that. Yeah. Uh.
It sounded as if he literally had his cock out and was masturbating, as he walked behind me. I heard this and felt immediately sick to my stomach. I stopped, pretended to be doing something on my phone that I needed to stop and focus on. I just wanted him to not be behind me, to pass and be gone. As he walked by though, my fear and sickness briefly subsided, and I grew with anger. “Hey,” I called, even though he was inches away from me. He made eye-contact… with my eyes, and I said:
Stay the fuck out of my face.
I was not making a request. As soon as I said this to him, and he responded with unoriginal words, we both continued to walk, only this time I made sure he was in front of me. We reached a crosswalk, and although I don’t have to, I cross so I can maintain space between us. The fear had returned, because I had stirred a beehive, his ego. I had enough gusto left for him to flip him off, lifting my arm high above my head so he knew.
I know what you’re wondering:
Was I able to finish and get to the top of the canyon? Did any other guys feel entitled to you? Yes, I did. :-) Yes, they did. :-/ Of course, right? And I made a list to share, making notes in my phone as it happened. *clears throat* In no particular order:
- You look like a good doll, yeah?
- You could at least smile and say hi. I just want to see if you can do it
- You’d give me what I want, right?
- Ooooooooohweee! Nice badonk, baby girl!
- I think she’d let me touch that… (dude talking to his fried about me, in front of me)
- (Two sounds were yelled at me from cars, that while “prow-ly”, I wouldn’t know how to begin trying to spell)
- (One bark…)
- (Five aggressively continuous honks from men in cars)
- (I stopped looking back to check/counting if I caught a guy ogling me after I walked by him, after I totaled 13)
I should mention that I only took notes on the way to my hike. I repeat, this is only from the walk there. It grew too tiresome to keep taking out my phone and document this shit. They’d already proved my point.
So, what is the solution? Should women have to stay inside? I mean, this cat-calls started less than 100 feet from my home. Should we not be allowed to wear revealing clothes? Oh, damn. I was wearing pants and a long-sleeve shirt, so clothes must not have anything to do with it…
What the fuck are we going to do about this? This should not be just another day walking on public sidewalks… but it fucking is.
Photographs, Vandalism, and Catcalls
I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote lately.
A catcall is entirely about reminding you that you are not yours. The purity myth is entirely about reminding you that you are not yours. The fetishization of female purity in a world where catcalls are an acceptable form of communication telegraphs one thing very clearly: Women, stop sexualizing yourselves—that’s our job, and you’re taking all the fun out of it.
It’s from an article on Jezebel called “Female Purity is Bullshit” and I really recommend you read it because it’s brilliant. The article isn’t really focused on the problem of catcalls, but the line stood out to me as a very interesting way to understand the “psychology” of catcalls. I mean, guys who say to women “Nice titties, can I suck on them?” (actual thing an actual guy actually said to me) and stuff like that can’t think that it’ll work, right? As Amanda Palmer puts it, “Has any girl in history/ said, ‘Sure, you seem so nice, let’s get it on’?”
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this lately, and today I happened to witness three things in quick succession: a dude catcalling, a tourist taking a photograph of the Tiffany store sign, and a kid writing an “I was here” note with his finger in some dirt. Why did the man catcall every single woman who walked by, even though not a single one of them took him up on any of his “offers”? Why did the tourist take that photo, when there are tons of pictures of that sign on the internet? Why did the kid write “I was here” if it had no practical benefit to him?
I was thinking about all this when the phrase “you are not yours” came into my head, and the answer came to me. Ownership. (This post is kind of long but I really thought a lot about it and I’d be honored and pleased if you read it.)