The other day, I rage-posted some insulting backlash tweets I received after hashtagging “YesAllWomen.” I imagine this is happening to most women engaging in this conversation, and it’s mostly just trolls out there, so who gives a shit REALLY, but it still, you know, hurts to know there is so much ignorance in this big dumb country.
Anyway, shortly after that incident, I went to a benefit art auction at a coffee shop run by some friends. It was nice out, so I decided to take the 30+ minute walk to get there. WHAT A STUPID IDEA. I was dolled up (for me) wearing a lovely polyester, below the knee, pastel plaid dress with a high neck, a brown pleather jacket, flesh-tone tights, and brown flats. I put a little curl in my ponytail, some red on my lips, and dark lines across my lids that turned up at the end. A quirky, nerdy ensemble that screamed “Lizzie!”
The bulk of the walk was down a busy two-way road in Brooklyn, and I knew I’d probably get a couple of beeps and hollers, but hey, just another day, right?
I received a combined total of about ten beeps and hollers. The final straw was with a guy riding a moped/scooter-type thing slowwwwwllyyyy passed alongside me on the road and muttered something skeevy along the lines of “dang….” or “hey gorgeous.” This was really starting to tense up my spine, but I continued on with clenched fists as he passed….slowly. He continued slowly and gave me three long, lewd, rape-y glances back. When he was about 100 feet away I eventually just gave him the finger and told him to fuck off. I’d had it.
Well evidently, so had he. He immediately turned around, sped his scooter toward me, hopped the curb and ran right into me so that I had to hop back to avoid getting hit. He fucking tried to RUN ME DOWN. I said “what the fuck are you doing?” And he proceeded to say “what the fuck did you just say to me you fucking whore?”
I yelled that he was the 10th person to do what he did and asked if he thought women liked being treated that way. He screamed over me a shower of insults, “cunt,” “bitch,” “whore,” and “stick white bitch(?)” I proceeded to walk away shaking, my mind racing and figuring out if I should take a picture or video of him, but decided getting away from him was my best option. I told him I was going to call the police. “Go ahead and call the fucking police you fucking whore stick white bitch.” He continued shouting all these names at me and following me as I pulled out my phone. By this time, the dude who was about 8 paces behind me figured he’d take out one of his earbuds to see what was going on. I stopped and shouted at the guy “YOU ARE HARASSING ME. YOU ARE HARASSING ME.” I began crying and he started riding away, verbally assaulting me as I cried and kept walking. There were about 10 people within earshot of this incident, and nobody did a thing.
I was still shaking, unsure what to do, crying, and continuing to forge ahead. Earbud guy figured “well I guess I should say something” and said “It’s OK. It’s OK. How far do you have to go?” I angrily said that this was the 10th person to do this to me and he responded “man, it’s not even warm weather yet.” I explained that it doesn’t matter what weather it is, this shit happens to every girl I know every day. He walked next-ish to me until I got to the next street, but his overall tone was “shit happens."
The police had a similar tone to earbud dude. They came about 20 minutes after the incident. They never even got out of the car or treated me like a human who had been the victim of verbal and attempted physical assault. Already humiliated, I had to explain the story bent over and talking through the window. The female officer’s face had a glimmer of acknowledgment in it. Like she knew what it felt like, but that expression was also accompanied by the knowledge that there was nothing I could do.
I was told I could file a report, but that basically it would just be a piece of paper that would be closed immediately. I was told to have no hope. I was not advised on any sort of community outreach or counsel or anything. Again, they didn’t even get out of the car. They asked me several times if I knew the person. It was as though that would explain this random act of violence. They basically just "informed” me that it was a “bad neighborhood” and that it was only going to get worse as the weather gets warmer. They treated me like I moved to Brooklyn a week ago. Thanks, officers!
It doesn’t fucking matter the neighborhood. I’ve heard “look at that ass” on the middle of Broadway with thousands of pedestrians nearby. I’ve had people yell out the windows of passing cars in the suburbs.
And I’m fucking sick of it. We are HELPLESS out there, people.
And here I am, punishing MYSELF for my reaction, which I admit, was not the best. I wish I had remained calm or even “brushed it off” the way I had 9 times prior (well, hundreds of times prior, really). But HOW MUCH can I take? How is it that I’m sitting here upset for how I defended myself after being belittled, degraded and having my personal space violated?
Shouldn’t he, too, have brushed it off? Or was I the trigger? Did I, as a woman, provoke another act of violence by declining a man what he thinks is rightfully his to dominate?
I eventually made it to the art show, and I’m not going to lie, I think SOME people thought that I was the crazy one in this scenario. That I was the loose cannon.
And I wonder, too… what if I was 5'1" and drop-dead gorgeous? Would the onlookers had come to my aid on a white horse? Would the guy have even tried to run me down? It’s not fair for me to assume how “hot girls” are treated just because I’m just a frumpy gal in a pastel plaid farmer dress.
I do know, though, that this would have happened regardless of the red on my lips. Because even in sweatpants, if we defend ourselves, we’re “asking for it.”