Three Incidents: Street Harassment and Singularity
I’m at a red light on the way to pick up my friend Krista from the metro station. We are on our way to the DC Slutwalk. I am not dressed particularly salaciously for the Slutwalk, though I debated going in pasties and a bustle. Instead I’m wearing jeans and flip flops, and a black t-shirt that says Kissable that I got at the mall for 9 bucks. I am also wearing a pair of fingerless gloves with red ribbons on them, because they matched the shirt and looked a bit like something rejected from the wardrobe of Rock of Love. Anyway, I think they are ridiculous, and the outfit is something I would wear out on Friday night, as I am too old to walk home with my shoes in my hands but not too old for ridiculous accessories (ask me about my pink feather earrings).
On the median at the red light is a set of city workers and as I’m waiting for the light to change one leans into the driver side window of my car, right in my face, and says “I really like your gloves.”
I’m a little cowed by the fact that this man has shoved half his body through my car window to get near me, so I stare straight ahead and say, “Thank you.” When the light changes I speed off and I tell Krista later, “I guess this means I picked the right outfit?”
I am at the coffee shop I go to every morning before work. I park my car, I go get my coffee, and when I come out there is a car next to mine with a man in it. As I’m getting into my car he rolls down his passenger side window and says hello. I say, “Good morning!” because I am, surprisingly, a pretty friendly person in general.
He then said, “I saw you park here and go in, so I parked here and waited for you.”
I said, “Okay…so that’s not creepy at all.” Unsurprisingly, my friendliness can vanish pretty fast. I look around and realize there are other people in the parking lot, so I’m probably safe.
He said, “Do you want to go to dinner?”
I refused, probably also not very surprising. He mutters something under his breath and speeds out of the parking lot. I get in my car and proceed to feel bad and guilty for saying no. Mind you, I don’t want to go out with him. I still feel a tug of guilt, because he could have been a totally nice guy who creepily waited for me in a parking lot, right?
I was out running. Actually, I was out walking because sports bras are pretty hit or miss with me and this one was a miss. I was dressed pretty messy and my hair was in a ponytail. I was wearing baggy sweatpant-shorts and a white undershirt with a black and white sports bra underneath. I have a purple backpack and I walk and run on a somewhat removed trail that goes through a shallow forest. Every mile or so the trail pops out at a cross street, and you cross the street and continue on the trail.
I am a little bit ditzy as a person sometimes and before I went out on this particular day, I forgot to check the weather. DC is always a swamp, so a cloudy and humid day doesn’t really mean rain, but this time it did. I got about a mile away from my car (the first time you pop out of the woods at a cross street) at it started pouring. I came out at the cross street and looked around for shelter, a picnic grove or a playground but nothing. I figured, you know, what’s a little water? I’ll go back to my car, go home, take a nice hot shower, and call it funny. It would be a two mile walk, which is better than zero.
As I’m preparing to turn around, a man who was standing on a stream bridge on the cross street sees me and yells over to me. He asks me to come talk to him, and I say no, and turn around and attempt to make my way back to my car. He crosses the street and follows me, yelling at me the whole time. He’s telling me that I’m pretty and that I should come talk to him. I say no again. He continues to follow me through the woods. He is behind me by a good deal and I am walking as fast as I can, realizing that I should not have turned around and walked back into the woods. I also won’t break into a run, because if I run and he runs, he’s going to win that race. Right now he is content shouting at me from about 25 feet back, though we’ve moved onto vulgar language about my ass and my tits and all other kinds of stuff.
Finally, after 15 harrowing minutes, I pop back out of the woods on a main street, about 100 yards from my car. I go to the corner and wait for the light to change, a little calmer that he maybe won’t drag me off by the hair in front of traffic. He calls me a bitch, spits towards me, and walks off in the other direction. Someone drives by on the streets and yells, “Nice tits!” at me. I am soaked to the skin, and the sneakers will have to be thrown out.
I went after that and locked doors to things that don’t even matter. I was locking closets and the washing machine door. I called my best friend and told him some of what happened and he said, “We need to get a bear that you can take out with you places.”
If anyone has read this far, can I get a show of hands, via comment or facebook or twitter (hashtag #metoo for lols), as to whether or not things like this happen pretty commonly to women or if I just look particularly harrassable? The following is an extreme example, though it certainly put the fear of god into me. Still at least once a week, someone doesn’t take no for an answer with me. Someone calls me a bitch if I don’t want a drink for him, or they hoot when I walk by, or generally decide not to listen to me or even better, like the fellow who stuck his torso in my car, not even ask.
What I get told a lot, from certain very derpy friends of mine, is that I run into the WEIRDEST people. That’s just so WEIRD AND UNCOMMON. I can’t BELIEVE that these things happen to you so much! Golly gee willakers. You are so UNLUCKY!
Hand raise for that, too, if you get told that your very common experience are, in fact, totally out there.
That is a rather underhanded and insidious way of victim blaming that I’m kind of sick of. Insisting that you’re some kind of freak magnet or walking invitation when actually the vast majority of women have been street harassed doesn’t even make sense to me. Do the people who think that I just meets the STRANGEST DUCKS think that, like, four dudes go around sexually harassing 80% of women and I just happened to meet some oddities. I mean…why not take the most rational explanation, which is that, as a whole, we live in a culture where it is acceptable and lauded to, say, chase a woman through the woods in the rain and then spit at her when she doesn’t want to talk.
I also want to say that I experience the kind of street harassment I do because I am fairly normative-appearing. I’m pale, fairly femme, and while I’m a little brightly colored, I pass in ways that a black woman, or a transwoman, or a disabled woman does not. In no way am I saying that my experience is universal, only that street harassment isn’t atypical, or an offense committed by five lunatics against woman who look particularly assaultable that day.
Anyway, here’s a whistle in the dark. To be honest, I’m feeling a little at fault, a little like I’m just terribly unlucky or somehow I draw this stuff to me (by…jogging? driving? I don’t kn0w). So I’m poking at people to see if anyone whistles back, in case they are feeling a little at fault.