Men who I try to rebuff always tell me “Come on, you’d be offended if we didn’t come on to you!”. Men I try to vent to say “Come on, this is totally normal. Besides, it’s a compliment!”
Let me tell you something!
I am 22 and recently moved from a very upscale neighborhood on Seattle’s Eastside (where the law enforcement program sets the standard for the state) to a borderline-slummish neighborhood in Sea-Tac (i.e. the airport). If you want to know why, well, obviously because of financial reasons. Growing up, one of my favorite things in the world was going for long, long walks with my iPod. It was great exercise, gave me all sorts of freedom, and made my whole life just feel better. It was my favorite hobby, rain, shine, or (especially) snow. I loved walking five miles to a Starbucks and back even though, around here, there’s a Starbucks every two feet. It was just for the sake of it.
But, since moving to this town, I’ve unfortunately completely forgotten what was so good about walks. While outside, I’m bothered quite literally every 1-4 minutes, if not, at rush hour, every few seconds. I can’t even tell you how many times a man has asked me to get in his car. I’m talking astronomical amounts of times - it’s actually what happens to me most.
These encounters range from mostly harmless (honking and driving away) to totally, totally predatory (pulling over on the shoulder ahead of me to wait for me to pass so I can’t avoid talking to them). I have, on a few occasions, had strangers touch my breasts and run away. I have also been followed short distances by motorists, long distance by pedestrians. On my usual two-mile walk home from the train, I cross the street, back and forth, an average of three to five times. I can’t even choose which side of the street to walk on. Last week, I got into an argument with two men who claimed to be “pimps” and complimented my “waist to boobs ratio”. They asked me to be one of their “hoes”, and I said no, and they were enraged, screaming at me, calling me a retard, saying I would never amount to anything because all I was good for was sex.
Until recently, I was “drinking the koolaid”, thinking “This is totally normal for men”, “nothing can stop men from doing this”, “It’s not like they actually kidnapped me - this doesn’t matter”, “I’M JUST OVERREACTING”.
Only just today, while reading this and other Stop Street Harrassment blogs, did I realize how much my life has changed because of this. I used to wear dresses every day, not for attention, but because I love dressing up. Sometimes long, sometimes short - I saw it as my choice. Now I only wear them when I don’t have plans to go out, like now dresses are lounge wear and sweats are street clothes - a reversal. Even so, I get bothered just as much in sweats. I also don’t jump on any excuse to walk home instead of driving. I pretend to talk on my phone even when no one is on the other line. I avoid going out except for on my boyfriend’s days off, but he’s Taiwanese and men don’t find him threatening because of his height. When I went to adopt a dog, street-harassment made me choose to get a mastiff-mix (who in all fairness is the love of my life) instead of a Beagle, the breed I had wanted since I was five. I used to always, always be kind and polite to everyone, even when they were treating me unfairly, but that’s just a come-on to these people. Now I find myself raising my voice, cursing men out, telling them to just leave me the fucking hell alone. I was always happy, and, by default, I still am, because it’s just my personality, but I feel like men take stabs at bursting my bubble every chance they get. I scream into my pillow. I shout with rage, just “ARRRRRGGGH!”, when rebuffed men peel off with their screeching tires. I’m frustrated almost all the time, which gets confusing, because I’m happy almost all the time. I loved going outside and looking at the clouds and smelling the roses - the world was like magic - but now I can’t dare to take my eyes off the man loitering at the upcoming intersection, I can’t risk not focusing 100% on the car that’s slowing down beside me. I can’t go straight to the coffee shop on the right side of the street because a guy is waiting for me there, and I have to cross to the left and either wait for him to give up or just run for it, skipping my plans for coffee because of men. I can’t smell roses, because I have to take inventory of how many ever-present threats are surrounding me right this second.
The worst, most unforgivable thing about the street harassment I have endured is that, because this bullshit is so widely accepted as “the norm”, a man’s “right” to objectify and advance upon women in any manner they like short of hurting us is MUCH more protected than my right to feel COMFORTABLE and SAFE doing the harmless things that I enjoy. I want to quickly get some coffee and be on my way? Only if men let me. I want to take a peaceful walk and spend time with my thoughts? Only if men let me. I want to sit alone in peace and quiet? Only if men let me. I want to be comfortable dressing how I choose? Only if men let me.
Let me tell you something - for me, there’s no such thing as a party of one unless I shut myself up in my house. I love my boyfriend and want to be with him all the time, but when he has work and I don’t, I see that as time to do the things I enjoy that he doesn’t, ALONE. Walks, swimming, wandering aimlessly… I do that by myself, not because I’m “cold”, “shy”, or “a loner”, but because… Hell, I shouldn’t even have to freaking explain myself.
I don’t want to go outside. I don’t want to sit at home all day, wasting away, but I don’t want to go outside. Hundreds of men are swarming me like flies. No amount of swatting or Raid ever keeps more men from coming back. This is crap. This is completely ridiculous and I want to find out how to take my life back!