So I was on my way back home last night, after visiting my friend Kate Donovan (a fellow blogger, read her things!), and I was riding the El, minding my own business in the fairly crowded train car, when these two men sat down in the seats next to me.
They were talking boisterously, which was fine, but then they started cracking jokes about “the fattest woman in the world” whom one of them had heard about recently, and it started to make me feel uncomfortable.
I had already been having a pretty rough, anxiety-ridden day, and I knew that all this talk about weight was likely to trigger my eating disorder, so as soon as they began to muse about the kind of hideous porn that this woman would allegedly make, I got up abruptly (probably visibly perturbed) and moved to the other end of the car.
They laughed uproariously after me as I got up to leave.
That’s fine. They can laugh. Just like I can walk away.
When I finally got off at my stop to make my transfer, I stepped up to the platform just as my train was leaving, so I cursed the public transit gods as I realized I would have to wait for another 15 minutes.
I huddled over to the area under the heat lamps — where two other men were standing — to keep myself warm as I waited.
As I stood there and retrieved my cell phone from my pocket, I saw with my peripherals another man come around from behind the partition, and the following incident ensued (keep in mind that I’m partly paraphrasing; I wish I had thought to record it, but it all just happened so quickly)**:
Him: [walking up and muttering something about red hair]
Me: [focusing intently on my cell phone, pushing buttons and trying to ignore him in hopes he’d go away — which never works]
Him: Beautiful, beautiful redhead …
Me: [not making eye contact, continuing to ignore him]
Him: Your red hair is sssssssssssssssssssssso gorgeous!
Me: [looking up briefly, and deadpan] Thanks. [proceeding to fiddle with my phone]
Him: Y’know, I’ve got this friend who owns a bunch of bars and restaurants and theaters and such, so if you ever want to hang out, I can take you out sometime —
Me: No thank you.
Him: Or if you ever want to call me or anything, my number is —
Me: No thanks, I’m not interested.
Him: Here’s my number, it’s 7 … 7 … 3 …
Me: Really, I’m not —
Him: 6 … 4 … 2 … 9 …
Me: Are you just, like, making up numbers now?
Him: 3 … 8 …
Me: [to the other two guys keeping warm] Do you guys pick up girls like this? Do you approve of this behavior? [one of the guys shakes his head, and the other one says adamantly: “No.”]
Him: I’m not trying to pick you up! I got a girlfriend at home!
Me: You’re not trying to pick me up? Then why are you giving me your number?
Him: I’m just trying to give you a compliment! Not my fault you can’t take a compliment!
Me: Hah! Oh, I can’t take a compliment?
Him: I was just saying I find you attractive, that’s all!
Me: That doesn’t mean I’m going to fuck you. I don’t have the time to have sex with every man who finds me attractive.
Him: [looking surprisingly offended by that remark] I’m not exactly hurting for sex. I’m going home to my girlfriend right now.
Me: Doesn’t matter. You just want to conquer me. I’m just a conquest to you. [at that, the guy who had been standing next to him nodded his head silently in agreement, and I turned to him] Thank you! Thank you for agreeing with me!
Him: Ohhhhhh, I see. Girl, you been taking too many —
Me: [anticipating exactly what he was going to say, because I’ve heard it all before] — “feminism courses at college”? Yeah. Yeah, I have.
Him: That shit’s not real, you gotta get all that out of your mind. You just think that allllll men want is sex, but I’m just trying to be friendly! I just want to make friends!
Me: Hah! I’ve heard that one before. [“Bashful,” anyone?]
Him: You just gotta relax and be more friendly! You think you know what men want? You don’t know what men want! Men want comfort.
Me: Tell that to the men who raped me.
Him: Listen — women have all the same rights as men! You can vote! Men and women are equal!
Me: Hah! Okay, I really don’t have the time to educate you about reality right now …
Him: [getting up in my face] You know who really is oppressed — black people! You have it better than me!
Me: Yes, but women in those minority groups are worse off than their male counterparts. Sexism is intersectional.
Him: No, no, no, no, no —
Me: Yes! And I’m not denying that racism exists, the way you’re denying that sexism exists!
Him: I’m not denying sexism exists!
Me: Yes! You are!
Him: Listen, sweetheart —
Me: I’m not your sweetheart.
Him: Are you a lesbian?
Me: Hah! … Would you go away if I said that I was?
Him: I’m just wondering.
Me: Of course. Because if I don’t want to suck your dick, then obviously it’s because I’m not into men.
Him: I didn’t say anything about sucking dick! Now you gotta go and start stereotyping black men, like alllll black men like getting their dicks sucked —
Me: All men like getting their dicks sucked, I didn’t say anything about black men …
Him: What’s wrong with being friendly? What’s wrong with me telling women they’re attractive? What’s wrong with that? Tell me! Tell me — what’s wrong with that? What —
Me: I will answer you if you stop asking me the same question over and over again. Street harassment is a microaggression, and microaggressions are cumulative. It’s just like when you walk down the street at night, and a white person is walking in front of you, and they turn around and see you, and then cross to the other side of the street — that’s a microaggression, and it happens to you every day, and it just reminds you of your place in the world — just like men remind me of my place in the world every day when they harass me on the street.
Him: But I didn’t degrade you! I didn’t say anything degrading! [cue an elderly man walking into the heated area] Look! I’m just being friendly — just like I’m being friendly to this guy! Hey, man! How you doing?
Me: But you didn’t give him your phone number or tell him how pretty he is! See? You’re not treating us equally! We are not equal. Ask any woman what they think about this, and they will agree with me. And don’t you wonder why that is? It’s because we feel degraded! And you should listen to the people you try to tell how they should feel —
Elderly man: [to me] You’re really overreacting!
Me: That’s easy for you to say — because you’re a man, and this doesn’t happen to you!
Elderly man: You just need to put things in perspective! [around this time, the first guy left to catch his train]
Me: I am putting things in perspective! This is the perspective —
Elderly man: [getting up in my face] Let me tell you something about perspective. My voice is impaired, and you know how that happened? I was caught in a chokehold that left my voice like this.
Me: I believe you, and I feel you. I was choked violently by the man who raped me —
Elderly man: Yeah, yeah, yeah … [waving me off and getting on his train]
At this point, I walked out from the heated area to get some of that cold air — delirious at this point, due to the sheer absurdity of it all, and the adrenaline. And when I walked back around to warm up, there was a whole new group of people standing under the heat lamps from the train that had pulled in — two of whom were police officers. So I stood next to one of them, and as soon as I had planted both my feet on the concrete, the cop nearest to me wrapped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me into his body. I immediately wrestled my way out of his grip, and he said, “Hey! No! Come on in here and get warm — you don’t have to stand out there in the cold!”
What the hell?? I didn’t know what to say. I was baffled. Even after all that, I was lost for words. How could this man have had the audacity to grab hold of my body like that without any consideration for my willingness to be grabbed — and in front of all these people?
Oh, right. Male entitlement.
I almost forgot.
Now, I sincerely don’t recommend that every woman react the way that I did in the face of this kind of adversity. The only reason I talked back was because I made a quick, unconscious assessment of my safety and knew that, given the relative crowdedness of the platform, and my proximity to the two bystanders I mentioned, I felt like the risk of any violent escalation was low. That’s not always the case. And even in this case, I’m sure I only got worked up because … I don’t know, maybe every 334th encounter like this warrants an outburst, because taking it silently on the chin every time can be depleting.
All I know is I need feminism.
If you can read this anecdote and still not acknowledge the necessity of feminism, then you have lost the plot entirely. I can’t tell you how often I’m told by men to relax while they attempt to ensnare me, that I don’t know better than they do with regards to a woman’s place in the world, that I should take sexual harassment as a compliment rather than as a privileged affront to my gender, that I’m making a big fuss over nothing if I recoil at the greedy hands of a stranger.
Well, fuck that.
I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.
**The “slymepit” has seen fit to doubt the accuracy of my transcription w/r/t the actual content involved in the conversation that I described. For the record, the only parts of this encounter that I am unsure about are the statements’ chronology and I left out some dialogue that was just a repetition of what had already been said. But every statement that I transcribed was, in fact, made, and I remember very well the wording that was used. I know, I know, there’s no hard evidence, but I just wanted to clarify which details I feel like I may have fudged (again, chronology and some repetition), and also to let the slymepit know that I SEE THEM. o.O