Racism + sexism = a new route

My neighborhood in Astoria is quiet, mostly.  It’s safe, mostly.  And for the most part its residents have never given me any kind of trouble.

One day I was walking home from my friend’s apartment along 31st street.  It was summer so I was wearing cut-off jean shorts and a tank.  I know that my outfit had nothing to do with it, but for a while I stopped wearing tank tops in public thinking this was the cause.

It was the middle of the day so the street was almost empty except for a largish (5+) group of young teens sitting outside an apartment building.  Now, I try not to profile, but in my experience groups of teenage boys are trouble, and I am usually right.  I put on my sunglasses and walked past them, avoiding eye contact.

Well, to my surprise I made it past them without any trouble when I heard that sound that will make the hairs on most women’s arms stand on end.  The kissy noise.  What happened next you could say was my fault, I should have kept walking, but I had had it.  Here was a group of kids almost half my age with the nerve to make that awful sound at me.  So I turned around and said, “are you f*cking serious?  How old are you?” To which the larger of the group said “Old enough to f*ck you like a grown man”.  At this point one of his friends says, “Girl I am gonna f*ck you with some chopsticks”.  I’m half-Chinese, and was appalled that this brat had added racism onto the growing pile of sexual harassment.  Various other insults followed, “skinny b*tch”, “dumb c*nt”, etc.  I always wonder why, if I’m such a dumb etc., etc. why they tried to “holla at” me in the first place…

There were over five of them, and just one of me, so I decided to walk away.  I called the police and told them a group of young men had verbally assaulted me and threatened me with sexual abuse.  The officer offered his condolences but told me that since they had not physically assaulted me there was nothing he could do.  While I agree that the police probably do not have the resources to investigate every instance of harassment, it made me feel alone, weak, and even slutty.  I felt that because I was wearing a thin tank top I had somehow brought this onto myself.

When did it become okay for young boys to talk to older women this way?  To threaten them in their own neighborhoods with this kind of sexualized, and sometimes racialized, violence?  I was so disgusted, so horrified.  And honestly to this day I have not walked down that street again.

Submitted by Jen

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3 Responses

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  1. Golden Silence says:

    What happened next you could say was my fault, I should have kept walking, but I had had it.

    Let’s make one thing clear: IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. You did absolutely nothing wrong here. 100% of the blame needs to be put on the harassers. They were the ones who needed to control their actions, not you.

  2. Gailička says:

    Hey Jen,

    I am so frightfully sorry! I lived in Astoria for over ten years (many on 35th Street) the last of which I was harassed constantly.

    Golden Silence is spot. on. There is no way in the slightest this could have been your fault. None. And good for you for calling them on it! I’m just sorry it escalated into more vulgar and racist abuse.

    Know that we’ve got your back. From one Astoria girl to another I feel that fear and guilt and shame so much. But I just refuse to carry it anymore!

  3. Jen says:

    Thank you guys, your support means so much to me. It’s good to know I’m not alone. I’m just not the kind of girl to keep her silence. My boyfriend has since gifted me two pink bottles of pepper spray.

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