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I was walking back from the dining hall on my campus with a friend. There is a place called “the hangout tree”–benches where a lot of male college students sit and gaze at the women that pass–so I walked by with my usual “ignore all around me” attitude. Nevertheless, not today. One guy said, “hey sexy baby, can I holler?” There were five other men jeering at his friend who talked to me. I passed by ignoring him and he shouted, “You are an ugly bitch anyway.” I felt so annoyed and pissed off I couldn’t say anything about how f**cking rude he was.
Upon realizing that I had just missed the bus I had hoped to take and that I would have to walk through a darkly lit stretch of sidewalk to get to my destination, I cursed in frustration. It wasn’t a long walk, but it was still one that I was trying to avoid having to take. My partner said to me, “You don’t need to be taking the bus anyway. It’s a beautiful walk through the park!”
I looked at him and sighed. I was a little exasperated that I had to explain this to him AGAIN. “It’s late. And I’m female.”
It’s not his fault that he is an able-bodied cismale who has the privilege of not having to fear walking in dark places alone at night. And part of that privilege is not having to think about the fact that that privilege exists. It means that he never has to think about where he can and can’t walk and what the safest route for him to take will be, but also that he doesn’t even have to be aware of the fact that he doesn’t have to do that. Unfortunately, I don’t share that privilege. I should, of course. Everyone should. But as a female-bodied person, I am denied that luxury by society.
Not only do I fear walking alone at night because something could happen to me, but I also fear the reaction I would get from people if something did happen to me under those circumstances. “Well, you shouldn’t have been walking through there at night by yourself,” the victim-blaming rhetoric would go. I should have known better. Why would I put myself in that situation? What was I even doing walking in that neighborhood alone? All of these things would inevitably be thought by other people, if not vocalized by them.
And that’s one of the differences between the way I live my life and the way my partner is able to live his. Where he sees a beautiful walk through the park, I see potential danger. That’s what we talk about when we talk about privilege. That’s what we talk about when we talk about rape culture. And that’s what I’m hoping to change by doing the work that I do.
Cross Posted from boston.ihollaback.org
This man was on the bus asking personal questions and harassed two women and put his arm around them even when they voiced discomfort. I stepped in to talk to them and created a non-confrontational distraction. There was a security guard on the bus and neither him nor the bus driver said anything.
I am on the train to Nambour, Queensland, Australia. This creep got on the train and started staring. Blatant staring, not even pretending not to. Then he took two pictures. He left the picture taking sound on his phone on, I think because he wanted me to know what he was doing. I took one back, and then started staring at him so he knew what it was like, and that I wasn’t going to be intimidated. I kept staring. He got off the train shortly after.
I went out today for a walk–I was going to a nearby park to play my kalimba by the pond, then go the library and read. Just a block from my home a construction worker on a house called out to me, “Hey Girl…” I instinctively raised my hand in greeting and he stands up and says “What’s up?” This is a nice neighborhood and I’ve never had trouble before so I had instinctively assumed he was just a neighborly person, but when I realized just what his attitude was I tersely responded, “Walking” and kept going.
Then later on the way back from the library a car slowed up and honked at me. That’s not flattering, it’s just startling and annoying.
It’s ridiculous–I’m just trying to chill out and be in my community and people are going to act like this? Not cool.