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On my way home from getting groceries after work today I was walking along a very busy street with one side being redone resulting in the erection of a janky, narrow two-lane temporary sidewalk. A man walked towards me innocuously and as we crossed paths he reached his hand out and cupped my breast. I stopped and the chicken cutlets in my grocery bag gently hit my thigh. I thought, did I imagine that?
I turned around and watched the man in the hooded sweater continue walking. The man had just touched my breast as if he were pushing the crosswalk button and now I was letting him walk away. But what could I do? It seemed the moment had passed. The barely perceivable moment of shame had passed and I was the only witness and no one would fight for me. I suddenly remembered the same feeling of helplessness mixed with fear flooding over me when I had been a student in New York my freshman year in 2009. I had been on my way to tutor at Tompkins square middle school on the east side of the notoriously shady Tompkins Square park and I had been texting on my blackberry half watching where I was walking. On a similarly deserted side street in a popular neighborhood, a man, jerked his arm into my breast sending my sad little blackberry flying out of my hand and onto the sidewalk. I stood there stupefied not knowing what to do. I even remember wondering how I could have provoked his fury. As I now watched the man who bore so many parallels to my faceless aggressor from the lower east side I realized very quickly that while they may have not changed, I had. Here I was in my law firm work clothes, I was grocery shopping, no longer mooching from Weinstein and Kimmel! I pivoted on my toe and began clop clop clopping in my kitten heels towards the faceless man who had just touched my breast. He glanced back and kept walking straight. I yelled after him “Pourquoi vous m’avez faites ça?” He began to pick up his pace. He was picking up his pace and now I was pursuing him, how rich! I yelled again, “Pourquoi vous m’avez faites ça?!” We turned off rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, out of the janky temporary sidewalk, and onto the heavily populated Boulevard de la Villette. My heels were not letting me catch up with him and I yelled a third time “Pourquoi vous m’avez faites ça!?” A young boy in a suit around my age, and a mother pushing a stroller with two little girls hooked to her waist looked at me, then at him, then kept walking. The man was speeding up and I could not catch him. I had spent a minute of my life chasing this coward down the street and with my thoughts boiling over and my limited French I could only think of one final succinct phrase to yell at him: “Vous êtes un lâche!”
I stopped and my chicken cutlets hit my thigh again. I was shaking badly, the adrenaline was rushing, but I was smiling. I turned around to walk back towards my apartment. I crossed the mother I had passed and she seemed to understand what had happened and asked me if everything was okay. I told her, Yes.
My Maman had always told me if there was danger, to go away from it. Her favorite anecdote is that of the safety lesson the plane stewardess gives the cabin before takeoff. Should there be a problem with the air pressure, the stewardess instructs you to first put on your mask, then and only then, may you help others. With my Maman’s blunt twist, the moral of the story is summarized as such: You can’t save anyone if you’re dead! So I apologize, Maman, for going towards the danger. But you see, the danger turned out to be a ruse. Admittedly, at the moment I pivoted I didn’t know what I would do. I had imagined so many times before, following other street-slights, crude looks and creepy words, “I will slap him so hard”…But this man was not in slapping distance. He was far away. I didn’t imagine I would run to catch him and start a fight. What provoked me to keep going was his reaction. He ran away. The moment I refused to be the victim and hand him the aggressor role I found him deflated of the initial danger he had posed to me. In fact, as he picked up his pace, I realized exactly what these faceless street aggressors are. Shameful cowards who believe their nearly imperceptible act will go unpunished. I have never been harassed by a pack of boys or men. I have only been shamed in silent incidents like this in which their often-complicated retelling seems to be completely imbalanced compared to the time and place in which they took to happen. Perhaps this is why they continue to occur.
In yelling after this man I called attention to myself and perhaps a normal Parisian would have never done this. But I called attention to him as well. I dragged the moment of shame to hang over both of us and as far as I’m concerned I no longer have anything to be ashamed for. For so many words used about this incident, I could have just as easily summed it up here: that piece of shit had no right to touch me. Not the first one on the lower east side and not this one in the 10eme arrondissement of Paris. The faceless man doesn’t have the right to touch you, and you weren’t dreaming. He does it because he thinks you wont act back. As if you ought to feel shame for being on the street and buying chicken cutlets for dinner. No. This is for my girls. The faceless creep is universal and he is not worthy to touch you. The only shame is in letting the moment pass.
I ran up to the corner store to grab a couple things. When I left the store it started raining a little bit so I was getting ready to start my jog home. As I left the corner store a man opened the door for me. So I thanked him for the kind gesture. I started to jog away when he shouted “Uh huh get it nice and wet for me!”
I was coming home from college, late at night. In the subway, I felt the look of a man who was standing next to me. I choose not to care. Then, he followed me out of my usual station. I was scared so I walk faster and faster. He started screaming “are you afraid bitch ? Why are you afraid” and laughing. I keep walking without answering. Then, I enter a bar so he stopped following me. I was sweating and shaking but no one noticed.
A guy walks up to me from the other side of the aisle, leans his head really close to mine and mumbles “how are you beautiful”. I was shopping for craft supplies. I felt like my personal space and my person was violated. The fact that he went out of his way to say that to me made me unnerved and scared.
I came early to see a Fall Out Boy concert at the Concord Pavilion. I was dressed for the concert in my cat crop top and cat tights (I’m guessing this is why there was a bit of a theme between my catcallers). We were all told that if we had parked at the nearby Safeway parking lot, we needed to repark our cars or they’d be towed. I left my friend and walked alone down to Safeway- it was only like 1 PM so I wasn’t afraid of going alone. As I was walking, I heard a whistle from a car that was sitting at a light. I’d never been catcalled before so I was surprised but didn’t respond. A minute or so later a car slowed down next to me. I didn’t notice it at first, but when I glanced up the driver yelled “Me-yow!” before flooring it and speeding away. I’m almost at Safeway when a guy in a red pick-up truck (white, male, mid-40s at least) slows down next to me, just like the other guy, and yells “Why don’t you just show me your pussy?” I picked up my pace so I could just get to Safeway and away from this street. I wasn’t looking forward to walking back.
Two of my friends and I (ages 16, 17, and 19) were in Asbury Park on a Sunday afternoon. While we were walking the two (relatively) short blocks back to where we had parked, these guys who were probably old enough to be my grandfather or much, much older father stared us down and called after us for the block and a half we had left to walk. Having anxiety, I was petrified so I posted on Facebook about how upsetting it was and I got told to “not look so adult” if I didn’t want that to happen and to “keep my feminist bullshit on Tumblr”.
At 11:52 AM today (1/14/15) in NYC, outside of Pushcart Coffee, I was harassed by a Con Edison employee through his unsolicited video taping of me. I was simply sitting outside of the coffee shop on one of the designated benches, drinking my coffee, when I noticed that the driver of the van, who was parked in front of the shop, had raised his phone up and had begun to film me. After about 30 seconds of this behavior from him, I decided to document his harassment. He not only made eye contact with me at this point, acknowledging that he KNEW I was aware of his harassment, but he continued to film me, and even turned to laugh with his partner, who was sitting in the passenger seat. I felt threatened and unsafe in a place that should have been safe for me. I emailed Con Edison with the video I took, as well as a thorough complaint. This is unacceptable and despicable behavior, and I want everyone to see it.
I was walking in the street when a workman started shouting to get my attention. I ignored him but he kept on shouting, repeatedly asking if I’m lost. I stopped and stared back at him with arms crossed and giving him a chilling glare for a few seconds, just until he started feeling uncomfortable and went silent. Then I told him: “I live here, ok?!” and walked off. I then heard him say “Ah, then WE are lost!” -_-
Dear Man sitting in the back seat of the pickup truck passing me by,
I was walking to a poetry reading, listening to wonderful music, feeling the best I had felt all day when you yelled at me. Not that you would know any of this, as our contact was brief. Not that you would care, as you seemed uninterested in me a a human being, but that’s what I was doing. I couldn’t help but immediately wonder if you had yelled because of my leggings, or had just been more inclined to pick me because I was walking fast. I then spent the rest of my walk wondering if I was going to run into you again and thinking that my shadow was the shadow of someone following. I did not smile again until I had walked two blocks away and changed songs. Whatever thought crossed your mind when you shouted out of the window at me, I hope was worthy of ruining five minutes of my day and making me generally uncomfortable. Next time, just keep your head in the window and your thoughts to yourself.
A few months ago, I went out to a Friday night dinner with my husband of 23 years at Rocco’s Tacos on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, Florida. I wore a new dress and was feeling proud of myself, especially after having worked very hard to lose more then 50 pounds to get back to a healthy weight. After dinner, while my husband visited the restroom and before we walked back to our car for the drive home, rather than wait inside I told him I’d be out front since it was a beautiful evening.
As I strolled a few paces away from those dining on the sidewalk, two men who appeared to be in their twenties were approaching, laughing. I slightly backed up and angled my body to avoid brushing against them or others as they passed, and one of them said something that sounded like ‘Tasty!’ while his knuckles brushed the front of my crotch. He didn’t stop moving but it felt like *very* deliberate contact. I immediately turned after him saying ‘What the fuck?!’ but both of them immediately took off running — and laughing.
My husband arrived a minute after that. I told him I thought I’d just been groped and he really wanted to go after them. I convinced him they were long gone so there wouldn’t be any point. Now I wish I’d let him try, although I still think it wouldn’t have led to finding them in the crowds that were on Clematis that night. I feel violated by a couple of punks who obviously think humiliating and denigrating women at random is a fun game. When I think of putting on that new dress for a second time, I just can’t. I’ll probably end up donating it even though I spent a lot of money on it.