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.
Was walking past a Toys R Us when a middle aged man in a truck yelled, “You definitely look like you’re going into the wrong toy store.”
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 harassed by a man who followed me around Target while I was grocery shopping alone, who was trying to get my attention by following me and yelling at me in the store. He came up from behind me after following me down an aisle, grabbed my arm and tried to pull me around, and before he could do anther hunt else, I elbowed him and ran to the front of the store.
I’ve been sitting in a park, crying on a bench under a tree, for the good part of an hour. A young man a few blocks away did something that shouldn’t evoke this level of response in me. He made dog yapping noises at me. He was good, at first I thought it was actually an annoying Pomeranian. When I start to frown he said, “Come on, at least I got a smile out of you.”
I immeditately responded by telling him he didn’t, that he should never do that to anyone ever again, and how what he was doing wasn’t nice. It felt weak against his and his friends’ laughter. “Yeah but it was funny!” It was to them. “Hey babe I’m a bad boy!” – he shouted to me as I kept walking.
I was so irritated that a few moment later I walked back, to tell them how horrible it felt to have someone do that to you. I honestly didn’t think he knew. He had walked off, so I continued on a few blocks. What happened next I didn’t really understand. I began crying, stomach tense and short of breath. It was as if years of being called at and put into situations I really didn’t want to be in with my body were pouring out of me. My body, at times, had not felt like it was for me. It was for others to look at, to judge critically or to enjoy. They knew nothing of how it gave me scarlet fever once for a month, or how I was so grateful that it stayed strong as I led a rock climb for the first time in ages, just a week earlier. They didn’t know that I can dance, or hate running, or how yoga can be painful if you don’t do it regularly. They like the shape, the size, the color… These are such meaningless things to me, unless something’s out of reach.
I don’t know the best way to stop this invasive behavior. I feel very weak against it. I think slowly, personally, by responding as best I can to demoralize any street caller’s actions is the best route for me. The next time you find yourself commenting on an actresses’s weight or appearance when the situation really calls for her skill, remember the last time you were cat-called. The next time you wear something you don’t want to wear, to please others, remember to keep your own power. Your body is for you. It is for no one else.
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.
I was cat called for the first time in my life today. It was only a small incident, two men walked past me and one said “you alright beautiful” and leered at me. But when I got home I cried for 10 minutes. I felt gross, dis guested and so, so angry. I am 14. 14, and a feminist and this kind of behaviour makes me feel angry, frustrated and afraid. I said nothing, I just walked away but I wish I’d said something. I was just afraid it would escalate. This has made me want to stop wearing shorts, look less attractive etc. because I never want it to happen again. I just wish I was strong enough, physically and mentally to challenge these people.
I was walking out of work and as I was walking towards my car a man was walking in the other direction. As we crossed paths, he said “looking good ma” as he looked me up and down.
No shit I look good. I don’t need you to tell me.
Some people yelled a lot of sexual derogatory comments when I was on my way to a job interview.
I was in a beach area walking with my parents, when a bunch of college aged guys in a pickup truck hollered in our direction and sped off. It was embarrassing since my parents were there otherwise I would’ve told them to shove it.