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I was waiting at the light rail station on Tukwila International Boulevard, a very troubled stretch of road near Sea-Tac Airport where there’s been a rash of seedy motel activity in recent years. On my way home from work, I had just gotten off the train and just missed my bus home, so I had to wait half an hour. I used to walk home from there because I love walking and it’s only two miles, but walking there by myself proved extremely dangerous and stressful. There is literally CONSTANT harassment, not a moment’s peace. And not just harassment but stalking and following.
A man in his 20’s approached me, and welcomed himself to sit right next to me in a plaza full of empty seats. He had one of those fake gold teeth, pants belted around his mid-thighs with his flannel boxers on proud display. I have never, ever, ever understood the appeal of this.
“Hey girl”, he said (of course). “Hi”, I said (sheepishly and making a point to appear busy with my phone). He asked me if I would join him on the 128 to the Admiral District. I cringed. That was my bus. I told him, politely, that I was engaged (at the time), flashing my ring for added credibility. He smugly declared “Girl, that’s not real! I’d get you a real one!”.
I was a little fed up with his ego. I said “Really.” flat and sarcastic. Not that it’s anyone’s business, but after doing my research, I directly asked my now-husband to get me a stainless steel, cubic zirconia ring, because it’s still very durable and I can’t make sense of spending thousands of dollars that at the time we didn’t have for something that’s value should be largely sentimental anyway.
Mr. Underpants kept going on, about how my fiance must have been a cheapskate, how a fine-ass bitch like me deserved diamonds, and how if I had a brain I would leave my husband and get with Boxersface (you can see that the underwear thing is a hangup for me).
While I do realize that the reason we women must reveal our relationship statuses because the only way to nullify strange mens’ “ownership” of us is to already be “owned” by a man, my relationship has very serious, significant meaning to me. I have only been with one man (which was not a religious decision), and, ever since, I have never had one iota of interest in going out with anyone else. The thought doesn’t even occur to me, whatsoever. Men=not interesting. So having a man, not to mention one who belongs to a subculture I’m PARTICULARLY turned off by, tell me that my relationship is meaningless to him and if I don’t let him destroy it, I’m “stupid” is in actuality a personal attack on my independent life decisions as a woman.
So I told him, “Gross, you’re gross, leave me alone”. And he said “Bitch, you’re just such a fine bitch, I just wanna show you how a bitch like you is supposed to be treated”. So by now, I’ve been called a “bitch” about sixteen times in my entire life and every last one was by this guy. I don’t think I want this guy to teach me how I’m “supposed” to be treated.
Thinking I was finally going to tell one of these losers off, I took a deep breath, and was interrupted by “Hey, what’s going here? Leave her alone, she doesn’t have to put up with this.”
I looked up and saw an older man, maybe in his 30’s, with a lovely wife holding a lovely little girl with might I add, the most adorable little afro. Think Blue Ivy =) Never you mind how he was dressed because his character is more the issue here, though I feel compelled to share that he was apparently confident that people would know he was wearing underwear whether they saw it or not. I thought, there, look at that, THAT’S a man. Of course, Pantyman mouthed off to him, told him to “Stay out my business.” Funny. Staying out of other people’s business is a virtue for wannabe homewreckers, I guess.
I thanked the family man. He offered to trade seats with me (at this point all the seats were now full). I was so grateful that I gave his family the leftover cookies that I had baked for my coworkers that day. He gave the seat to his wife and child, though, and stood right next to them (what a guy). From across the way, I could see and hear the man lecturing (insert underpants-related nickname I can’t think of any more of here). I was completely sold.
And finally, the bus came and the jerk thought we could reconnect or something. He was saying, “C’mon, c’mon, just go home with me one time, your fiance doesn’t have to know!”. I said “Are you kidding me?”. He said “What? What? You can’t have your own life? Your fiance doesn’t let you kick it with other dudes? What are you, his pet?”. I said… “Are you kidding me…?”…
And then, suddenly, everyone in line to get on the bus started putting him in his place, telling him to give up, leave me alone… He kept trying to bother me on the bus and the driver made him sit in the back. He raised some civil rights argument, and had the nerve to compare his lowly self to Rosa Parks (fighting for his right to harass women is totally the same thing as fighting for equality, not like, the opposite or anything), and I’ll admit it was a tad awkward, but no one else seemed to be offended.
Ultimately, it was both an exhausting and wonderful experience. Having so many people come to my aid was amazing. So often this kind of harassment goes totally unnoticed. In fact, in areas like Tukwila, you can be so surrounded by jerks that they’ll all just cheer a harasser on. It was great to see that there are people on that street who are willing to say it’s not okay.
It seems that the primary form of harassment I endure is being followed by car. I love to go for long walks, with my iPod, with my headphones. It’s discouraged because you’re supposed to be ever aware, lest you’ll be spirited away by one of what seems to be a massive army of would-be ax murderers. I resent that, though, because walking with my iPod is something I enjoy and I feel entitled to doing what I please.
It does seem to happen to me a lot, a man slows down as he drives past me, gives me a looong, hard, unmistakable look, and drives away, only to mysteriously reappear minutes later, drive off, and reappear again. Sometimes they try to talk to me, and still return even if I wave them off. Perhaps more disturbingly, sometimes they don’t try to talk to me at all, and are probably just monitoring my movements until I hopefully take a turn down a more secluded road. Sometimes they park on the shoulder and try to force me to pass by them, mere inches from their car doors, forcing me to cross the street where there isn’t a safe place to do so, or to turn back and not get where I’m trying to go.
In Bellevue (where I used to live, and where my husband works) this only happens about the half the time I go out. But in Tukwila (where I live now) it *always* happens, so I don’t go out on foot, or shop, in my own neighborhood, ever.
I’m not a confrontational person by nature (I mean VERY not confrontational), so it can be very difficult for me to puff myself up and argue with people.
But the most recent time, I found myself becoming angry. I had just been followed around 148th by a man in a pickup truck who passed by me exactly eight times, even stopping in driveways and waiting for me to walk past so he could plead with me to get in his car. My protests didn’t seem to deter him. Eventually, my heart was racing, my knees wobbling – frankly, I didn’t have much confidence in my ability to walk anymore. So I hid in the bushes, my old trick I pull out when what was supposed to be a peaceful, enjoyable walk is turned into a terrified jog toward the nearest store or bus stop, wondering if the world is really so horrible that these men could actually be thinking what I think they’re thinking.
After the man in the pickup crawled at 15mph down a very busy 35mph road nearing rush hour, craning his neck and cursing loudly through his open window, I emerged from the bushes with a spider in my hair, feeling defeated and whipped into submission. Naturally, I was planning my return route to my car, abandoning my “fun” walk altogether and wishing I hadn’t already gone a mile and a half, even though the plan was for five or more.
Of course, seconds later, a different man in a Lexus nearly rear-ended a BMW staring blankly over his shoulder at me. Then, he scurried into the U-turn lane and tried his luck. I was completely emotionally drained and stressed to the maximum. I furiously waved him off, glaring, no mistake that I wanted nothing to do with him. He passed by me, and, of course, jumped right into the next U-turn lane (148th is full of them). He passed by on the other side and yelled out his window. I held up my hands like “What!?”. He got in the U-turn lane. Shouted at me again (each time, I believe all he said was “Hey!!”). I started to cry. He got in the U-turn lane. I wondered if these men have, I don’t know, lives? Places to be? Personalities? Suddenly I realized that the most pathetic, degraded people were these men who seemingly had no souls and no morals and no concept of the damage that this selfish, disgusting behavior causes to their personhood.
What was this, the fourth time he had turned around to yell at me? Sadly this is a small number in my experience. Finally, uncharacteristically lusting for blood, I screamed, “I’m gonna call the cops!!!”. He sped off. The two older women walking a few yards ahead of me stared at me as though I were insane.
I did feel stronger. Often times, I feel that my freedom is being taken away from me, that the streets aren’t as open to me as they are to men, or worse, that if I want to enjoy the streets, I must thereby accept that I’m subject to whatever treatment the men, whom “own” the streets, see fit. It didn’t seem possible to me that there was any way to deter one of these more persistent harassers. They buzz around like flies. You can swat them but they won’t relent.
I couldn’t help noticing that, after scaring off the last guy, I was free to walk the rest of the way to my car without incident. I’m sure it was because I was storming down the sidewalk looking like Satan, and it must have frightened any potential stalkers. I’ve been told that the probable reason why I in particular am harassed so very, very much is because I have an “approachable” demeanor. But I don’t want to have to be upset before I’ll be allowed to enjoy myself. I won’t be able to enjoy myself if I’m upset.
Since then, I found the whistle that my dad gave me in my desk drawer. At time time, I thought he was being paranoid. He’s lived in the slums of LA and I have not. But apparently these thugs crawl all over the place. For fun, I taught my dog to respond to the whistle with tricks. I’m thinking from now on I’ll just blare on the whistle whenever a man makes me feel threatened, see if I can train them like the dogs they are.
DISCLAIMER: No offense is intended to dogs. My dog is actually much, much better behaved than a lot of men =)
Two men pulled their truck up next to me as I was walking into a McDonalds. They hollered “hey girl” and “looking good” and stayed there looking me up and down until I entered the restaurant.
I live in Harlem, the street harassment capital of the eastern sea board, so I am, unfortunately, not a stranger to it. This didn’t happen in Harlem though.
I was staying at my friends house in DC. He was at work, so I was taking the sunny day to walk to the local movie theatre. I had just had the thought of how lovely and calm, and sunny and quiet it was, and how nice it was to not be cat called as I walked when this young guy, maybe 25 *maybe*, says excuse me.
I turned around and said yes.
He said “Does your husband know you’re out looking so nice?”
I stopped walking, looked at him and said “Don’t. Stop. I don’t know you.” then started to walk away.
He said “Well, does your husband?”
I kept walking.
He started shouting “Don’t be like that. Oh, I see, you are one of those people -those negative people. I feel sorry for people like you. I hate people like you.”
and I kept walking
and I checked over my shoulder at every stop light because we were sorta going to the same place so he more or less followed me for five blocks- and I was scared. When I got to the movie theatre, I cried in the bathroom. and I hated being a woman that day.
I was grocery shopping today when a man came up to me blocked me in the bread aisle with his cart. He was smiling and asking me something so I removed my headphones to see if he needed something. He said, “Are you getting groceries to make dinner for me tonight?” I awkwardly laughed and replied, “Sorry, I am too busy making dinner for my husband and my kids,” hoping that this would send the message that I was not available or interested in his advances.
Then he started asking me what my husband would think of him showing up and stuff like that while I tried to figure out how to navigate around him and get out of the aisle. He just kept up, asking things like, “Is your husband taking good care of you? You let me know if he isn’t and I will fix things right quick.”
I eventually backed up out of the aisle and left the store without even getting everything I went there for. I hate that I didn’t just come out and say, “leave me alone.” What he did wasn’t cute or amusing. I just didn’t feel comfortable enough or safe enough to speak out. Ugh.
Today I was at an outdoor festival. There were food tents and I was holding my sisters roasted corn for her while she bought something else. An old man comes and stands between me and a friend and says “don’t hold it like that”. I was holding it vertically and assumed he thought I was going to eat it like that. I replied that it wasn’t mine I was just holding it for someone. He once again told me not to hold it like that so I asked why. He made a gesture insinuating it was a penis and gave me the creepiest look and walked away while staring at me. I’m so mad I didn’t say anything and let it anger me
As I was headed in to work at an event here in Las Vegas for children in underprivileged communities, a man offered to hold a door open for me because of all the equipment I was bringing in. He helped me through a second set of doors, for which I thanked him, and a woman came to try and open the door from the other side. She saw I already had help and said, “You’ve got her? Oh! You’ve got her. Okay!” To which the man said as he looked me up and down like meat, “Yeah I wish I got her.”
I was at Moorhead’s Kmart w my significant other when two guys were leaving the store to go to their car. One man called me “mamacita” and licked his lips. Gross.
One night I was walking home when a guy started hollaring at me, “hey, hey where are you going, you wanna party.” To which I responded I am going home and no I don’t want to party. Then he was, “you wanna go and fuck.” At which point I got angry, stopped and stared at him and said no.He stopped and left me alone.
Much closer to home a guy ran from my back grabbed my arm and a gain wanna fuck. I pulled my hand free and said no and continued to walk and third man comes asking the same thing!!!
I was at a conference and finished early. I needed to hurry to see a pediatric patient that lived in another city. I stopped while driving thru the city to get gas. High school had finished for the day so suddenly the area and parking lot I was in was filled with highscoolers. While waking back to my car I found myself surrounded by 8 boys. These ” boys” were all taller than me. At first my thought was, these are kids! I can handle this. I asked to be let thru. They jeered at me and crowded closer. One or two groped my breasts.
There were men pumping gas at the station. When I first started to panic I looked to them for help. I kept thinking it’s broad daylight and these boys are molesting me. And no one is going to help. I kept asking them to stop. And they formed even a tighter circle around me, jeering and mocking me. The manager of the service station came running out of his store with a bat. He screamed at them to back off. By this time I was pretty shaken and had started to cry.
He asked if I wanted to call the police but I said no. I just wanted to leave. The shameful part of this is…at that time I was working as an on-call crisis counselor. All of my training flew straight out of my head. I turned into a female in crisis. What they did followed no rules I was familiar with. I kept thinking it’s daytime. Someone will stop them. But it escalated quickly.