To set the tone of this conflict, please know that I am a women with short hair. I was wearing a simple t-shirt and lounge style shorts.
I was walking late at night to do some laundry downtown in Reed City. As I was nearing the laundromat I noticed a group of men gathered outside the backdoor of a bar, at quite a distance as to obscure their features, who presumably were smoking cigarettes. I was a little nervous at this point. I became hyper aware of statistics of violence against women and felt that it might be reasonable to stop slouching. Perhaps if I look confident then I won’t get attacked, I thought.
The closer that I got to them the more nervous I felt. I began to tread quickly and quietly, while hoping for the best. There was no point in turning back as I was halfway there. Besides, what if I had it all wrong? Or what if I ignited an animal desire within them to pursue me?
Just after I crossed Old 131 & The Pere Marquette Trail, one of the men yelled “Hey, girl or guy?”. I instinctively ignored him and kept walking. This was not a battle worth engaging in despite my deep feelings about rigid gender roles and appearance. As they disappeared behind a set of buildings lining the block I heard him say, “Yep, guy.”
Thankfully nothing else happened. This may not seem like a big deal to some but I was scared that I was going to get assaulted for appearing differently than I should. It happens occasionally, especially to people who appear at all queer. I called a family member to give me a ride home after frantically texting a few people online for support. Those moments waiting for the arrival of my family member were frightening. I was seriously afraid for my safety, as the laundromat was deserted and the men were at a bar down the street.
All in all, I do feel like a dunce for walking so late at night alone. I likely won’t do such a thing again all though I already don’t. I just assumed that it would be safer since it was a small town and I needed to squeeze laundry in real quick before the next day.
I also feel conflicted about my appearance. I usually dress in a way that I find comfortable and admittedly don’t strive to appear like a woman “should”. The incident made me feel insecure about my appearance and whether I should change the way I present myself. I decided not to change anything, yet doubt still lingers about whether I should dress more feminine.
I feel that this incident has also changed the way that I feel about Reed City. I don’t feel like it would be safe to walk late at night around downtown anymore and I feel less welcome in the community even during the day. Rude people don’t disappear in the daylight.