Blanche’s Story: “It is not a compliment”

Every day I would take the subway to work, get off at 68 Street Hunter College, then walk a couple blocks to my work place. I was 20 at the time, wearing professional work clothes. On a good day, I would only be stared at. However, most days, a man somewhere, whether on the train, walking down the street, or leaving the subway, would make some kind of comment, noise, or gesture toward me. I learned which streets to avoid due to experiences with men yelling at me or inappropriate staring.

A particularly unsettling occurrence happened on the subway train on my way to work one morning last summer. I was standing on the crowded train, attempting to lean against the side of the train, as it made a sharp turn and I lost my balance. I stumbled a little and regained my balance quickly. I was fine and didn’t need any help, but unfortunately a man decided this was the opportunity to move in and force me into conversation. The train had cleared out after the first few stops, so I sat down in the seat closest to the door, keeping my eyes to the floor. A man with his bike, probably 15 or so years older than me, was holding onto the pole directly in front of me and wouldn’t stop staring at me. I was clearly not interested in talking to anyone, but he asked me if I was okay and needed any help. I told him I was fine, leaving it at that, but he persisted and started talking again. I don’t remember exactly what he was talking about, something to do with his bike, but then he started staring at my legs and telling me how “sexy” and “fine” they were. I didn’t know what to say and felt grossed out, so ended up awkwardly laughing and ignoring him, even though he continued to stare at me the entire time I was still on the train. The worst part was that the train was delayed and was taking forever to get to the next stop, where I could escape. After he made the comment about my legs, I ignored him and waited for what seemed like forever, finally getting to my stop and running off the train. I never rode the train without headphones in again, even if I wasn’t listening to music.

Things like this still happen all the time when I go to NYC to visit my sister, yelling, staring, lewd comments, whistling, and other atrocities. It doesn’t matter what area you are in, it happens everywhere. I am fed up with men thinking this kind of behavior is okay. Do they seriously think they are going to attract women in this way? It makes me sick.

Please raise awareness and tell people that this is not okay. My boyfriend wasn’t aware of how bad street harassment is in NYC until I told him the stories of my daily commute. Let people know it is not right and that it makes people feel disgusted, worthless, and unsafe! It is not a compliment if you are yelling at someone on the street.