Public Harassment: Last weekend, I went…
Last weekend, I went to a goth night at a gay club. This is an environment where I feel safe and accepted. I can dress provocatively and expect respect in the appreciative glances I may get. I can flirt and dance and express myself, including my sexuality, and not be thinking the whole time about whether or not anyone will think it gives them the right to claim me as theirs or think that I’m “asking for it.” I can expect backup and support from total strangers if someone gets too aggressive on the dance floor.
But this doesn’t apply to the walk between where my friend and I parked and the club.
On the way back to the car, a group of guys gave some glances and a “hey girl” and an “I like your hair” comment to us. It shouldn’t matter. It should feel respectful and appreciative – they didn’t say anything lewd; I like my hair tonight too. But it didn’t feel that way. It put my hackles up. It made me think “we need to walk faster.” It made me think “I’m wearing vinyl pants, clearly anyone would think I’m asking for whatever happens next. Never mind the corset they can’t see under my coat”. It made me think “Priority one is protecting my friend,” who is a few years younger and who had thigh-high fishnets and garters showing under a short skirt – probably an easier target than the pants. It made me think “which is less likely to escalate this – ignoring them, making a snide remark, or saying ‘thanks?'”
It made me think of all the times similar things have happened in my life – creepy drunk guy sitting down right next to me late at night on an otherwise empty L car in Chicago and putting his hand disturbingly close to the hem of my skirt(I got up and switched cars at the next stop); people commenting on the size of my breasts at the train station (I might add this happened many times and I was usually wearing baggy tee shirts and jeans, and clearly a minor); an old Buick slowing down next to me and a group of female friends walking around our hometown after dark, rolling down the window, asking how much for a good time (we laughed and kept walking; thankfully he drove off; again, tees and jeans, young girls).
It made me think all of this strategic, defensive thinking, and all of these flashbacks, in a split second.
I said “Thanks” over my shoulder as we kept walking, and we all went on our ways without any further interaction.