I haven’t been street harassed in a while but I got harassed a few times this past week and I let myself down in how I reacted.
Last Sunday I was on vacation in Utah with my family. My partner was flying in that evening from a conference to spend the last few days of the vacation with us. I had been wearing running clothes the whole time but thought I’d wear some nicer clothes to get him at the airport and maybe they accentuated my “lady parts.” Before going to the airport, I stopped at a gas station to fill up the gas tank and clean the car an uncle was letting me borrow. My credit card wasn’t working at the pump so I had to go inside to see the cashier. You would have thought I walked in there naked or something – all these men inside stopped what they were doing and leered at me. I felt sooo uncomfortable. Then when I was vacuuming the car, a car full of guys at a red light near by were hooting and hollaring out of their windows at me. When I looked up they got louder and I quickly looked away and walked to the other side of the car. I later cried about these instances because I felt so humiliated and also so mad at myself for not doing anything – even though I’ve read, written, talked, blogged about street harassment so many times and know plenty of ways I could have reacted. I also hated that in the back of my mind I was thinking how if I had stayed wearing my running clothes maybe I wouldn’t have gotten harassed even though in the past I’ve gotten harassed the most while running in running clothes.
Then yesterday I got harassed when I was walking from my office to the metro on my way home from work. A couple of guys were sitting together in a park I had to pass and one of them said, “Hey, smile, you’re beautiful” and then when I didn’t make eye contact or say anything, he said, “okay, frown then.” Of course this is pretty benign, but it’s still an invasion of my space and a way to mark me out as a sexual object. Again I did nothing and was just fuming when I got to the metro at the men and again at myself. And again, I thought, geez, I wear a tight shirt to work and look what happens. Even after all I’ve learned about street harassment, that still went through my brain!!
Anyway, I’ve resolved to create my own business cards to hand out to harassing men because confrontations are so hard for me but I think I could be brave enough to hand them a card that says don’t harass women and maybe in time I can get up the courage to tell them.
Location: Salt Lake City, UT and Washington, DC