Not expecting to have to be on the defensive

I live in South Side Chicago, and I like to get my hair cut on the North Side. I take public transportation, so for me, this means taking the Green Line.

It was an early appointment and I had had a long day; I fell asleep on the way back. I’m woken up by someone hitting me on the knees. It’s some creep in glasses and a do-rag. “Regulations apply to everyone. No sleeping!” Groggily, I get up to see what stop we’re at. Still seven away from mine. I try to make polite conversation (I’m still in North Side mode). The creep is not only a jerk, but incomprehensible. I go sit down on the other side, because I am not in the mood for a fight.

He follows me, sits right across from me. He waits until I get off at my stop, and starts making obscene comments. I am tired and in no mood to fight, so I wait for him to pass and go home.

If I were more awake, I would have argued with him. As is, I’ve been hit with esprit d’escalier all day, and pretty mad at myself for not saying something. I punched a guy on the Beijing subway for groping me; I was just not expecting to have to be on the defensive here.

It happens all the time on the Southside; catcalls are the norm. And the worst part? It’s much, much worse if you’re a Black woman. I’m Asian; thankfully, this intimidates some of them. My roommate, however, is Black. Once this guy followed her for several blocks trying to get her number, even after she made it clear she wasn’t interested. She makes eye contact with a guy, he starts seriously harassing her. When we talk together past single men or men in groups, we know we’d better be in a very involved conversation.

Usually, police presence keeps the guys from bothering you too much, but that’s so rare around here. My roommate has given me one good mantra to keep in mind, though: “What makes them think they have the right to talk to ME?”

– Sandra

Location: Green Line Subway in Chicago

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.


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