I just wanted to share this because the harassment has gotten so bad now that it’s spring. I feel so degraded.
On Saturday: I stayed in until almost 4 p.m., just reading and doing silly little Saturday things. I wanted to just have a nice day all to myself.
Then, I decided to go to the city center and go for a nice walk, maybe pop into a bookstore or two, and then later take myself out for a nice solo dinner, maybe at a certain amazing pizza place in my city.
I was wearing my favorite spring jacket, plus a pair of somewhat loose shorts that I paired with dark colored tights and my new high-heeled ankle boots. I like to look nice, just for me. I didn’t think that my ensemble was particularly provocative; I was covered, and just the other day I had counted at least a dozen other girls wearing shorts/tights/heels, so I figured that they were now in season.
I left my building, and that’s when the trouble started. On the bus, a man across the aisle couldn’t keep his eyes to himself. He wasn’t just looking; he was looking with a lewd smile…and breathing heavily. Creepy. But I pretended that I couldn’t see him since I was sitting in the back of the bus. I didn’t want to make a scene.
Later, after having a nice little wander in a couple of pretty streets, I was walking to a coffee shop when a man began to say, “Mademoiselle! Mademoiselle!” repeatedly. I finally looked his way (Maybe he needs directions?), and he told me, “Vous etes tres bien habille Mademoiselle.” (You’re very well dressed…he repeated 3 other variations on this theme)
*I shrug* [and proceed to ignore this man who is probably older than my father, but he won’t go away].
“You’re not French, are you? Where are you from?”
“It’s not important”
“Oh, well if it’s not important, then why don’t you tell me?”
“Because it’s not important.”
*He sees someone he knows and goes away.
I walk a bit more, pop into a couple of stores to contemplate a new skirt (48-hour rule!), and then I decide that it’s time for supper. So, I walk, probably about 20 minutes, to that pizza place. On the way, I’m whistled at no less than 5 times, and I’m also ordered to smile by a pack of men at an outdoor cafe. They also let me know that I have nice legs. There are no women around, even though it’s a main street; it’s completely dominated by men.
Creep Radar is on alert.
I get to the pizza place, and I’m pretty relieved that the server is a woman and that it’s an awesome, family-run place. I have a nice solo meal. An hour later, it’s dark (8pm-ish), and I decide to leave.
As I walk back to the main street, I have progressively freaky encounters:
1. Within the first 5 minutes, I’m barked at by two guys passing by on bicycles. Unsettling.
2. After 10 minutes, I reach the cafe square that’s filled with men during the daytime but is now kind of deserted. Some dude makes his presence known behind me by saying, “Hey, sexy! Hey, you have some really sexy legs!” [I walk faster] “Hey, you’re sexy, come on, that’s a nice thing to say! Why won’t you say anything? Come on, sexy!” After about a minute, he gets frustrated by my lack of response, calls me a “pute” [slut/whore] and goes away. Why me?
3. I decide to veer off to a section of smaller streets to avoid the rest of this main street. I quickly realize that, while these little streets are full of people during the day, all the people have gone away. I get a bad feeling, and I make sure that I have my mace in hand. It’s only 8 or ten minutes more ’til I’m in the open again. I’m walking towards a street with a bunch of trendy little wine bars. There’s a girl walking towards me; she suddenly picks up the pace and practically flies past me. I’m on my guard now. Suddenly, I sense movement and look down. Not a foot away is a corpulent, hairy man sitting in a car. His face is shadowed, and the window is rolled all the way down. His arm is resting where the window should be. The car is not running. I start violently, and he calls after me that “It’s okay, there’s nothing to be scared of.” But I’m scared now. Where there’s one, there could be more.
I finally emerge onto the main street in my city. I can breathe again. I vow to never go into that area alone after dark. (Although considering that it’s also where I work, I can’t avoid it altogether. Let’s not even talk about the 40-something man who approached me on Thursday and asked if I would have a drink with him. I’m in my early 20s).
There’s now a group of young guys ahead of me, talking and laughing about music. I’m relieved to have males in my general vicinity who do not exude creepiness. But I can’t keep within the safe aura that being near/with decent men provides because my heels are restricting my steps. Then, I notice a different guy walking towards me. He looks at me, and then he approaches. “Please, God, no.” I say in my mind. I don’t look at the guy, but he looks at me, and he says, “Mademoiselle, Mademoiselle, tu es si belle! (You’re so beautiful!)” [I ignore him. I’m so completely fed up with all of this by now, and I wish that I could tell him off. No really striking French comes to mind, and I can’t say anything in English. If I did, it would be over. All English-speaking women are, according to all films and anecdotal accounts, easy and should be treated as such, right? Wrong.].
He says, “Why won’t you look at me? Look at me, Mademoiselle! I want to see you smile!” He’s blocking my path, and then he steps in and grabs my arm. He just grabbed my arm. I can hardly believe that he just did that. “Look at me!” he says.
All that I can think of to do is raise my other fist and say “Laisse-moi” (leave me) in a cold, low voice. Thank God he did. (Since then I have, of course, come up with much more cutting, direct French responses and have practiced them over and over so that I’ll be ready next time someone tries to grab me).
At this point, I’m angry, but above all I’m really shaken. That last one was the last straw. I see my bus approaching the next stop, and I make a run for it. 4-inch heels, but oh yes, I can run! I fly onto the bus with a “Merci” since the driver saw me running and waited a few extra seconds for me.
I tried to read to take my mind off of everything, but I just couldn’t do it.
What am I supposed to do? In the grocery store, I was buying a sandwich, and a guy walking past me whispered, “You’re very beautiful…you’re very beautiful, do you know that, you’re very beautiful” and then kept on walking. It’s just so unnerving.
All winter, I would walk home or anywhere when it was dark, and I felt perfectly safe. There were people out walking their dogs or exercising. It seems that the spring has forced all of the decent people inside and/or awakened the street creeps from hibernation.
It’s all about control. This isn’t nice, it’s harassment.
I wish that I could get a bike. It would be so liberating.