“I felt like a lab specimen”

I’ve already dealt with several street harassers this week. I thought the bulk of my harassment was  over. But nope, that was only the beginning!

When I boarded the bus to go to my studio for a workout, these boys sat near me (one of them sat next to me). I tried to ignore them but they were so obnoxious. They were making commentary about the girls walking outside, and it was tacky. (I’m sure my looks got rated by them as well.) I excused myself to move away from them when I heard what sounded like the click of a camera phone. Did these clowns just take my photo?! I heard snickering and giggling after I moved.

A few moments later, a woman boarded the bus, and the boy who I was previously sitting next to started patting on the now empty seat next to him while checking this woman out. I had had it with being quiet and had to say something.

“You do not respect women,” I said. “No respect. I saw you checking out those girls outside, I saw you checking out that woman who just boarded, and I know you took a picture of me.”

These boys denied any wrong doing. The one who took the photo claimed it was a gun application on his phone.

“My phone makes that same clicking noise when it takes photos,” I said. “You’re lying.”

Then they changed their story and saied that they were taking pictures of each other. And when it came to checking out women, first they denied it, but then they said they were “grown men and had the right to check out fat [phat?] asses.” So which was it? Either you were ogling women or you weren’t.

I started taking photos of these boys (and a video that came out too poorly to post), and they got pissed.

“Yo, this bitch is taking our picture!” they yelled. (Though only two are pictured, there were actually three of them. One was sitting on the other side and out of the camera’s range.)

I felt like a hypocrite for a moment, and yes, those boys let me know that I had no right to complain about them taking my photo when I did the same thing.

They repeated it and then the bus driver yelled at me to “stop taking pictures. You can’t take pictures on this bus!”

Since these boys were full of lies, I decided to lie back. “I erased the photos,” I said. “Let it go!” (Obviously I didn’t really erase them.)

But they refused to let it go. They started making comments about me, calling me “ugly,” “bitch,” and even calling me a “faggot.” They did running commentary about what I was doing (“Ooh, look at how she’s moving her mouth!” “Look at how she’s trembling!”) and told me to “shut up, mind your business” and “Don’t you have a book to read?” What assholes.

Then other passengers jumped in. A woman on the back of the bus yelled “Bitch, that’s my man you’re messing with. If you touch him, I’ll beat your ass!” The whole bus looked at me and laughed. I felt like a lab specimen. It was a sick feeling.

The boys finally decided to stop clowning on me, but this was one stop before I got off so it wasn’t much relief. I think the boys got off at the same stop I did, but I didn’t bother to look behind me and thank god they didn’t try to get the last word or action. I’m just upset that I didn’t get the bus number or the route number (the 30-Line buses all go the same direction to Friendship Heights, and I rarely take notice of which one I board when I do).

When I got to my studio, I wanted to cry. I was so shaken up and didn’t deserve what I went through. But since most of my friends tell me the same garbage of “You should have ignored it,” “You need to get a thicker skin,” and “Why do you always have so many problems and get into so much trouble?”, I didn’t want to say anything about it. I survived my workout and those horrible feelings had left my system, but I took the train home afterward and when I got off to transfer at Metro Center, a guy waiting to get on the train looked me up and down and said “Mmm…beautiful!” All that anger came right back and I immediately called him “Ugly!” in response.

I feel like my freedom of movement is long gone. I can’t go anywhere without some man making commentary about my looks, and when I reject them, they get aggressive. And I’ve learned the hard way that no one will jump to my defense and help me when I get into a bind with harassers. The peanut gallery will either gawk, stare, laugh or turn their heads and ignore it.

I am tired of these men and the bystanders treating me like garbage. It makes me feel so worthless.

– “Tired of Being Harassed”

Location: One of the 30-Line buses going towards Friendship Heights, Washington DC

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.

[Editors note: For people paying attention to the photos posted with the stories lately, mostly they have been of African American men. This does not mean men of other races do not harass women. Men tend to harass women of their own race the most and the blog contributor who has submitted the stories w/the pics is African American.]

8 Responses to “I felt like a lab specimen”

  1. Golden Silence says:

    Me commenting on people’s stories is not enough. DC is a harassment cesspool and I want to take action to make changes. I want DC to have strong activism like in NYC, Boston and Chicago. What can we do to make women’s lives safer in DC? Apparently the bus drivers don’t care, the police don’t care, and others don’t care. Something’s gotta give.

  2. Margaret says:

    I’m really sorry you went through this. The part that amazes me the most is that nobody spoke up to help you. You were so obviously in the right! And then a girl jumped in and defended a harasser? WTF?!?!?! The world is so bizarre.

  3. Anita says:

    Wow, I can’t stop thinking about this. I’ve definitely had situations where I spoke up about my harassment or someone else’s and walked away crying and shaky because it puts women in a very vulnerable and potentially dangerous place and goddamn we don’t deserve to be treated that way. I’m so sorry you had to go through this, and I agree with Golden Silence, we need to have strong activism ALL over the country.

    ps. nice one taking photos of them back! What hypocrisy and male privilege!

  4. Golden Silence says:

    I’ve definitely had situations where I spoke up about my harassment or someone else’s and walked away crying and shaky because it puts women in a very vulnerable and potentially dangerous place and goddamn we don’t deserve to be treated that way. I’m so sorry you had to go through this, and I agree with Golden Silence, we need to have strong activism ALL over the country.

    And this is not the only story I’ve seen about people turning the other cheek (but the woman jumping in to join in on the harassment is new to me). I’ve seen many others, such as Freedom Fighter talking on her blog about how she was harassed on Metro and not a damn person stopped to help. There is rampant apathy in many of these places, especially DC (where everyone’s all about themselves) and if more people cared about their fellow man/woman, this wouldn’t happen so much.

    I think anyone who is fed up with this should take a stand.

  5. Rachel says:

    I’m so sorry.

    I will stand up for you and other women who encounter this.

  6. E says:

    This is gross. Women need take this behavior seriously and report it to police every single time it occurs. We pay taxes and we are citizens. We have the right to go about our business in peace.

  7. hilary says:

    You definitely don’t deserve this kind of treatment. Stay strong and keep speaking out and telling your story.

  8. Balance says:

    I think that we need legislation and laws created that make it illegal for men to talk to women (unless spoken to by a woman first) or about women, or even look at women for any extended period of time without the woman in question giving permission. As a precautionary measure. That will completely end harassment.

    Of course, sixty to seventy percent of men will never be acknowledged by women at all but who cares. Let them die alone and miserable, men are stupid and expendable anyway. It’s more important that a Woman’s emotional well being is never hurt, and that they always feel safe.

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