Every morning on my way to work, I ride the same bus. I have been riding this bus for 3 years. A couple of months ago, I started noticing that this middle-aged white male in business suit attire would stare at me continually for the duration of the bus ride. He sits sideways in his seat so that he can swivel his head 180 degrees and see me no matter where I sit on the bus – in front of him, behind him, to the side; it doesn’t matter where I sit because he’ll adjust his posture to find me. His constant leering makes me incredibly uncomfortable and ruins my morning commute.
In the beginning, I stared back, hoping to make him uncomfortable. One time I mouthed the word, “NO,” and shook my head at him. These passive attempts have had no effect and he continues to ogle me.
Yesterday, I was waiting for my bus to return home and all of a sudden this same man was standing next to me. I had my hands full of two heavy grocery bags and felt completely defenseless. I started to feel scared that he was beginning to stalk me. He knows what stop I get off/on the bus. What’s to stop him from following me home one afternoon?
Today I was close to standing up from my seat on the bus and saying something to him. I want to say, “Stop staring at me,” loudly so that everyone on the bus can hear me. I think that the more people who witness assertive actions against harassment the better because the peer effect is incredibly strong. Another option I’ve considered is simply writing or typing out “STOP STARING AT ME” on a piece of paper and giving it to him.
This is by far the worst “street” harassment I’ve experienced in my 13 years riding public transportation. I would say that I experience harassment from men on a daily basis while out on the street/at work/shopping, etc., but never to this extreme on a bus.
I consider myself to be a very tough person and am used to living in an urban environment where one has to constantly deflect “attacks,” but I didn’t realize how damaging mere leering could be. When I was in Chicago this past weekend, I saw advertisements on the CTA which read: “If it’s unwanted, it’s harassment. Touching. Rude Comments. Leering. Speak up. If you see something, say something.” After reading that, I realized that I didn’t even know that this kind of harassment was something I didn’t HAVE to endure. I just accepted it as life.
Minneapolis public transit NEEDS these advertisements on its buses and trains. The more people who are exposed to these sorts of messages, the more likely it is that this kind of harassment will cease. I find it sad that we need to tell men how to behave in 2010. Our society is going backwards.
Location: Minneapolis, MN