May 27, 2014 § 1 Comment
I, like most women, have had my butt slapped, bra snapped, boobs groped, and ochlear senses assaulted by catcalls, directions on how I should walk, and descriptions of how I look, all from total strangers, since my tweens.
I was 11 years old the first time I was groped by a stranger; some boy was dared by his friends to run up and slap my butt while the giant cartoon bucket at the kids’ side of the water park poured down on me and I couldn’t see anyone around.
Welcome to puberty, B, get used to it. Because between the ages of 13 and 25 the number of men who will pass you in their car, turn around, and come back to roll by and hang out their truck window until you back or run away from the spot you occupied first, will be countless. The number of times you will count the number of silhouettes on the street because it’s late and that man is walking too close, is countless. The fact that your own future husband, whose only crime is being unable to grasp how many men in the world have the opposite viewpoint he holds, and how truly dangerous each of them are, will be unable to relate or understand why you bring this subject up so often.
The summer after we graduated, Mr. B and I were walking down the sidewalk together in our college town, and some drunk asshole leaned over from the fence he was relying on for balance and slapped me, hard, on the butt. At the time Mr. B was in the middle of a background check for his future employer, and felt powerless to react. We continued walking, and he shook from agitation, wanting to do something to defend me “in my honor,” and being unable to do anything because he would get in more trouble for fighting a man on a public sidewalk than that dude would for assaulting a woman. I remember so clearly the snapping out of the last light of hope I had had, for a fantasy in which someone twice my size and who loves me with every fiber in his being is able to protect me from the everyday misery that is Walking While Female. I certainly can’t be my own protector; I’m 5’3″ and only moderately in shape and I can think of at least one situation in the last three years where Mr. B’s presence was the only reason I wasn’t physically assaulted on the street, because I’m now often incapable of taking verbal abuse and not dishing it back.
Because I’m 28 years old and living in a first world country in the age of enlightenment and I have still seen too much. I have seen too many friends assaulted, harassed, taken advantage of, and destroyed by men (and a few women) who think a woman’s body is their right. Because I’m tired of holding up my phone in my car so it looks like I’m dialing 911, in case that car that suddenly started tailgating me at 1am has ulterior motives. I’m tired of constantly coming up with escape plans and actively trying to lose potential followers if I’m by myself. I’m tired of trusting absolutely no one, especially if that person is a male who appears not to have a significant other.
And I’m tired of that completely powerless feeling when I walk up the stairs in my apartment complex and the men in the stairwell make sure to stand beneath as I walk up in a skirt, or when I accidentally make eye contact with someone across the bar and they invite themselves over to talk without interruption for over an hour, or the guilt when something happens to someone I love and I wasn’t there, or I didn’t know what to do at the time.