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A man on the train was filming two teenage girls. They asked him to stop taping them, but he wouldn’t. So I started filming him. That made him stop, but it also made him angry. He came over to me and started to yell at me and demand that I delete the video. I told him I did, but I did not. He also tried to grab my phone.
Nobody else in the full train did anything. I got off at the next stop.
I saw a group of guys in an SUV, I think they were drinking. They screamed, “Show us your tits!” then sped away. It was unclear to me who exactly they were directing this at, it could have been me, but I couldn’t be sure. I stood there looking disgusted and looking at other people to see if they reacted but no-one paid any attention.
At 12:45 on a weekday, I left my office downtown and hopped on a Hubway bike to meet friends for lunch.
At 12:48, I was stopped at a red light at Kneeland and Harrison. Just behind me, inching up on my left in the portion of the lane my bike could not block, the calls began:
“Hey, honey, you look really good on that bike…”
I stared ahead at the red light with a practiced, unflinching calm, intent on not showing any sign of having heard them.
“HEY! I like the way you ride!”
My heart began racing as I considered telling them all of the things about this situation that I very much did NOT like.
“What, you’re deaf?”
The light turned green, and we both began moving forward. As the van passed me on the left, the predictable parting call was hurled from the passenger window:
The van jerked sharply to the right, into my path, and then again to swerve fully in front of me into the turn lane on my right. They stopped, windows still down, at this light, also red. I looked both ways and ran it, putting some distance between us; it was not enough. With the next green, my harassers moved out of the turn lane to pass me again on the left, jerking the wheel in my direction just enough to remind me that they were in the power position.
I rode onto the sidewalk (illegal in Boston business districts) to escape further assault; the van continued, and did not circle back again, though for the rest of my trip I was contemplating next steps if they came back, if the situation escalated further. By the time I got to my destination I was a rage-filled mess, and certainly no fun to lunch with.
But gee, thanks for the “compliment.” Jerks.
I realized recently that one of the reasons I have noticed personal harassment lately is because I, consciously or unconsciously, work hard to avoid those situations. I wear higher cut tops, I never go to bars and clubs and I make sure my dresses and skirts are longer. In the rare times I have worn lower cut tops or a shorter dress, I notice the eyes on my chest or “up down” glances during my daily walks down my busy neighborhood street and hate it. Then I end up throwing the shirt somewhere deep inside my closet, feeling confused and shamed.
This makes me angry.
There was an incident on the train when a man was talking photographs of a girl on his cell phone. He was sitting across from her and staring. Even though she made eye contact with him and other people, he wouldn’t stop. He was actually so brazen as to have the “click” sound on his camera every time he took a photo.
I wanted to do something, but I was terrified that he would get violent and turn against me. Fear for my personal safety is the only reason why I have been afraid to intervene.
I occasionally chill out and read at a bookstore, however, I was recently approached there by a man named Matt, around 6′, heavyset, soft voice, and has aspergers. I told him I was taken, yet he continued with inappropriate conversation and insisted he come with me when I left for the train, and kissed my face when he got off at his stop. I’ve run into him several times in the area since because, as he’s informed me, he hangs out there to “pick up chicks.”
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I was cat-called today in a way that really troubled me. I was coming down a staircase to get on the T and at the bottom, a man started ʺHssʺing at me.
When I ignored him and went to the platform to wait for the train, the hissing got louder and louder and he started to smile at me and say things like, ʺHey, sugar. Hey baby. Hey shorty. Hey, hey, ssssss.ʺ He kept smiling and followed me a few steps and so I turned around and said in a voice (I hoped) was sarcastic, ʺGood morning to you, too,ʺ and walked as far away as I could. A few seconds later, he came lumbering around the corner and started saying things like, ʺYou rock my world, baby. I can rock your world, shuga. Gimmie your number, babe. I’ll give you mine.ʺ
We can go back and forth all freaking day about what I should have done. Allow me to humor those people who feel the need to point out what I should have done. True, I probably should’ve just ignored the whole thing (and yes, he did leave me alone after I walked away a second time) and sure, I probably could’ve said something like, ʺThat’s disrespectful, please leave me alone (you arrogant, creepy jerk).ʺ But I was honestly more puzzled as to why he felt the need to keep following me. What part of someone turning their back and walking away from you gives you the signal to KEEP FOLLOWING THEM?
Okay, so you feel compelled to tell me you think I’m sugary or resemble an infant or respond to ʺHissssingʺ (what are you, a fucking snake?). Then you have mistaken me for either a non-human object or something not associated with being a woman with feelings and thoughts of her own. By ignoring my personal space and bulldozing past any boundaries I may have set up JUST to tell me a bunch of truly unflattering things, you enable the overall culture we live in to continue making excuses for men, ie: men are animals with base desires (because everyone knows women don’t have those) who are incapable of controlling said desires. In essence, you just made a complete ass out of yourself and proved all of those assholes who think men are repressed, inherently violent and not as evolved correct. Good effing job.
There’s a part of me who wanted to go back and explain to him that he was just regurgitating lessons that had been taught to him throughout his entire life by countless examples that teach men are superior to women and that women who are superior to men (because we can’t be on equal footing) are to be feared, reduced and ridiculed. There’s a part of me that pitied him. There’s other parts that were disgusted, a little afraid and, dare I say it…flattered.
There. I said it. And it makes me mad as hell because I’ve been taught my whole life that my value and worth stems from how I look (not my family and friends; they are excellent and above reproach, I’m talking collectively, as a society). And it’s not just how I look but how I am perceived by others. Other men AND other women. I know myself! I don’t fall into the trap set for me and I know that I am more than the sum of my external parts but yet, despite being a feminist and knowing and understanding how and why this sexism happens, I was still a little giddy that someone liked the way I looked enough to say something.
Don’t get me wrong, it got creepy real quick and any positive feelings evaporated soon after. That being said, I think it’s really, really wrong that despite all of my knowledge and all of the things I know I do well and all of the things I’m proud of, it felt good to be validated by a fucking stranger who had never seen me before. It didn’t matter that the validation came in the form of lewd comments and kissy-faces. It shouldn’t have mattered and it made me feel weak and vulnerable, just like I’m supposed to.
I was walking down Boylston Street and at the corner of Boylston and Tremont, an old man who looked about 50 was walking towards the Dunkin Donuts. He began taking a few extra steps towards me, elongating his route, and reached across my chest to violently shove me and give me a threatening look to “put me in my place.” On the crowded street corner, not one person who witnessed this asked if I was okay or even acknowledged the fact that I had stumbled and was clearly shaken up.
I was walking to work with my headphones in. I was waiting for the walk signal at Mass Ave and Memorial Drive, and a white sedan filled with your guys at the red light yelled something at me. I didn’t hear what he said but considering the spineless jerk who said it immediately rolled up the window and slumped down in his seat, I can only imagine it was offensive. So I pulled my earbuds out and stared them down. Never took my eyes off them as I crossed in front of their car. As they drove by one dude stuck his head out and called me a bitch. I did absolutely nothing to them, I did nothing wrong. I was simply walking to work and waiting to cross the street. Unbelievable.
I’m walking my dog and I pass two men sitting on their stoop. I hear, “Psst. Hey, baby.” I do not turn around. Then the other one says, “Hey, sweetie.” So I turn around and say, “That’s not my name.”
Right on cue, one of them says, “Bitch.” I break into a huge smile and say, “THAT’S my name!”