Just last week I happened to be awake at 3 am and heard “go away, stop it” from outside my apartment window. Of course I was worried and wound up going outside with my cell phone and my pocket knife (the cell phone so I could pretend I was on it). I found a woman across the street, 18-20, somewhat drunk and trying to pull away from a guy claiming to be her boyfriend. After walking to the end of the block and back I sucked it up and stopped right next to them and asked her if she was okay. No. I asked if she knew him. Yes. I asked if he was her boyfriend. No. I asked if she wanted to go with him. No. I told her she could come with me. He wouldn’t let go of her arm and kept talking to her with the platitudes women are familiar with - come on baby, I’ll take you home, just hang out with me, we were having such a good time - and eventually he gave in after seeing I had my finger on the dial button, but he was vibrating on the spot and he was pissed. Then he kept talking to me with all the insults women are familiar with - bitch, cunt, stupid fucking slut, etcetera forever. And of course he went after her for “leading him on.” I got her in a cab from my front door and went so far as to make sure I didn’t turn on any lights when I went inside so he wouldn’t know that my apartment was on the basement level facing the street where he was standing.
But this isn’t a problem or anything.
A few months ago I was working late shifts at work and getting off at 3 am. I only live a few blocks from there, so I was walking home. This was when there was a series of attacks against women in my neighbourhood. Not rapes, but escalating attempts to harm women, involving choking. So yes, I was on red alert. A group of five men from the bars saw me walking home. They started calling out to me - again, with all the lines women are used to (that, by the way guys, are not in the least bit attractive) - hey baby, where you goin, come on just stay and chat, a pretty thing like you shouldn’t be going home alone, where do you live. I ignored them and walked faster, and they sped up to keep up with me. Five men in their 20s. Following me home, drunk, and getting progressively angrier that I wouldn’t talk to them. “Why the fuck you being so rude? We just want to talk, quit being such a frigid bitch.” *guffaw guffaw* “Baby come on slow down, have some coffee with us.” I walked even faster, still not talking to them. I have foot and knee injuries, so this was getting really painful and I couldn’t have broken into a run if I’d tried. They thought this whole thing was quite hilarious and quite rude of me, never mind that I’m the one being followed home by drunk strangers. I finally looped a block and backtracked to the main road, which is really well-lit, and plopped myself dead centre in the middle of the ambulance-police combo that is in front of one of the bars every Saturday night without fail.
But street harassment isn’t a problem or anything.
Walking down a bright road in daylight, men lean out of car windows and honk and cheer at me and my friends. This has been happening since I was 14. Many of them are stuck at the same light we are, so we spend a good two minutes listening to them ask us to flash them. “Just show us your titties, we’ll give you each $5!”
Going to a bar and getting my ass groped at the bar as a precursor to offering to buy me a drink. I don’t know if men think this is a demonstration of their sexual abilities, or what, but it happens all the time.
Walking home from Walmart at 10pm and having a guy walk by me say “nice titties” thinking I can’t hear him because I have headphones in. Worst of all, spinning in anger and having to keep my mouth shut, because it could get a lot worse really fast.
Being “accidentally” groped on buses and trains frequently (they say they’re stumbling and that’s where their hands end up, but come on: I’m on the same vehicle, there was no jolt, and even if their was my hands don’t wind up on them), and not being able to complain without everybody thinking you’re crazy.
Dancing at a bar and having a guy slide his hand down the front of my pants. And then getting thrown out for elbowing him and shoving him away from me.
Getting told to smile by strangers (always men), and being told to cheer up, like I owe them a certain mood.
Having a guy you slept with once sit outside your house for seven hours, and then try to follow you inside while you pretend not to notice his car, and then disregard your requests through the intercom to leave you alone. And then, when you finally call the police, having the policeman call you back to say “He’s leaving, but he sounded sincerely sorry. You shouldn’t be so hard on him, he sounds like a nice guy.” Yeah, give him your home address then.
Having male customers look you up and down like you’re on the menu, and not being able to slap the customer who grabs your ass while you’re cleaning tables because you’ll be fired.
Finding out your sister’s employer felt comfortable uttering threats to punch her in the face for accusing him of being unfair, and her not feeling like she could tell anybody.
Having my male boss feel like he can touch me, rub my shoulders, call me honey and sweetheart and baby, and him being right, he can do those things, because everybody calls you oversensitive if you complain about those things.
Being followed home numerous times, both on foot and by car, being forced to talk to the guy who sits next to you on the bus for 45 minutes straight, and since I couldn’t think of a non-threatening way not to give him my phone number, I did so that I could get away. It took him a year and a half to stop calling me. Being told I’m paranoid for carrying any kind of protection, and stupid for not protecting myself, I’m a misandrist for assuming the worst of strange men, and stupid for having a conversation, I’m rude for asking men to leave me alone, and stupid and weak for not being more direct and assertive. Being told to go out and have fun more, stop being so uptight, and having that thrown in my face when something happens, because if I had some morals and didn’t advertise myself as, I don’t know, being alive or something, nothing would have happened. Being told to give him a chance and then being told to stop leading him on. Having to know all of the escape routes on my way home, and sending staff to the dumpsters in pairs. Having it be a fucking brave thing to do to stand next to a girl so she can walk away from the guy trying to bully her into going home with him.
And then having to listen to people say, “You’re exaggerating. Men aren’t like that, quit trying to see the worst in people. Men get harassed too, just ignore them and walk away. It’s the same thing.” Listening to people just step right over the fact that if woman deems a guy creepy, she’s told she’s being too critical and she needs to lower her standards, but if a man deems a woman possessive, controlling, demanding, jealous, bitchy, clingy, psycho, on her period, whiny, or outright dangerous he’s commended on his standards and congratulated on a bullet deftly dodged.
How many women does it take to bring these things to light before people stop thinking we’re crazy, over-critical bitches?