My least favorite things people have said to me simply for waling
This post originally appeared on my Medium on October 25, 2017.
The #metoo posts in the past weeks have been powerful, but I watched from the sidelines and instead of joining their voices, simply clicked the heart on everyone’s brave posts. But I didn’t share my experiences or join in because what I’ve experienced is so “normal.” But it’s the normalization of bad behavior that’s helped to create the situation in the first place.
I’ve been extremely lucky. I haven’t been sexually assaulted. I haven’t always been sober enough to give proper consent, but I’ve never felt taken advantage of by any partner (with one exception). I haven’t been held back by my gender at work, though I did get interview feedback that called me an “office barbie” once. What I experience on a daily basis is less aggressive, but still has enormous power to make me cringe, annoy me, or make me feel unsafe. I’ve often thought it would be nice to just ONE TIME complete the 10 minute walk to work without being cat called or have someone comment on my appearance. I probably get spoken to (if you can call it that) by random men about 4 times a day while out walking. Sure, sometimes they are respectful about it (“that’s a nice dress,” “you look gorgeous today,”) but respect is usually the outlier.
So I’ve compiled some of my least favorite things men have said to me just for, you know, WALKING. This is an incredibly incomplete list since I try to ignore and forget most things men yell at me.
“What’s up, pussycat?”
I was nine years old, in the grocery store, when a man of at least 60 said that to me as I was looking at juice boxes or something similar that nine-year-olds like to look at. I didn’t recognize the alternative meaning of the word ‘pussy’ just yet, but I recognized the tone.
“That’s a nice necklace you have there.”
I was 13, and this man twice my age, dressed in punk rock goth clothes and eyeliner that looked like it was applied with a permanent marker sat next to me on a bench at a Barnes and Nobles Starbuck’s and started fingering the locket around my neck, admiring the design. I didn’t know why I was so bothered, but I immediately ran to find my mom.
This one’s fun. Apparently I’m a bitch if I don’t hear your “hello” in time to respond. I do have good hearing, though. I heard you mumble “bitch” under your breath as I walked away.
If you must address me with a noun preceded by a qualifier, at least be accurate about it. “Grown woman” is a more suitable choice.
“You have a nice butt!”
Well, subtlety wasn’t his strong point. So, other than a talent for pointing out the obvious, I’m not quite sure what he expected to come of it.
“How do you want me to give it to you?”
How about none of the ways, does that work for you? No? Too bad.
“Girl, you’re so pretty.”
This one wasn’t too bad, other than for the fact that he had his pants down around his ankles and was defecating on the sidewalk.
“I’m gonna fuck you, girl, if you don’t show some respect.”
This was yelled to me in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district after I objected to his first pass. I was actually pretty scared of this guy, truth be told.
Anyway, these are just an extremely small handful of the “fun times” I have every day walking to work, to the grocery store, to the gym.
So, to all the women who have shared their experiences, I do hear you. And to all my guy friends who’ve said kind words and acknowledged our experiences, thank you.
And to the strangers that harass me on the street? I’ll never dignify your advances with a response. I’ll never give you a smile when you ask. And you’ll never have a chance with me, but we both know that’s not what it’s about.
I don’t know how to end this because it’s unending. Fin.