A Day Without Headphones: My 24-Hour Street Harassment Diary
"Sorry about that. I had to yell at some asshole."
I can't tell you how many times I've had to say this to a friend while I was on the phone with them. Why, you may ask? Because we were having a lovely conversation about Buffy vs. Dr. Who or something, until I was interrupted by some terrifying/disgusting/generally horrible bullshit that some guy on the street said to me and I had to put the phone down so I could yell at him.
Every time I read about street harassment, it's always one single horror story. Just one. We all have that one story that just went above and beyond the garden variety street harassment women face every day but when people read that one story, it gives the impression that things like this happen sometimes, occasionally, rarely.
So I had an idea (that I immediately regretted) to write down every single thing some guy said to me while I was just traveling through my day. I even gave up my street harassment-canceling headphones. Here goes.
I left my house around 10 am feeling really good. I picked out this kickass outfit, I wore lipstick, I felt awesome!
And then I left my house.
Guy in a T-shirt that could house eight of my friends whispers (street harassers love a good whisper): "God, I love your ass" and licked his lips and smiled.
My kneejerk response of, "Fuck you. You're a fucking piece of shit" was met with him smirking and walking casually, comfortably on his way to his job cleaning toilets with his mouth, I presume.
It isn't even noon yet.
I'm talking to my friend Nik and I hear "Ooo, yeah. I love that ass. Her thighs a little skinny for me though. I like some meat on them, you know what I'm sayin'?" I fucking lose it.
I turn around and see it's two men and a woman. I said, "What the fuck is your problem? What makes you think I have ANY interest in what you think of me?"
One man said "Haha. Whoa, whoa. Calm down. He meant it as a compliment."
"Who the fuck is he? Why the fuck do I care what he thinks??? It's not a compliment. Women aren't walking around waiting for you to tell us whether or not you'd fuck us. We wouldn't fuck you! I wouldn't fuck you! But you don't see me yelling that at men I don't know!"
The woman laughed along with them and instead of being saddened by that, I just pretended she was laughing at a joke she heard earlier or she was thinking about her awesome plan to murder those guys later that night via poisoned baked beans or some shit.
I don't even get to the next block before a man on my left licks his lips like he's in a Kiss video and says, "I promise you're gonna like it" and grabs his probably microscopic penis. And then shit gets real. Because the next thing that came out of my mouth was:
"You're gonna die alone. Yeah! That's right! You're gonna die ALONE. Your mother hates you. And this is why."
He laughed, of course. Because the guy got to say his rape-culture-is-sexy-and-women-probably-love-it comment and no matter what you do, you have to carry this feeling with you all day and tense up whenever you see men looking at you because you don't know what they'll say or who will follow you home or take photos of you from a parked car or put their erect penis on your ass while riding the subway. (All of which have happened to me and all of them ruined my day/week/sometimes month).
So I changed it. I made it bigger. I made a scene.
I stood firm on 14th street flipping him off. And I stared at him. At first he laughed and kept walking. But I stayed in the same place while hundreds of people walked by, staring right at him and then back at me, the woman who was still flipping him off.
Eventually, he walked to another street entirely. And I knew I'd won. I'd finally been able to make one of these creeps feel as uncomfortable and scared and powerless as millions of women feel when this happens to them. So uncomfortable in fact that he did what those same women do all the time: went out of his way to cross the street or go down a different road, whatever he needed to do to get away from the situation.
And I felt great. From now on, I'm not going to say a word. I'm going to just stand there, fearless, and put the shame and negativity where it belongs: on the perpetrator and not the victim.