Wednesday, September 05, 2012


A friend of mine posted a link to this blog post on Facebook today.  In it, a woman details a train ride wherein she is accosted by strangers in ham-handed attempts (apparently) to pick her up that become very nightmarish.

And my friend posted a comment about her very similar experience last week in Portland.  A month ago, I had something similar happen to me here in Chicago.  In less than 3 hours, my friend's post had more than twenty comments, from women of all shapes and colors, from all over the country, talking experiencing nearly identical  (well, let's be blunt here) verbal attacks on or near public transit.  My friend's experience was at a bus stop - the timely arrival of the bus saved her.  Two older women moved from the back of the train car to sit next to me, and their glares backed the guy down when mine appeared to be making things worse.  Every one else managed to escape unharmed as well.  But reading those comments struck me like a board.

When I was talking about my experience later with friends, my female friends were sympathetic - they'd been there too.  My male friends generally made some comment about how I should expect guys to try to pick me up 'cause I'm pretty.  More than one male friend asked if my hair was down, because my hair is gorgeous (they said...) and they didn't blame random strangers for wanting to talk to me or touch me when I was displaying my locks.  Their comments made me FURIOUS but I was having a hard time articulating why I was so upset. 

I think she says it very well:
So when people (men) want to talk about “legitimate” forms of assault, tell girls they should be nice to strangers and give men the benefit of a doubt, tell them to consider it a compliment, tell them to ignore the bad behavior of men, I want them to be forced to feel, for even one minute, what it feels like to have so much verbal hatred and physical intimidation thrown at them for nothing more than being female and not wanting to share.

I just wanted to read my book.

It’s not my fault I’m pretty.
Because you know what?  I'm 38.  I don't dress particularly well - jeans and button downs - not provocatively at all.  "Fluffy" body type.  I don't make any attempt to attract.  But if I am alone on a train or a bus, odds are very good that some guy will come over, try to force eye contact and make a pest out of himself.

I am strong, intelligent, and I've been looking out for myself for a long time.  I HATE it when I'm made to feel small and weak.  I hate that I avoid eye contact with strangers.  I hate that I feel threatened every time a male comes too close.  I hate that, from the time I leave my door until the time I return, I am alert and braced and ready for attack.  I don't want to get all political here, but I really do believe there is a war on women happening in this country right now.  And it is being waged not just by the jerks on the train who are obnoxious and rude but also by every guy out there that downplays that behavior.  Everyone out there who tells me (and every other female) that it is our fault.  We shouldn't wear our hair down.  We shouldn't wear a dress.  Or pretty shoes.
You know what?  Bullshit.  I wish you could spend an hour in my shoes.  Women grow up knowing that we are smaller, and weaker.  Things can happen to us.  We need to be aware and alert and ready to run all the time.  That is what I wish men could experience.  Just for a little while.  It doesn't matter how smart I am or how much I work out or how alert I am - that swaggering asshole on the train makes me aware that I am prey.  And that is what I wish I could make men experience.  Live it for one train ride.  Then tell me I deserve it for being pretty.  I dare you.