On the streets of
It seems that everyone wants my money or my body. Everyone else pretends I’m not there.
To live in
I’m not used to being harassed. I don’t know how to describe what it feels like to not be harassed, but imagine not really knowing what rain is and then suddenly every time you go outside, it’s raining. You can’t avoid that. It’s just there.
Recently, I tried to stop thinking of myself as a victim. After all, I don’t have to avoid eye contact. What if I’m the one harassing men who pass me on the sidewalk? Then it’s my game. That would be such a relief.
My first experiment was to stop breaking eye contact with people. This did not provide the results I had hoped for. Maintaining eye contact only revealed what men did after my eyes were usually glued to the pavement: they stared at the rest of my body. The fact that I was watching them do it did not change this. In fact, maintaining eye contact often only made things worse, since men like it when you look at them. After all, eye contact is an invitation. I felt powerless.
I concluded that sometimes ignoring things is the best way to make them disappear. If I don’t watch long enough, I can pretend that the man in the elevator only looked at my face. This can work in any area of life, I’ve found. If I pretend that I can’t hear the cell phone vibrating in someone’s purse during a meeting, then it didn’t really ring. And it most certainly wasn’t my cell phone.
So I returned to averting my eyes. Still, it’s hard to actually not notice someone staring at me for an entire elevator ride. And to then pretend that they’re not watching my ass while I walk out.*
I thought I could deal with the harassment, but it’s starting to suffocate me.
Just as bad is the ignoring. The people who don’t harass you simply pretend that you do not exist. Today I felt like screaming. I was walking to the train station on the person-wide trail carved out of the ice on the sidewalk. If someone came from the opposite direction, it was obvious that one of us would need to step aside, onto the ice, in order for the other person to pass. No matter, though. Every single person who passed me just kept going, staring straight ahead. Nobody stopped, nobody acknowledged my presence by stepping up on the ice, or, I don’t know, maybe looking at me. I was the one who stepped on the ice. Every single time.
I might be ready to be that “FUCK YOU” person. Because, seriously, fuck them.
*Is the whole “Ladies first” thing just a ploy to look at our asses?