What is it about a woman walking by herself at night that makes men want to yell at them? Not abusive things, but things like “Hey baby” and “Come give me a hug” and “Where are you going” and “Wanna party?” To many guys, usually a drunk one, these are perfectly nice comments made in public, so non-threatening. Except it is.
Last night I was mildly harassed by two men. I say harassed, they probably would say ‘talked to’. This is what happened:
I was walking home. My street is perpendicular to a busier one. I was walking towards my house alone with no sign of drunkenness. I heard footsteps behind me, so I clutched my keys in my fist in case I was being followed. The person behind me caught up slowly, and then gently touched my arm and said hey. I turned, thinking it would be a friend of mine. It wasn’t. This man then walked with me, asked what I was doing, where I was going, touched my arm twice more, asked me to party with him and put his arm around me. I pushed him off, told him I was fine, and went into my house, locking the door behind me.
I didn’t do anything to invite this guy to talk to me. I was walking quietly alone and I just wanted to go home. It was just past midnight. Why is it that he thought it was okay to follow and mildly harass me? Sometimes I think that if I were a guy I would think about whether a situation was threatening or not before I approached a stranger. But maybe that’s not true. Maybe I would believe the world was mine to run. Maybe I would believe that because that’s what society tells me. Maybe I would think that any woman would be lucky to have me, unless she’s fat or ugly, as society seems to say as well. Maybe I would expect the world to bend to my will in every situation because that is what I’m used to. But I know lots of men who aren’t like this. Who wouldn’t approach a woman walking alone at night, who wouldn’t touch her arm unless they knew each other. Because they know that women feel the fear of a potential attack all the time. I feel it all the time. I was ready to respond with violence, but I was scared. What if he reacted badly. What if he overpowered me. What if this mildly threatening situation became a terrifying one. What if. What if.
There was a second guy. I left my house again and was walking home around 1:30am. Once again, I was alone, quiet, and showed no signs of being drunk. I saw a man up ahead of me loitering near my street, but he was on the opposite side of the street and didn’t seem to be looking at me. Feeling safe, I walked at a normal pace to my street and turned onto it. I was halfway to my house when I heard him yell. “Excuse me! … Excuse me! Hey! Hey! Excuse me!” I turned to glance back, but he didn’t seem to be in trouble, so I kept moving. He continued, “Can I have a goodbye hug? Excuse me! Hey!” He continued to yell until I was inside my house, the door safely locked behind me once again. Why did he believe that yelling at me to give him a hug would make me turn around? Did he really believe that I would turn back and enter into a potentially dangerous situation with a stranger on a dark street in the middle of the night? I would have sooner fought than hugged him, because I am always prepared to fight for my freedom.
That’s what being a woman has taught me. That men are not always going to respect you, your wishes or your body. Every man has the potential to turn from friend to aggressor, and so you have to be ready to fight all the time.
I don’t want to be scared anymore. But what else can I do? We refuse to educate our young men on how to behave in these situations and so we end up with grown men who act like children when they don’t get their way. They just take it. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of worrying that there could be someone lurking in the dark. I’m tired of wondering if I’m strong enough to win a potential fight. I’m tired of wondering if I can run fast enough to escape. I have to do something else, something to curb the fear. And I don’t know what to do.
All of this has been brought on by a few catcalls, and an invasion of personal space. Gentlemen, keep that in mind the next time you want to whistle at a woman as you drive past.