I’m female born and female identified. Maybe it’s my queerness that makes me so intensely sensitive to harassment, because I absolutely DESPISE the idea that I am on this earth for men, for male consumption, to entertain the male gaze. I deliberately dress in shapeless clothes during the day, and only bust out the super skimpy/see through outfits if I am a) going to a queer and therefore mostly safe space and b) have a way to cover myself until I get there. I also have very long hair with a bright streak of color in it, which I also only wear down if I’m going to be safe. Put simply, I just want everyone to leave me alone.
My experience of harassment is constant. I believe other women when they say that they don’t experience the level that I do, and ohhhh, do I envy them.
I was hassled walking to school starting when I was ten or eleven, and it’s never abated for me. Today, I’m forty years old. It happens when I am in sweats and unwashed or when I am dressed to the nines. It happens when I am walking on the street or when I’m in my car. It happens if I’m at the store, going to work, or on the Metro. It is an utter constant in my life. It’s always intensely satisfying when a butch-identified woman I’m with sees it happen because I feel so validated, like someone finally believes me. My masculine girlfriend still sputters and says “Oh my god, did you hear what he SAID to you? I can’t believe it!” and I’ll say something like “Yes, honey, see what I mean? It doesn’t matter what I do or wear or say, they just always find me.”
Sometimes I react with the rage I always, ALWAYS feel. I stop, ask if they talk to their fucking mother with that mouth. Or I’ll just glare. Usually, though, since I value my safety and I don’t have the energy, I just keep walking. Most of all, I am exhausted by it. All of it.
I was driving in my car last week during the evening on Brentwood Road NE, coming from Rhode Island going towards New York Avenue. As I was stopped at the light behind Giant, a truck came towards me going the opposite direction. I just happened to look up and the driver of the truck stared at me as he went by, right into my face. I’ve been harassed literally hundreds of times, maybe even thousands now, and I have never, EVER seen that look on anyone’s face. It was the scariest expression I’ve ever seen. He looked malevolent, urgent, hungry and utterly, totally scary. Like a damn predator.
Then he flipped a U-turn and tried to pull up next to my car. I shot forward, maneuvered around a truck, and took off. He tried following me and I deliberately ran the next red light, hoping that a cop would pull me over and I would feel safe. Or at least safer.
I cannot begin to express how scared I was. As I said, I’ve dealt with a ton of harassment before, been yelled at, grabbed, followed, you name it. I’ve lived in big cities my whole life and am not a delicate little flower nor am I afraid of confrontation. But this guy? Different. Hard to believe that in a half second of eye contact I could feel this way, but I honestly believe that he was and is a very violent and dangerous man. And he was coming to get me. I was terrified and extremely jumpy for the next 30 minutes in my car until I was sure I lost him.
I wish I could describe his car or his face, even. But I was so frightened and it went so fast that I can’t. Ugh.
Submitted by PSue on 6/1/2010
Time that Harassment Occurred: Night (7:30P-12A)
Location: Brentwood Ave in NE DC, behind the Giant grocery Store
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