“Girl, you look so good! I want to marry you!”

Last Saturday, I was on a run and stopped at a light on the north side of N St NW, waiting to cross (east to west) 7th St NW. It was super hot, so I was pouring sweat, and I was also listening to music. However, I could still hear what a man crossing N St, heading north, said to me.

He was in a wheelchair and was being pushed by what I assume was a caregiver. As he approached, he looked me up and down and said, “Girl, you look so good! I want to marry you!”

Incensed, I snapped back at him, “Women don’t appreciate those kinds of comments. Don’t talk to me like that.”

His response? “Girl, I love you!”, followed by loud kissing noises.

Feeling increasingly angry (but also increasingly uncomfortable, as I’ll explain more below), I raised my voice. “Look, I realize that you may have a hard time in life. But you don’t need be talking to me like that. Stop.”

He just laughed, and the caregiver looked at me like I was crazy. The light changed, and I took off again, fueled to run faster in the oppressive heat by my anger and discomfort.

I’ll be honest: It did not feel good to be essentially yelling at a person in a wheelchair. Despite my guilt, though, intellectually I know that his disability doesn’t give him a pass on street harassment.

But it’s been hard to shake this experience, in part (I think) because of unusual power dynamic. As a woman, I generally feel that men are trading on their power as men when they engage in street harassment of women, and it’s that power imbalance that makes me hesitate, afraid, or decline entirely to “holla back,” so to speak.

But this time I shot back immediately. And I know it was at least in part because I had some privilege and power in the interaction as an able-bodied person. (I knew I could get away, for one, if things became ugly.) So I traded on it. Just like men who engage in street harassment do? I don’t know.

Submitted by Salem

Location7th & N NW

Time of harassment: Morning Rush Hour (5A-9:30A)

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2 Responses

  1. Erin Skelly Cameron

    DO NOT feel bad. Just because he’s in a wheelchair doesn’t make it OK. Some disabled people (not all, not most, just a few bad apples) think their lot in life gives them blanket permission to do whatever the heck they want, and they expect us to put up with it because they’ve got a disability. So good for you for standing up to him. He deserved to be yelled at, and don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

  2. Nigerian Sista

    You did nothing wrong. A few years ago I worked as a server in DC (I didn’t stay there long, lol). This guy was disabled as well and was in a wheel chair. He made a verfy nasty comment to me about how he had been injured and that’s why he was in his wheelchair… And that despite that he could still work ‘his stuff’ and all this foolishness. I told him off! Every male needs to know that is unacceptable!