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
Location: 7th & N NW
Time of harassment: Morning Rush Hour (5A-9:30A)
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