This morning I left my house to walk the 3 blocks to my bus stop. It is a particularly hot day in DC, and I am wearing a long red sundress. I sometimes hesitate to wear this dress because it tends to generate attention from men, (which in and of itself is a frustrating statement), but I feel pretty in it and it’s perfect for a hot summer day, so I put it on this morning.
I was a mere 1.5 blocks away from the house before a van turned the corner and immediately slowed as it approached me. Then, of course, the driver rolled down his window and began to try to get my attention as he coasted slowly along side me. When I stopped to look at him and tune in, he was smiling and saying “Oh, wow, beautiful, mmm, wow……..”
I looked straight at him, gave him a dirty look, and said “Please stop now– Women don’t like that!” He just kept smiling, and almost laughing, threw his hands up as if to indicate, “I’m sorry about that, but I can’t help it!” Then he chuckled to himself, and coasted slowly away until I’d disappeared around the corner and he couldn’t see me anymore.
When the bus dropped me at my metro station (New Carrollton), I was standing on the platform feeling annoyed and wanting to be left alone. But because I’ve developed an almost animal-like awareness of predators at this point, I could immediately sense one man in the crowd who was extra aware of me. When the train arrived, I made sure to walk down the platform to ensure that I got on a car that was not the one closest to where he was standing.
Not surprisingly, however, once I was seated on a train car far from where he’d been standing, he happened to walk onto that car as well. –And then, or course, he sat down on the seats directly across from me and began staring at me. I ignored him, and then I heard the inevitable “How you doin’?”
I didn’t even have the energy to say anything or look at him. I simply took a deep breath and ignored his question until I realized that I didn’t want to be silently leered at for the entire ride, so I got off at the next stop and entered another train car.
–I realize that both these incidents probably sound pretty innocuous to anyone reading this. And they are certainly mild compared to others I’ve experienced in this town. But it all stems from the same source, and it all jabs at the same nerve in me, and I’m to the point now where even the most mild of harassment just has me wanting to slap someone.
I JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE.
I don’t want to be focused on.
It is flattering to know that people may think I’m attractive, but it’s simply menacing to have strange men express that to me. I don’t know why they can’t just have an admiring thought and contain it within their own heads. WHAT is the joy of making a woman uncomfortable!?
I should be able to wear a flattering red dress and commute to work in the morning without men feeling the need to communicate how my appearance in that dress makes them feel. I shouldn’t have to exit a train and find a new place to sit just to escape being eye-raped by a stranger in the morning because of how my appearance in that dress makes him feel. It may seem mild, but it infringes upon my basic rights and I’m sick of it. We are constantly faced with the choice between having to change our lifestyle (i.e. exiting the train, wearing less flattering clothing, changing commute routes, etc.) or accepting harassment. And it’s just not right.
It is exhausting. I almost sometimes feel like these little/mild incidents are more exhausting than the bigger ones because they are so frequent/constant that they leave me perpetually on guard, waiting to deflect the next one.
I never truly relax because of it.
Submitted by B on 7/22/2011
Location: New Carrollton, MD (Good Luck Rd. & Nashville Rd. AND New Carrollton Metro Station)
Time of harassment: Morning Rush Hour (5A-9:30A)
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