Location: Metro Center
Time: Late Night (12am-5am)
I was sitting alone at the edge of a mostly empty platform at 2 AM, waiting for an orange line train at Metro Center when it happened. I had been at a meeting with friends, which turned into food and eventually a late-night concert. A man walked toward me. I turned up my music and faced straight ahead. I had no reason to suspect that the man would say or do anything to me – except for my gut feeling and history of interactions with men late at night on the metro. He sat down on the bench across from me. I kept my eyes focused ahead, ignoring him. He waved his hand in my direction, trying to get my attention. I turned to him, taking out one earbud. He smiled at me. “You have fun tonight?” he asked cheekily. I didn’t want to talk to him or anyone else. I wanted to get home as soon as possible and sleep. “Yeah, sure,” I replied shortly, got up and walked away. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he said, offended. But he walked away and I let out a sigh of relief.
I kept an eye on him, he had only walked a little ways away. I made sure to not get on the same train car as him – opting instead for the nearly empty first car. I sat in the middle of the car, far away from the other man on the car and a few rows down from the women staring keenly at her iPod. I had been planning on dozing on this trip – I was very tired and it would make the long ride go faster. I rested my head on the window, about to close my eyes. But something stopped me. I was still feeling nervous and uncomfortable. Tonight, I decided, I would wait a little bit before trying to sleep. I stared straight ahead, looking at the reflection behind me in the window, to tired and worried to read my book.
At the next stop, the man who had talked to me at Metro Center jumped train cars with two of his friends. They preceded to walk all the way to the other end of the train car. His two friends sat right behind me and he sat right across from me. I was suddenly paralyzed with fear. I turned up my music so I couldn’t hear what they said, tried to become as small as possible, and kept looking straight ahead, paying careful attention to their reflection in the window. I didn’t know what they were saying or why they had come onto the train. All I know is that I had explicitly and curtly rejected any interactions with this man and now he was sitting very close to me on train car full of seats. I had done everything I thought I was supposed to do – I had been clear and assertive, distanced myself from him, yet he was still there, frighteningly present.
I weighed my options. I didn’t want to move to another seat, because I was so close to the front of the car that I would have to walk past them to move. I could ask to sit next to the other woman on the train car. But, I worried they would notice and take enough offense to say something. I could leave the train and wait another twenty minutes for the next one. Or I could sit facing straight ahead, purposefully ignoring them and hoping that they wouldn’t say anything to me. This is what I ended up doing. After five stops, the man who had talked to me got off the train. I breathed an audible sigh of relief. The last of his two friends, however, did not get off the train until three stops before mine, at the end of the line. It wasn’t until then that I could feel totally comfortable in the now completely empty car.
You may think my fear and indignation at the event is an overreaction. The man said a few words to me and then sat near me. Trust me when I say it isn’t. I’ve been hit on, propositioned, screamed at, and once physically hit on the metro by men who were interested in me. I work at Union Station and literally every time I go there I receive cat calls. And I’m tired of it. I’m tired of feeling powerless when a man on a bike asks me if “my pussy is wet.” I’m tired of having to constantly work out escape methods when I ride the metro after dark. I’m tired of automatically thinking any man walking to close to me is a possible threat. [Emphasis by CASS.]
I can almost here some people’s answer to this. Stop going out alone at night. That, my friend, is not the answer. Because that answer, places the blame on me. It places the blame on my mere existence after midnight. It asks me to give up part of my life because others can’t find the decency to respect my autonomy. Well, I refuse. I refuse to allow that to be the answer. I refuse to stop living my life to avoid these men. I refuse to give up late night memories of falafels and punk rock. I refuse to stop going to after-work meetings. I refuse to stop visiting new places in pursuit of knowledge. [Emphasis by CASS.] The real answer, I think, is for the men reading this. Evaluate how you interact with women and your friends. Before you hit on a woman consider these questions. Are you on a train car, bus, or somewhere where she can’t escape you easily? Don’t do it. Are you two alone in an isolated area? Don’t do it. Is it late at night? Don’t do it. Are you not willing to immediately leave if she shows any signs at all of discomfort? Don’t do it. Do you just plan on shouting at her, “is your pussy wet?” Don’t do it.
PS: I also posted this on my tumblr, but my friend suggested I send it here.
Submitted on 2/23/13 by Kathryn Seidewitz
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