I’ve had a really crappy day. I don’t really want to go into it, and it’s not important why it was crappy. But it was. And I feel terrible. And so, I decided to go do one of my favorite things: I took a walk.
There are a lot of young people on my block who work for nonprofits, collecting signatures and donations on my street. I’m sympathetic, I’ve done that kind of work before. But today I didn’t want to stop to talk to anybody. I just wanted to take my walk. A man came up to me to ask me to sign a petition. I shook my head and said “No, sorry.” To which he yelled after me “I’m sure you want to sign it, you stuck up bitch.”
And then I did something completely out of character. I turned around.
I told him that that was really inappropriate and hurtful. That I had responded, politely, and that there was no reason to yell at me and call me a bitch. I even explained part of why I was having a bad day. And then I started crying.
During all of this, he’s standing there smirking, getting closer and closer to me, just saying “Yeah” in this weird, cocky way. No apology. No “Shit, I’m having a bad day too. Sorry I called you a bitch. That was fucked up.” Nothing. Either of those reactions, I might’ve even signed that petition.
I told him to go fuck himself. If you know me at all, you know how incredibly out of character all of this was. He yelled some more obscenities at me. I walked away.
I’ve always lived in cities. I’ve had people yell all sorts of things at me. But this time, I was fed up. There have been a bunch of rapes in my neighborhood. This one thing I like to do, taking a walk by myself, has an increasingly small window now that there are more streets to avoid, more time periods to avoid, more and more of a feeling that I shouldn’t leave my house by myself. And then today, when I need that stupid walk most of all, someone yells at me that I’m a bitch for not signing a petition.
And now I have that feeling that I can’t leave my house, and this weird awful urge to run outside and (oh, the shame) apologize because I’m afraid this guy knows where I live and I’m afraid he’s going to show up again. And it has taken sitting down and writing this out to stop me from doing that.
I felt genuinely in danger, and also really embarrassed. Really embarrassed to respond to someone, really embarrassed to yell in public, to cry, to tell someone to go fuck themselves. Even posting this is embarrassing. A few years ago I was grabbed outside of a convenience store and harassed by a group of guys and I didn’t say anything about it. I pretended it was funny. It wasn’t. It was scary, and it wasn’t the only thing like that to happen to me. Sometimes lately I see blogs by girls who just come out and say “What the fuck. Why should I have to put up with this?” and I feel really proud of them, because even after years of being a feminist and working on womens issues, I’ve never been that girl. I’ve laughed a lot of stuff off. I’ve walked away. I’ve tried to “be nice,” whatever that means.
But here it is: What the fuck. Why should I have to put up with this? All I wanted was to take a walk by myself without being attacked or harassed. Is that not possible? And what am I supposed to do now?
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