Anxious f-word soapbox alert!
I think this - and the original article it links to, here - mainly appealed to me so hardcore because today was one of those Bushwick mornings of uh oh why did I buy this miniskirt which I am wearing with thick tights, flats, and a very frumpy shirt/coat/scarf and why did I make the mistake of wearing it while walking to the train at 8AM, I should have known better because already I’ve had a car honk and one “Good morning snowflake!” and that guy back there in front of the bodega who called me “little lady” is still leering at me, I’m foolish for thinking it’s okay for me to walk around dressed like such a slut, just because it’s morning doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to walk around in a skirt (I would never wear this around here at night), I should know better being 5’10” 33-25-35 redhead white girl invading this neighborhood and gentrifying it even though my salary is near the poverty line anyhow but that doesn’t matter I’m still a jerk for moving here so I deserve it, what the hell was I thinking, if I’d dressed more conservatively only one or two creeps would have talked which is so totally normal and part of being a woman, especially one with the nerve to be reasonably attractive and confident about that.
And worse, couldn’t my paranoia and discomfort here be somehow racially motivated and that’s the worst thing ever (or is this just a raging anxiety disorder? or both? Am I racist and anxious? And therefore overall despicable?) — but fact is, it’s just not safe and at least I know that if it’s dark to carry my keys in my hand to use as a weapon and to not waste time fumbling at the door, and to keep my head up and look alert and have the local precinct on speed dial and not walk alone at night and stay in lighted areas and not turn sharp corners and take cars if it’s late or I was drinking and to change into jeans and a sweatshirt before going outside or to carry my heels in my bag until I’m at the office. Right? That’s just how it is and these things are totally unrelated. I need to constantly have these things in mind to be ‘safe’ and wearing this skirt was a stupid decision that made me less safe.
Which then of course corrects itself into, wait a minute, it’s not MY fault and they’re not complimenting me or making political statements about gentrification — they’re reminding me that I do not have a right to my own body and personal space in public, and that wearing anything which even slightly reveals any of my body is an invitation to lewd remarks/being hit on/being reminded that random dudes on the street want to do bad things to me and think that I’m asking for it, and that they regard me as something to mock or own and as a woman they do not know, they are just seeing me as a pair of longer-than-average-legs and feel totally comfortable commenting on it and here I am going into critical racist and classist dialogues with myself all because I was offended that some dude asked me if I’d ever sucked a black cock before and I felt bad that I was offended. And then I get mad. Like, really mad.
I feel bad about ranting on and on about street harassment — I feel like in a way I’m being vain (“I look so hot that I get harrassed for it! Listen to me brag about how many men hit on me!”) and also nitpicking (“Let me complain about being told I’m beautiful when there are people dying/the world ending/etc”) or that I don’t have a right (after all, I’m white and pretty and therefore inherently privileged and have nothing to be upset about, right?) — but it is something that really seriously deeply bothers me and something that I think is really seriously not okay and I don’t care how ‘cultural’ it is or if they ‘mean well’ or if it ‘means nothing.’ I feel like I should just be ignoring it anyhow because it’s not a big deal — but wait a minute, this is every day, this is every time I go outside, yes, yes this is a big deal, I would estimate that an average of two dozen comments are made at me a week (ladies, think about this, I honestly don’t think I’m exaggerating at all for those of us into high heels/skirts/etc) and over years, yes, that does affect you, that does affect you and your concept of public space and your concept of what it means to be a woman.
And I think these articles make that pretty clear, and address the sort of paranoia/fear that this sort of interaction breeds in me (because it does, which also embarrasses me as it’s patently unfair to most men) — and the fact that pretty much anyone who is a decent human should have that in mind before approaching a woman — but then again, aren’t I encouraging the same as the sort of ‘anxiety racism’/’racist awkwardness’ people develop out of a result of being too concerned about racism? A big part of my discomfort with how much this makes me angry (street harassment, and random dudes thinking it’s totally fine to talk to me) is because of the fact that sometimes, it’s not only okay, it’s really, really welcome — my boyfriend and I, for example, met in ‘public’ by approaching each other like this, and it was pretty much awesome and not sketchy or invasive or anything, on the contrary, and we’ve been together/happy/healthy/etc since — and these things do often happen, and for many people.
So does me freaking out like this lead to these situations for people who actually aren’t jerks and were concerned about this stuff in the first place, which ultimately is really sad and sucks for everyone involved? The times that it’s not okay cancel out the times that it is totally okay, and that’s maybe most frustrating of all — and always my end point of “this isn’t about stuff that sucks for women, it’s about stuff that makes a lot of things suck for basically everyone.”