Thursday, July 22, 2010

Construct Something

I got up early today to go to my first day as an intern at Young Chicago Authors. The day unrolled in front of me and I felt so much hope: working with high schoolers, helping them develop their writing and life skills. Good stuff. I got dressed. I headed for the train. Positive. Hopeful. Open.

On the way to the train I ate an apple and as I was throwing away the core I heard a man's voice say, "Yeah, I see you walkin' shorty...I like that haircut. Why don't you walk that ass over here?"

First let me say this: this happens every day. Not just to me. But to almost every female in this city; tall, short, ugly, cute, gorgeous, nerdy, black, young, old, white, freckly, brown, furry, sophisticated, weak, powerful, all of us.

So this was no surprise to me. Had he said "I like that haircut" I would have responded politely, "Thank you" and moved on, as I do often when men feel the strange need to pass on these little compliments. But the way that this particular man chose to address me---"Walk that ass over here"---does not deserve a polite response. I chose NOT to respond and merely gave him a dirty look and continued walking across the street.

Next I hear, "Yeah...well F*CK YOU then."

Um....excuse me?

And here I begin my rant.

Why is it f*ck ME? F*ck me? Really? It's f*ck ME because I chose to ignore your oh so articulate hate-disguised-with-lust? It’s f*ck ME because there are some construction workers (other men) across the street who saw you get “dissed”? It’s F*CK ME because this “little lady” didn’t switch her way over to your place next to the trash can to fill up another cup of your misogyny?? It’s f*ck me?

But because such a Neanderthal wouldn’t understand this kind of logic, I turned around in the middle of the street and said “F*ck me? F*ck me? No, bitch, f*ck YOU!”

Cue the opening of the floodgates.

This morning by the Trash Man (as he will henceforth be known) I was called a bitch, a whore, a whitetrash cokehead, a dog, a cunt. (**For those that live in Chicago and know how it is up here, and even for those who don’t, let me note that this man was not homeless, mentally challenged, insane, or anything else. He wasn’t by the trash can because he was digging through it for food and not in his right mind. He was walking down the street just like me, probably headed to work. So no excuses.)

You name it, it was probably hurled at me across Congress Pkwy today. And why? Because when told to “walk my ass over” to the Trash Man, I didn’t bat my eyes or look afraid or offer sex or avert my eyes or run the other direction or WHATEVER it is that such a man can hope or expect a woman to do after being told such a thing. Because I cut my eyes and rolled my neck, and because when told “F*ck you” I responded in kind, I am a bitch, a whore, a whitetrash cokehead, a dog, a cunt.

Two minutes ago he wanted me.

I told him so, which spurred another onslaught. But the worst part?

The worst part is the fact that the construction workers, the ones he was so “shamed” in front of, didn’t say a word. Not a damn word.

The construction workers sat over there in their hardhats and their orange vests with their sledgehammers and watched, shaking their heads at the Trash Man.

I should have said, “What are you doing? You got on a hardhat; GET TO WORK! CONSTRUCT SOMETHING! Construct a NEW DEFINITION OF MANHOOD! The Trash Man is shamed because I walked past him in front of you. Why don’t you SHAME HIM? ACTUALLY shame him! For the right reasons! Shame him because that’s not how you talk to a woman, or a man, or a person. Shame him because his definition of manhood is telling me to “walk that ass over” and shame him for that manhood’s frailty! What are you doing in your hardhat? CONSTRUCT SOMETHING.”

But I didn’t. Next time I will. Something’s gotta give in this world.

I didn’t write this because I hate men or think that all men are like this or that women should curse out men who try to talk to them on the street. That was not the intent. The intent was to advocate the destruction of tolerance of this kind of behavior. Hold people accountable; not just people like the Trash Man but people like the construction workers too. Not just in areas pertaining to gender relations, but ALL areas. If you’re living in this country, then you need to be an active citizen; not a silent witness. What good are you if you are silent?


~Submitted by Olivia