Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I just act like I assume they're trying to bother someone else

I've had fewer instances of being harassed since moving to Chicago than when I lived on the East coast, but those few have been really unfortunately memorable. The most recent was just a few weeks ago. My boyfriend and I were walking down the street across from the Paulina Brown Line stop. We had just finished getting our hair cut and were looking for a restaurant to grab some dinner and enjoy our evening out. We were walking along chatting and holding hands, but when I heard yelling and loud comments like "Hey girl! Hey!" from behind, I immediately felt myself tighten up in fear...the familiar feeling of knowing some unpleasant asshole is about to ruin my day with his offensive comments, and especially the fear of not knowing how far it's going to go this time. My boyfriend started to turn around, but I yanked his hand and tried to tell him to ignore the yelling, to just pretend you don't even know they're trying to scream at you. That's my usual coping mechanism - I just act like I assume they're trying to bother someone else, and keep my head down till they give up.

Turns out it's an entire fucking tour bus full of drunk frat dudes. They were literally hanging from the windows as they rolled up to the stoplight next to us. In sleazy drunken unison they start actually chanting at us, yelling "Kiss her! Fucking kiss her! Yeah!" at my boyfriend. I was desperately trying to get him to ignore them, but he had already looked up. He flipped them off as their bus pulled away, and they returned in kind, still screaming abuse and obscenities and "encouragements" for my boyfriend to use me sexually in public for their amusement. I was so shaken, I didn't even know what to say to my boyfriend, even though we often talk about feminist issues and street harassment experiences, both my own and his female friends'. I felt really angry that they had still tried to get to me despite my male escort - that they had even actually tried to use my boyfriend as a prop in their "let's humiliate women!" game. It totally ruined my whole evening, and we gave up the idea of a night out, went home, and watched movies instead, unable to really talk about what had happened or why it felt so wrong. I'd just like to say, fuck those guys. How can you think it's fun to scare random strangers? And what's wrong with you when you assume that a random guy on the street just walking with his girlfriend will happily join in when you start trying to humiliate his companion? Fuck you.


Another incident happened a while ago, but it's really stuck with me. Coincidentally, it also happened in the company of my boyfriend, though he was driving at the time and missed witnessing it. We were pulling out of the parking lot of the Jewel-Osco in south Evanston. I saw an older black man in a white tank top walking on the sidewalk under the train bridge, and as I briefly made eye contact with him out the passenger window, he opened his mouth widely and made an exaggerated licking, swirling motion with his tongue. He stared directly at me while doing this. I looked away almost immediately in embarrassment and disgust, but not quickly enough to avoid seeing him break out in a shit-eating grin. He turned to stare after the car as we pulled around the corner. I was totally nauseated, and I wished my boyfriend had seen it. He was sympathetic when I told him what had happened, but I couldn't adequately explain the creepy, entitled look on the guy's face that had made me wanna puke...like he just knew I was totally powerless and had to sit there and take him mouthing his nasty tongue at me. I think about it every time I pass that spot.

~Submitted by Rae