Today on the T, a man stared me up and down before asking, “Are you Sicilian?” And when I said no, he continued, “Costa Rican? Mexican? Indian?”
I finally said, “I’m Japanese,” to which he replied, “Huh. I never would have guessed that one in a million years! What’s your other half?”
“That’s racist,” he shot back, scanning my body with his eyes. I got off at the next stop.
On Easter, I was walking home alone in the middle of the day when a man stopped me on the street, “Hey beautiful, can I get your number?”
“Oh, um, no…” the man looked at me in shock, as if I had physically hit him, “…sorry.”
Over spring break, my sister and I were in Boston’s theatre district, looking for the theatre we were headed to. I was checking my phone when a man approached me.
“Hey, are you familiar with the area?”
“Actually, I just thought that would be a good ice breaker cause I thought you were hot and wanted to talk to you.”
“I’m not interested.”
He didn’t walk away for another 30 seconds.
A few weeks ago I was walking down Newbury Street, in a rush to get to work. A man stopped me.
“Excuse me, I just think you’re so beautiful and I’m with my friend right now but I’m hoping we can go out sometime. My name is Kyle, what’s yours?”
“Oh, um, thanks, no, sorry, I have a boyfriend.”
He rolled his eyes as he walked away.
A month ago my friend and I were heading home from a party. We walked past a house. Young men were standing on a second floor balcony.
“Hey! Look at those sluts!”
“Go fuck yourself,” I yelled.
“Yeah I bet you’d like it if I fucked you, you fucking whore!”
I wanted to fight them, but we went home, their words ringing in my ears.
I have been catcalled more times than I can count. I’ve watched men stare at my body as I walk down the street and hear the comments they make to each other when my friends and I walk past. I’ve been followed, I’ve been yelled at, and I’ve been threatened. I have friends who have been assaulted or raped. I hear the news, I read the stories, I know the warnings. I’ve been conditioned to think about being attacked or harassed or used constantly, simply because I have a vagina. Because I am a woman.
This morning, I explained to my boyfriend what I have explained to almost every man in my life: I don’t want you to fight my battle for me, but I want you to support me every step of the way. The harassment I face on a weekly basis is not at all shocking to the women in my life, in fact, every woman I know has faced something similar. But to the men, it’s horrifying. It’s horrifying because they don’t experience it; I’m no longer in shock.
So please, to any men that happen to read this, I hope you’re upset and angry and wondering how someone could speak to someone else like that or approach them on the street or linger too long. I hope you’re just as shocked as I used to be. So reread this post and don’t be that guy. If you see something, speak up, but at the same time, know that your voice is one of power. You carry a level of privilege that I will never experience, and with that, you have the power to be an ally. So be an ally. This isn’t your battle, but I hope you wear the colors like it is.