Welcome back! I’ve been trying to write this piece for a while now, but never found the right message until now.
Clinched keys, no purse, concaved chest, shallow breathe, and RBF…that’s right. I’m getting ready to walk alone threw a neighborhood in search of food. It’s only half a mile and maybe a 10 minute walk; yet, even though the sun is high, my spirit is low.
In making the decision to not crank up my car to drive two minutes up the street, in the back of my head, I’m taking the risk of being attacked. This is how it feels living and walking while female, woman, young, and black in the USA in 2018. It is because I am small and cute that I have to lug this imaginary bull’s eye on my shoulders.
Most of the time, I keep my eyes to the ground, my voice low, and my steps purposeful. As if too much of a sound will alert others that I exist. Although I have never been physically assaulted or attack while walking, I see it as a possibility anytime. Although I am confident in defending myself, I also understand that there is only so much a woman at 115 pounds can do. Although my anxiety spikes, I feel that I have every right in the world to walk…it shouldn’t be a privilege.
I have been verbally assaulted and harassed consistently. I would define this as any sound transmitted to me which makes me feel objectified, exposed, defensive, disgusted, or fearful. So regardless of your intentions Mr. Cat-Call, the impact of your actions makes me fearful and uncomfortable in my own skin. And that my dear friend is a violation.
Because I stay alert and overly cautious as I walk alone, sometimes I accidentally make eye contact with the opposite sex. When I do, I remember that we’re both human and relax a bit. The last time this happened, a man was sitting on his porch. I assessed him from his seat and concluded that he wasn’t a threat, so I nodded my head as a greeting and kept walking.
He yelled from behind, “Hey!” I just kept walking because we’re the only two people visible on this street. He continues without hesitation, “Aye, you in school?!” In my mind, I am assuming that he’s asking because he wants to know if I’m “of age.” Being that I am small, natural (without makeup), and sporting a backpack, I often get mistaken as a high school student. While some may think this is a stretch, past encounters have led me to this conclusion: he wanted to know if he could legally hit on me or have a chance with me. He was doing his own assessment. In these moments, we (the vulnerable and without privilege) have to be careful with what we say and do. There’s also the possibility that silence would create anger within him. Can you believe that in this moment I think that I HAVE to consider his feelings?!?! So I keep walking and without turning around, I yell, “Have a good day!” Because sometimes disengaged kindness can diffuse situations. He called back, “Huh?!?!” And I yelled, while turning the corner, “Have a good day!” He eventually got the message and ended the conversation with a disapproving, “Okay…”
Now I’ll admit, this interaction was not that bad. That encounter wasn’t as bad as men hanging out of car windows to throw “compliments” my way or ask for my number. It wasn’t as bad as being pressed to give them my number. It wasn’t as bad as being called derogatory names nor hearing what they’d like to do to me…sexually…without my consent. It’s not as bad as witnessing them groping themselves or pretending that I would give them blow jobs. Yet all of them make me uncomfortable and it’s because I have the audacity to walk while female, woman, young, and black in the USA in 2018.
They do it because they know they can. It’s a power dynamic that says that I am worth less than his enjoyment. It’s a society that swipes these issues under the rug. My safety and comfort is secondary to his feelings and needs. Yet if I speak out about it, I am being over dramatic, too sensitive, and maybe a prude. However, I wrote the post to let the world know that I am human.
I feel emotions and pain. I have the same basic needs to be met. I am a living, breathing being who deserves respect. I also have the RIGHT to walk wherever, whenever, in whatever I want without fear. So, have a nice day Mr. Cat-Call and I hope to never hear from you again.