When I was in Southern California last week, I got in a car accident in the parking lot of a Chevron station. I had pulled in to turn around, because I couldn't (for the love of God) find the building I was supposed to be at for my 6:30 meeting. While I was pulling in, this truck hit me in the back left side of my car. Startled of course, I paused, and then proceeded to park. When I looked behind me, I saw that the jerk driving away. Full of such anger, and without even thinking, I chased him down the street. I continued to follow him to a parking lot by a baseball field, pulled up next to him, pointed my finger (not that one) at him, got out of my car, and yelled at him. "You don't do that! You don't just hit someone and run away!" I screamed. I also used some strong profanities. I was mad. He actually seemed pretty ashamed, and astonished that I had followed him. He told me he didn't have insurance and drove away as I memorized his license plate. As I told this story back to my mom later that night, she was not as proud as I thought she would have been. "He could have had a gun. He could have been in a gang," she told me. That is true, and I could have just taken down his license plate and not screamed in his face. I could have done nothing and just accepted the fact that I was involved in a hit and run.
Last night my roommate, Carly, was sexually harassed on the subway by a young kid and his friends. She shared the story on her own blog, and I recommend that you read it. When I heard what had happened this morning, I found myself so angry at how everything was handled. How nobody else on the subway did anything. How people were mad that it delayed their train. How she questioned if she overreacted to a guy grabbing her arm and catcalling her. As with Carly, I've never actually said anything to a guy catcalling me. I usually ignore it, pretend it's not happening, and if I'm feeling brave then I'll just stare them down with the hope that a piano will fall from the sky on top of them. I'm so proud she spoke up. I'm happy she didn't just sit down and ignore their crude comments. I'm not sure how I would have handled the situation, but I'd like to think I would the way she did. Based off my hot temper story from above though, it might have involved something more (like a good kick in the crotch).
Over the past few weeks I've been noticing more and more posts on Facebook from my female friends regarding their experiences with catcalling. Ladies have been venting, complaining, and coming together over this subject. NPR's "Tell Me More" asked women to share their stories. I haven't listened to the podcast yet, but I have a feeling it will carry a similar tone to my friend's on Facebook. How it makes women feel objectified, weak, and powerless. How if they don't hear a guy catcall, it makes them wonder why not. How much it sucks that they dress up to make themselves feel good (not to appease the dudes) and then have to walk down the street in fear. Fear that maybe someday it won't just be a catcall, but a grab of the arm or worse.
When I was seventeen, this guy I worked with came up behind me and pinched my ass. Without hesitating, I turned around and punched him in the arm as hard as I could. He was very startled and yelled at me, something like "what the fuck!" Then I apologized. Yes. I apologized for hitting him. I never reported it. I never said anything. I even thought, "Oh. Girls aren't supposed to act like that, are they? They're supposed to flirt back." I'm ashamed that I even thought that. I'm angry that somewhere along the way, I had gained the understanding that we as women should be okay with it when we are being objectified.
It seems like a broad statement to say that society taught me that. Society led me to believe that I should keep my mouth shut and ignore the catcalling and the inappropriateness in the work environment. That I shouldn't yell at the guys when they hit me and then run away, because I should protect myself. As a woman, I should protect myself. What about protecting other people though? What about protecting other women and young girls? We shouldn't be afraid to confront these guys when they're verbally attacking us, or when we see someone else being harassed. I know it's easier said than done. I know we all think we'll handle things differently than we do when faced with a situation like that. A bunch of us responded to Carly's story and said that they would have physically attacked the guys that approached her. While that might or might not be true, I do know that no matter what we would have stood by Carly so she wouldn't feel so alone. We would have offered some help instead of just closing our eyes, ignoring it, and pretending like none of it has absolutely nothing to do with us.