Harassment Journal, Entry #1

“JUST TRY TO WALK PAST ME, I DARE YOU.”

He stood in the middle of the sidewalk, his arms spread out as far as possible. It was an impressive wingspan, really. Gotta give ’em that. Not quite pterodactyl level, but close enough. He started walking toward me, descending upon me like one of those big striped circus tent things we played with in elementary school for some reason.

“YOU WALK OUT INTO THE STREET AND CROSS TO THE OTHER SIDE, IF YOU DARE. BUT NO FUCKIN’ WAY WILL I LET YOU WALK PAST ME.”

“Ok, I’ll just…go another way.”

It had been at least a month since I walked alone in my neighborhood. Last time I did, like most times, a barrage of street harassment swirled around me. After that, I said, “I’m making a harassment journal!” and then instead of doing that, I avoided walking. Sometimes I avoid it out of fear, and sometimes out of something closer to fatigue. Sometimes I would rather remain in the universe I think I live in. The one where my own actions or outlook have some actual bearing on what’s happening to or around me. That illusion is a tough one to do away with completely, because I’d probably just end up lying in a bathtub full of tapioca until I ate myself into a coma, if I abandonded it altogether. But it’s true of street harassment: it doesn’t matter what I’ve done that day, how I look, what kind of face I’m making, what I’m wearing, how I react, the pace at which I’m walking, whether I’m carrying anything — I’m not really part of the equation. I’m there, sure, but sadly I can take no credit. I feel like a bag of sand that has “FEMALE-WOMAN-LADY” scrawled on it with a piece of charcoal.

I say all those things don’t matter because I have almost scientifically tried different variations of being, in order to crack the code women have been trying to solve since the first time a caveman yelled “OOG THINK YOU HAVE NICE JUGS” and the cavewoman was like “Oh, here we fucking go. This is gonna be a whole thing now, with Oog.”

Things I have worn while being harassed:

  • Low cut dresses!
  • Turtenecks
  • Scarves
  • Hats
  • Jackets
  • Sweaters with jackets over them
  • Sunglasses, sweater, jacket over the sweater, hat, boots, a grimace
  • Cute scrappy dress!
  • Giant shapeless sweatshirt, dirty jeans, greasy hair, late for something
  • T-shirt with cleavage!
  • Sweaterdress with leggings
  • An Operaton Ivy shirt I’ve had since I was 15. It has holes in the armpits. Not cute. Very box-y.
  • Buttoned up peacoat, arms crossed
  • Sunglasses, sweater, jacket over the sweater, hat, boots, a grimace, carrying a bag from the pharmacy proudly so pedestrians can wonder if I’ve got the plague and they should stay away.
  • Headphones so it seems like I can’t hear anyone who tries to talk to me, but actually I’m not listening to anything.
  • No headphones so I seem alert.
  • Sweater with a reindeer on it!
  • Lipstick
  • No lipstick
  • Blonde hair
  • Black hair
  • Blue hair
  • Brown hair
  • Too much makeup because my eyeliner was uneven so I added more to the other side and then the other side and then the other side and now here we are
  • No makeup, just my big tomato face

Things I Have Tried (Unsuccessfully) to Avoid Street Harassment

  • Looking down
  • Looking straight ahead
  • Smiling
  • Frowning
  • Resting Bitch Face
  • Walking slowly
  • Walking quickly
  • Running
  • Running & yelling combo
  • Not responding to catcalling
  • Responding to catcalling
  • Shouting “GOTTA GO! LATE FOR WORK!” and looking down at my wrist (I don’t own a watch, but fuck it)
  • Saying “I’m not your baby.” — honestly I shouldn’t call that a tactic, it’s just something that comes out of my mouth involuntarily because it’s so, so, so gross to me when a stranger calls me “baby”
  • Acting like I have a phone call
  • Crying
  • Crying & running combo
  • Trying to be one of those cool people who just sings along to their music in public like that’s acceptable
  • Drinking orange juice while walking so it seems like my face is pretty busy so ya might as well MOVE ALONG. NOTHIN’ TO SEE HERE, JUST JUICEFACE.

As pterodactyl guy starts walking toward me, I turn around to go the other way not wanting to walk into traffic, and because it looks like he’s planning to follow me if I cross Geary where we’re standing. I see the woman who was behind me has also turned around. I’ve been that woman before. Seeing another woman dealing with harassment and going, “Hey! It’s not me! Let’s keep that goin’!” and getting the hell out of there, quick as ya can, because you should be playing the lotto right now. It is YOUR DAY.

We both scurry up another block as he stands, shouting, where I left him.

“GET THE HELL BACK HERE!”

It’s not the first time someone has decided I can’t walk where I’m walking. The more frightening version was a couple of months ago when six men formed a wall, stopping me in my tracks while each claimed me as their territory/date for the night, just 50 feet from the building I exited, in which I had felt safe. Safety is much more fleeting than we like to think. I feel safe in my apartment. I feel safe in that other building. 4 blocks separate them. I pretend to be safe in those 4 blocks so that my brain doesn’t shut down, but I’m not. Sometimes I run the full 4 blocks. Sometimes I take a cab. The height of glamour: taking a cab 4 blocks. But it’s not for a glamorous reason. It’s so that no one tries to stick their hand in my vag on the sidewalk.

Knowing all this, why did I walk today? Well, the health app on my phone (WHICH I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW EXISTED UNTIL LAST WEEK AND REALLY COULD HAVE LIVED WITHOUT EVER SEEING) told me that, because I mostly sit at my computer for work, I was taking a hilariously low amount of steps per day. I started telling everyone, “Apparently, I’m deceased.” because I was getting so little exercise. So I thought I’d go for a walk today.

You know, for my health.

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