Last night around 2am I was walking home from work (two blocks. Two blocks, guys.) and as I was crossing an intersection, two girls about my age were crossing as well. Two guys on the other side of the street (the street I was walking towards) started yelling, loudly, at these two girls to “come home with them!” and “turn around!” and when these girls put their heads down and picked up their pace (a built-in response I and I’m sure most women are all too familiar with), the two men rolled their eyes, said something about how they “weren’t that pretty anyway,” and turned away.
At this point in time, I was halfway across the intersection when I passed these two girls. I asked them if they thought they would be alright getting home, if they’d like me to walk with them to make sure they’re safe. They said no, that they would be okay, but that it was sweet of me to ask. I kept walking.
I made it to the other side of the street when the two guys saw me next.
“Hey sexy, turn around!”
“Come home with us, come home with us! Let’s have a good time baby!”
“Why you look so sad? Come talk to us, stop walking!”
I had the same instinctual response as the two girls I had just passed: keep my head down, walk faster, don’t make eye contact. They repeatedly yelled things like, “come over here, come home with us!” I yelled back, NO.
That is when they turned around and started following me, about 15 feet behind.
At this point, the taser that my dad bought me for Christmas last year is out of my purse, out of its case, and in my hand. I started walking even faster, called a friend, and told her I needed to be on the phone with someone until I got home.
They stopped following me and turned around after about a block once they saw me on the phone. I made it home safely and notified the security guards in my building about the situation so they could keep an eye out for these men.
But I am angry.
I am angry that this is not the first time I have been followed home before, and that it probably won’t be the last.
I am angry that I live in a society where girls are conditioned from the age of 15 to walk with their car keys clenched between their fingers, in case they are in need of a weapon.
I am angry that one of the best Christmas presents I have ever received was a taser from my dad, who knew that once I moved into the city on my own, I would need a better form of protection than just car keys. I am angry that my parents have to worry about their little girl like this at all.
I am angry that it is innate, instinctual, almost mechanical that I know to walk faster and to stare straight ahead in these situations, to avoid interaction at all costs.
I am angry that there have been instances, some more traumatic than others, in my short 19 years of life when “NO” wasn’t enough. I am angry that there are too many of these instances to count, and yet, each and every one of them is forever engraved in my memory in immaculate detail. I am angry that “NO” should have been enough.
Yes, it was two men that followed me home tonight and yes, in my own personal experiences, it has been men that have assaulted, degraded, and nearly broken me in the past, but let me make one thing clear:
The stereotype that “all men are pigs” is disgusting, and that is NOT what this rant is about. Men are assaulted, men are beaten, men are harassed, and that is something that is gravely overlooked. While my personal experiences with assault and harassment have been by men, there are also many men I have met in my life that are kind, respectful, and genuine. To say that “all men are the same” is ignorant and naive.
At the same time however, I believe there is a universal sense of responsibility women all over the world share; an unspoken understanding that we need to protect and look out for one another at all costs, because we have all experienced the fear of walking home alone late at night, of seeing the heads turn and eyes follow us out of our peripheral vision as we pass by, when they think we don’t notice. We have all experienced the catcalling, the objectification, the groping by unfamiliar hands, the “what were you wearing?” questions. We all know.
I am angry. Not that last night displayed a lack of mutual respect from men to women or vice versa, but because it displayed a lack of mutual respect from human beings to human beings.
I am not a booty call, I am not an object, and I am not a doll whose sole purpose is satisfying the sexual desires of others, available at their disposal.
I deserve to be respected. Women deserve to be respected. Men deserve to be respected. Human beings deserve to be respected by their own damn species.
So I am unapologetically angry, and I will continue to keep my hand on my taser when walking alone, and I will continue to keep my head down and eyes forward, and I will continue to protect my fellow women, men, and humans as best I can.
But I will always be angry.