Solitary Hyde-away

2:17 pm. 86 degrees Fahrenheit. I arrive at the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park after a long walk from the green line stop. I find an empty bench to sit at and start my observations.

2:19 pm. All the buildings around me look old. Some are made of red bricks, others of grey stone, all have ivy crawling up the sides. I think they’re magnificent and beautiful.

2:24 pm. Two older asian people sit on a bench near me, chatting. One of them has extremely bright blue shoes on with neon yellow laces that stand out against the rest of his clothing, which are all darker.

2:25 pm. A girl in a flowered dress walks by, talking loudly with the guy next to her about how much she loves this weather (Sound #1).

2:29 pm. A girl rides an old-looking mint-green bicycle through the area in front of the bookstore. It has a little brown basket on the front. The bike looks like it could be straight out of an old movie.

2:32 pm. The squeaky, squishy sound of flip-flops passes by, worn by a dark-haired kid in shorts and a t-shirt (sound #2).

2:37 pm. Three students walk by, chatting quickly.

2:40 pm. I hear a bird chirping close by. I look around for a few seconds and finally find it in a tree behind a bench with people on it (sound #3).

2:44 pm. There’s people sitting at the table outside, eating, talking. One couple sits across from each other on their phones. They don’t speak to each other, both of them immersed in whatever fills the screens in front of them.

2:49 pm. A green and yellow John Deere gator drives by on my left. It hums and grumbles, crunching leaves as it rolls out onto the street (sound #4).

2:55 pm. A guy walks by; he’s an odd sight. He wears a dark blue floral button down shirt, with bright pink shorts, and has huge blue headphones over his ears, blocking out the sound around him.

2:57 pm. Two girls walk out of the bookstore, one of them laughing really hard, holding on to her friend for support because she’s laughing so hard (sound #5).

2:59 pm. The food trucks on the street behind me restart their engines, getting ready to leave after the lunch rush hours (sound #6).

3:04 pm. The wind blows the crunchy fallen leaves around on the bricks, making loud crinkly noises (sound #7).

3:06 pm. Saw a close friend of my and decided to leave my spot on the bench to take a walk with her.

In “Walking After Midnight,” Solnit described how gender has affected the ability to walk in the city in many ways. As Solnit wrote about, it was strongly disapproved of for women to walk in the city alone in the late 1700s through the 1800s. If a woman was seen walking alone, it was assumed she was a prostitute. Men were able to walk throughout the city whenever they wanted, for any reason, but women were not. There was also a double standard because it was socially acceptable for men to sleep around with other women and speak sexually to women walking by on the street, but if a woman was caught walking alone in the street, she was considered dirty, scandalous, and looking for trouble. Walking is supposed to be a pleasurable public interaction with a city, but instead women walk in constant fear of being sexually assaulted or harassed. An issue that perpetuates this society of sexual violence and assault, is the idea that the women are responsible for what happens to them. The media often portrays the women as being at fault, saying that they dress in a promiscuous way or walk in a way that encourages men, which is untrue. Because of this, walkers, especially women, are fearful when they walk in the city.