Why hadn’t I yelled, or elbowed him? The truth is, I thought for a moment I might be crazy, that I was making it all up.
This kind of thing happens to women all the time, be it physical groping or a sort of verbal groping. When I worked at a coffeeshop, one customer consistently commented on my body until one day I excused myself to go cry in the office upstairs. My employer suggested we not respond to comments like those in case we lost those customers, but my coworker stood up for me anyway.
“You have a wife and children,” she told the man. “Stop saying disgusting things like that.” Sure enough, he never came back.
After leaving customer service, I didn’t really hear those kinds of comments anymore (at least, not in a civilized setting; the occasional disheveled and most likely dirty passerby yelling “Who wears short shorts?” sucks, but it’s easier to pass off because, well, they’re probably crazy). The other week, however, it happened when I went to Tekserve to get my computer fixed.
I asked the gentleman who was giving out tickets where the bathroom was, and when I came back, I asked him where I should wait until my number was called. ”In my pants,” he said, smirking.
His friend was standing next to him, and I kind of laughed, not really registering how offended I was. It was only after I walked away that I thought to say something. But I wanted to appear easygoing, not like the rabid feminist that can’t take a lyric like Ludacris’ “She’s a lady in the street/ But a freak in the bed.” Plus he had really nice eyes, so I permitted myself to think it was okay. Maybe he was flirting.
Seriously, though, what made him think it was anywhere near appropriate to say something like that to me? The worst part is that I felt bad for being offended and then I felt worse for not responding when my friends reacted, saying I should have stood up for myself.
The subway perp in the article was arrested, but less extreme harassment in supposedly civilized settings is still all too permissible. We need to find a balance between telling a woman there was nothing she could do, as the officer told the subway rider, and telling women that yes, there is something you can do.