The other day, two men were walking around my neighborhood. They were white males, average height/weight (5'11 or 6', 170+), mid to late 40s; one carried a clipboard.
As Avery and I were walking down Richmond Street to meet up with friends, the men yelled at me from across the street, saying they wanted to "ask me a question" -- something I associate with those infuriating guys who used to ask women if they wanted a free haircut! So... suspicious, hesitant to speak with them, I replied by asking what, specifically, they wanted to talk about (and I slowed down, but kept walking).
Then one of them shouted, FURIOUSLY, "Well, if you'd stop WALKING, we could F***ING ask you!!" -- mind you, Avery is six paces ahead of me.
I was stunned, but then immediately I was afraid. I wanted to yell at him; tell him to go F-himself. But I didn't. He was only a few feet away at this point, outweighed me by 40 lbs, and of course he had a bud', right? Outweighed and outnumbered, I wasn't going to give him a piece of my mind, I wasn't going to do anything; and he knew it. I turned away, and kept walking.
It was not just the use of the F-bomb (which I've been known to drop), but at the aggression directed towards me, that has disturbed me since. Such ANGER -- simply because I wasn't being a "nice girl", stopping what I was doing, to let these guys talk to me.
When I got to Mara's house, I told her what had happened, and she (accompanied by her large German Shepherd, Lucky) ran after them, found out what they were doing (they were "developers, looking for properties to flip") and she gave them a piece of her mind. (Having no large dog, and not being 6'0 and in incredible shape (as Mara is!)... I admit, I was too afraid to do what Mara did, though I'm incredibly grateful that she did it.)
Then, I posted the incident on EveryBlock, to make neighbors aware -- and while 99% of the replies were supportive, one guy piped up to say it was "the most boring post of 2014".
YES. Yes, isn't it BORING? It's SO boring to feel unsafe in your own neighborhood. It's SO AVERAGE to feel that, at any moment, an entitled white guy can treat you like trash, in front of your own child, and you're not supposed to do or say anything in your defense. It's so pedestrian; so banal. And that is the problem. THAT IS THE PROBLEM. It happens every day. To women, everywhere. It's as boring as a cat-call. It's as snoozeville as that singer or football player who hits his girlfriend. It's as work-a-day as the image of the subservient nymph hugging the kneecap of the guy riding the sharks in the SharkWeek ads.
It's totally NORMAL. And that's why it's SO DISTURBING.
To be a woman in our society means you are automatically at a disadvantage, physically -- and that's all that counts, to certain people. Size. Strength. Two of them, one of me, both outweighed me by 30+ pounds -- of course I didn't give them a piece of my mind. I was at risk of violence, in that moment. I didn't want my child be afraid -- for himself, or for me. I didn't want to get hit. I didn't want to be sexually assaulted. IT WAS BROAD DAYLIGHT, IN MY OWN NEIGHBORHOOD.
You'd think, at 39 years of age, something like this would just roll off my back. I have a good life; my body is able, I have a sweet, loving husband and an adorable child, I have a decent job, and a full creative plate, and the best friends; I'm lucky. So why should I care about that moment? Why am I thinking about it, days later? Why, when it's so BORING?
Because, in that moment, I was not being treated as a PERSON. THAT is not banal. It's not boring. It's not work-a-day. I'm a person. Purposeful dehumanization of one another is not okay.
We do not live in a society which values women as people. NOT YET. But by teaching our children better; by speaking out about these kinds of events; by spreading understanding... perhaps one day we will.