This shit is bananas (and not in a good way)

This is not exactly related to boxing in general or my training regimen in particular except insofar as I was on my way to the gym when it happened, and I deeply regret not beating the crap out of the guy who did it. (I’m still perfectly in control of my impulses, folks.)

Monday morning, 6:30 a.m. I’m on the downtown 6, heading to my gym at 59th Street. The train is ridiculously crowded for the early hour, and everybody’s packed in pretty tightly. I feel something brushing up against me in an unwanted way, so I shove over as much as I can. The brushing-up-against continues, a little harder, a little more focused. Again, the train is crowded, so I can’t tell where it’s coming from, but it’s really starting to feel deliberate. Finally, as I move to get off at 59th Street, the guy next to me looks directly at me, leers at me, and says, “great ass.”

On the rare occasions that some level of sexual harassment does happen to me, there’s always a minute where I’m never quite sure that what I think just happened actually happened. But looking into that guy’s ugly face (and yes, it was ugly, because anybody who’d do this to a stranger is ugly), there wasn’t any mistaking what I’d heard. There wasn’t time to whip out my camera or anything like that. My options were a) ignore him, b) punch him, or c) respond with an obscenity. I briefly considered b) and then opted for c) (no sense hurting my hand and/or getting arrested for assault and somehow inadvertently becoming the Bernie Goetz of hollaback girls*), did cleansing yoga breaths all the way to the gym, and then ran some really hard sprints to try to get the horrible incident out of my system altogether.

Like I said, this is not something that happens to me very often – in fact, I think it happens to me a lot less often than it does to most women. I’ve never been exactly sure why this is except that I’m a lot taller and bigger than most women, and especially lately as I’ve gotten more muscular, I have to think I’m a little intimidating. I’m neither overly attractive nor overly unattractive by the good ol’ arbitrary societal beauty standard, so I don’t think that has anything at all to do with it.

In fact, I don’t actually think there’s any way to conclusively find some aspect of me that keeps me relatively free (though not immune) from unwanted sexual attention. There’s nothing you can say, do, wear, or be to make you totally immune to it, because it’s not anything women are saying, doing, wearing, or being that causes it. I’ve been harassed in jeans and an oversized sweatshirt. I’ve been harassed in a short skirt and high heels. I’ve been harassed in a giant puffy ski coat. And now I’ve been harassed in knee-length basketball shorts and a racer-back tank top while holding a gym bag. I’ve been harassed while impeccably groomed and I’ve been harassed with unwashed, uncombed hair and no makeup. I’ve been harassed at 210 pounds and I’ve been harassed at 155 pounds, with and without glasses, with and without long hair. I’ve been harassed at 14 and at 30.

My experience is hardly atypical. On Thursday, Jezebel posted a survey asking people to relay their experiences with street harassment, and the results were all over the map. Bottom line, you can go out in a full length down parka with a bag over your head and not eliminate the chance that someone will decide to try and degrade you by turning you into their sexual object. It does not matter what you look like or how you present yourself. It’s not about that at all. It’s about power, and about anger, and about disrespect, and it’s definitely NOT about you.

This has been said a hundred times by a hundred people who say it much better than I do, but it needs to be said again and again to anybody who’s ever gone through this kind of thing: it is not your fault you were harassed. What you were wearing does not make you more or less culpable. The fault rests entirely on the shoulders of the dirtbag who’s harassing you. ENTIRELY.

And anybody who tells you you asked for it, or you should be flattered, can kiss my great ass. For serious.

*or do I mean non-hollaback-girls? I could never figure that song out. I’ve asked wikipedia and I still don’t know for sure. Note: I don’t actually care. So don’t feel like you have to comment and explain it.

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2 Responses to This shit is bananas (and not in a good way)

  1. Archelon says:

    I think you’re right, that this does have to be said as many times as people are willing to say it. I’m sorry that happened to you. It sounds like you dealt with it well, and I hope that it isn’t affecting you negatively.

    On a minor side note, you said “and yes, it was ugly, because anybody who’d do this to a stranger is ugly”.

    Um… I’m ugly. I may be a beautiful flower on the inside, but on the outside? Not so much. And that’s something I’m okay with- I got other things going on- but I don’t really like it when people equate ugly with bad/unkind/antisocial.

    • Pink Pearl says:

      It’s not my intent to marginalize the nation’s ugly people with that statement, just to emphasize a fallacy you hear often when this kind of thing happens: namely, that if the perpetrator had been attractive, I might not have considered it harassment, or I might have welcomed it. But anybody who would say or do something like that is unattractive, inside and out, full stop. I’m sorry if I used a term you identify with in a way that you found unwelcome to phrase this.

      On the other hand, I don’t believe “attractive” has anything to do with it on HIS end, because I don’t think the act actually had anything to do with how attractive I was. The guy wanted to wield power and privilege, and he wanted me to feel violated. He didn’t want me to be attracted to him.

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