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.