Admittedly I was not paying attention.
Despite my best displays, my Irish-Catholic guilt and a compendium of things rooted firmly in the understanding that I just know better, stuck at the light at the intersection of Elston/Fullerton/Clyborn, I started checking Facebook from my phone.
The night had been invigorating; 50 women, give or take, collectively celebrating and sharing feminism and the promise to do more. “We have made so much progress but we must demand more!” Watching footage from the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference will elicit that response. How is it possible that we have come so far down the tunnel only to learn the light remains out of reach? Why do we only still make 77 percent of what men earn? Why is my personhood any of someone else’s business?
These are the things you rally around and against and through, and I find myself doing that more and more these days, not because I have a daughter, though my energy takes some of its fury from that fact. Mostly it is because as I sat at that intersection, engrossed in the evening’s subsequent pictures in my feed, two men crossed at the light, and I looked up. One of them caught my glance.
I don’t know the phenomenon that explains why, despite no triggers to the contrary, you end up locking eyes with a stranger. You know those instances? You’re minding your business, they are minding theirs, but then BOOM. Contact. It’s a fraction of a second, a speck. A hummingbird’s wing flaps more slowly.
This man was nearly on the other side of Clyborn when he shook my gaze, pulled on his friend’s jacket to stop and doubled back toward my car. He then draped his entire body across the hood of my Chevy Equinox and mouthed what may have been, “Hiiiii, baby.”
The first time some guy decided my personal space wasn’t worth respecting was in high school, when a football player, a year older than me, ran his hand up the back of my skirt and grabbed my ass. He then laughed at me when I got indignant. I didn’t stand for it, and in the pantheon of Big School Deals, it truly was one since I was at that point the only victim of this behavior who’d gone to the Dean and made a stink about it.
To this day, I remember how poorly I was treated, but the next year? BAM. Sexual harassment policy was included in the student handbook. In 1992, schools didn’t even consider such a scenario.
One of the most alarming realities of rape statistics is that you will be in a room with 50 empowered, brilliant, talented women, and at least 10 of them will have been raped. I already knew I accounted for one of the 10 so that left nine.
These are things I think about.
When it hit me that this asshole thought so little of me and my humanity, and had so much confidence in the indestructibility of his own XY chromosome pairing, that he thought nothing of lying on top of my SUV, I thought, “Oh not this shit again.”
Because for as alarming as the rape statistics are, the numbers around street harassment like this are even worse. And it is brazen, bold, narcissistic, misogynistic, microaggressions like the one splayed out on the top of my engine block this week that keep women making less money, less concerned about their autonomy and in their place.
I mean, Jesus. Who the fuck steps in front of a car?
I mouthed back, “Get off of my car, motherfucker,” and hit the gas just enough to let him know I would run him over, and I would not be the one he scared tonight. In 2015, there is still so much left to do.