Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Getting Off on the F Train, And the Umbrella of Fury

Longtime readers are probably familiar with my frequent rants about street harassment, something that I (and thousands of other New York women) grudgingly put up with every day. Men seem to fail to understand why it's such a big deal if someone hisses "Nice ass, honey" and gives you the creepy up and down when you walk by, or honks his horn at you before making lascivious gestures with his dirty, cheese-coated tongue, or sees fit to let ya know that you're a super sexy mami and why don't you come say hi? They're COMPLIMENTS after all, right?

Today I was getting on the F train at Rock Center to go a few stops south for a meeting. As I waited for the doors to open, the man on the inside of the car gave me the eye, but whatever -- he could have been looking for the closest stairwell for all I knew. But nope, he was looking for someone to force himself on. And -- lucky, lucky day! -- it was me.

This guy had the bug-eyed visage of T-bag from Prison Break and smelled of rancid five and dime cologne, bought way back when five and dimes still existed. I waited for him to step around me so I could get on the train, as he was getting off (both literally and, apparently, figuratively).

As he stepped out of the car, he rubbed his hands across my chest and slid one back around me in an attempt to grab my ass. I yelped and lept into the car, screaming that he was a slimey creep and to get his fucking hands off of me. I'm a nice Christian lady but when a stranger tries to shove his hand in my snatch in a public place I think that Jesus himself would cheer on a counter-attack. Greasy-haired T-bag got off easy. (And one more time with the double entendres.)

I was shaken. I got off at 34th street and not one but TWO more jerks, in the space of three blocks, decided to run off their mouths with regard to my various body parts. And folks, I was not looking my best -- my jeans were soaked and baggy from the rain, my hair was pulled back in a frizzy ponytail, and I was half obscured by an umbrella anyway.

And then, the hot-dog man. The Middle Eastern hot-dog man at 32nd and 5th -- apparently not yet used to seeing women out of headscarves -- decided he absolutely had to tell me that I was looking beautiful and that I needed to come back and talk to him.

I snapped.

I turned around and, weilding a huge wet umbrella like a comical and ineffective saber, attacked the hot dog man. A stream of obsenities poured forth and I let him have it. I chased him back behind his hot dog cart, waving the steely tines of my Umbrella of Strength before me. I bet they don't do that back in Iranistan, do they? Huh? HUH?

This is probably not an effective way to deal with street harassment, and should I ever crave ketchup and pig eyeballs in a tube whilst in the vincinity of 32nd and 5th, I'm out of luck. However, there is no way to *prevent* street harassment, as far as I can tell. I told one of my male friends about the incident and he said, "Unless you can somehow stop being hot, it's just going to happen. Deal." But being ugly doesn't even help -- I get as many hollers on super-fugly days as I do on my cutest ones.

I feel like I should be able to walk down the street looking my best -- or my worst, for that matter -- without having some stranger give me his two unwanted cents or trying to reach down my (totally conservative) shirt. Street harassment makes me, and other women, feel intimidated, preyed upon and vulnerable. And since the only antidote I've ever found to it is having another man around (even if I could probably kick the harasser's ass more thoroughly than he could), I'm calling on the non-harassing men of Manhattan to step up a little. I don't need a man to protect me, but when you see someone getting tit-grabbed or worse, be a good-neighborly bystander and inquire, "Is that man bothering you?"

Or, if you have an umbrella handy, weild it with fury.

Oh, and finally? I'm getting a taser and going Veronica Mars on the next man who hassles me. The T-bags and hot dog men of the future will only WISH I had an umbrella then.


Anonymous jared said...

im proud of you. oh...and you look beautiful today.

11:43 PM  

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