And then I debated whether or not to put it on Tumblr…but I decided it was important. Because in my own way, I can (unfortunately) point out exactly what is wrong with men when they don’t realize how hard it is to be a woman. How we do not have equal opportunities and freedoms in everyday life. How most men, even good caring men, have no clue what we go through on a daily basis just trying to live our lives.
So here goes.
I often ride the Metro when I commute from North Hollywood to Long Beach in order to save money. I bring a book, pointedly wear a ring on my ring finger to imply I’m married (I’m not) and keep to myself.
Without fail, I am aggressively approached by men on at least half of these commutes. The most common approach is to walk up to where I am sitting with body language that practically screams LEAVE ME ALONE and sit down next to me or as close to me as possible, when the train is not crowded and there are many empty rows. Sometimes an overly friendly arm is draped over the railing behind me, or they attempt to lean in close to talk to me as if we are old friends. Without fail, the man or boy in question will lean to close and ask me
What are you reading?
Is that a good book?
What’s that book about?
This serves the double purpose of getting my attention and trapping me in a conversation. If I stop reading the book I enjoy to talk to you, random stranger, you hit on me or just stay way too close to me. If I tell you to leave me alone, you get mad at me. Because I somehow, as a woman, owe you conversation.
Tonight when I boarded the train in Long Beach at 10:30pm, it started up right away. I was not on the train more than three minutes before three boys who looked eighteen sat in the row behind me and leaned over the seats into my personal space, close enough to breathe on me. The one with his arm draped over onto the back of my seat asked me—surprise— “what are you reading?” I went through my usual routine. I told them loudly and firmly that I wanted to be left alone to read my book. They got angry. I was told “Why are you going to be like that? I just wanted to talk!” His friends start laughing at me and they don’t move, telling me come on! and why are you gonna be like that? until I tell them to leave me the fuck alone, stand up, and move to the front of the car near the three other people on the train, a couple and a business man in a suit. They spend the next two stops shouting at me from the back of the car, alternating between trying to sound flirtatious and making fun of me, shouting “I bet she’s reading Stephanie Meyer! I bet she’s reading Twilight or some shit! You reading Twilight or some shit?”
They exit the train at the next stop, and I’m relieved. The train is going out of service at the next station, so we all exit to board a new train to Los Angeles. As we board, the business man steps aside to let me go through the door first and asks me if those guys were bothering me. I say yes, that it happens all the time, and he tells he’ll beat them up for me if they come back. He is a nice person who talks to me like I’m a human being instead of a walking pair of tits, and I make a mental note: This is how a real man talks to a woman on a train.
The business man and the couple exit our new Blue Line train an exit or so later, and I think my night is ending on a good note. A seemingly normal man enters the train with his bicycle. At this point I am three rows from the front of the car, another man was sitting near the back of the car, and the rest of the car is empty. Bicycle Man walks halfway down the row, and settles into the seat directly opposite me. Perfect, I think. Twice in one night.
It’s not the first time I’ve been bothered multiple times. As such, I’m still amped from the teenagers on the first train. So when this man leans across the aisle into my personal space and asks me, yes, what are you reading, I assertively but calmly tell him to please leave me alone, I am reading. The man stands up, moving to the front and muttering angrily over his shoulder that it isn’t his fault I’m pretty.
Yes. Exactly that. I am the bad person in this situation because somehow this is all my fault. I started this by being attractive. I am making a mental note to bitch about this to my friends later. I go so far as to write it down so I know I’m remembering it properly.
It is at this exact moment I realize Bicycle Man is not taking it well. The seemingly annoying but normal man a moment before is now talking to himself, becoming agitated. In my years of being bothered by total strangers, I have learned how to hold a book and seem to be reading while taking in everything around me. He is glaring at me, and says out loud in an angry baby talk voice “PLEASELEAVEMEALONEI’MREADING. PLEASE LEAVE ME ALOOOONE.”
Then he’s up out of his seat and things go from bad to worse. He begins pacing back and forth in front of his bike, alternating between screaming something about his mother being dead and calling me a slut, a hoe, a bitch. I am frozen in place. There is one other person in the car, and I’m not sure if trying to change seats will draw more attention to me or less. I trust my instincts and show no fear, doing my best to appear to be calmly reading my book, never once looking up to acknowledge the abuse he’s hurling at me. There are four stops left until we reach the main downtown station where there are lights and security officers. Those four stops are virtually abandoned, and I have no guarantee that leaving to wait for another train won’t motivate him to leave the train as well, leaving us potentially alone at a metro station platform just outside of Compton. I’m frozen in place, trying to plan what I’m going to do if he decides to take all this rage directly to me. I’m ready to kick him, scream, make enough noise that he panics and flees.
At this point he’s punching the walls and doors of the train, screaming at me. He stares me full in the face and screams
SUCK MY DICK, BITCH
YOU STUPID BITCH
YOU GODDAMN HO
IF I HAD A GUN I’D SHOOT YOU
I WOULD FUCKING KILL YOU BITCH
This went on for two stops. No one came to see what was happening. The man in the last row was as frozen as I was. I’m not angry he didn’t come to my defense. He was smaller, older, and frailer-looking than I was. Again, I was worried if I got up, I would be turning my back on him to walk down the aisle. In the state he was in, I had no guarantee it wouldn’t get physical, and I had more physical strength with my back to the window and feet in kicking position where I was. If he had chosen to assault me, I would only be making it easier for him by standing up and putting myself directly in his path. On and on, over and over, he screamed at me, screamed at his dead mother, screamed at me again.
The moment we reached the downtown station, I was out the door and down the stairs. I still had to catch a connecting train to North Hollywood, and made sure there was no sign of Bicycle Man before I entered the car. That’s when I finally starting shaking, and almost threw up. By the time I exited the Red Line and reached my car I could barely breathe and my heart was pounding out of my chest. Even now, in my own home, my hands are still shaking and for some reason the stress has made my back muscles feel cold and numb. From all the tension, I can only assume. I can’t eat anything, I still feel like I’m going to vomit, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t cried so much, so hard I still have the headache.
So when people (men) want to talk about “legitimate” forms of assault, tell girls they should be nice to strangers and give men the benefit of a doubt, tell them to consider it a compliment, tell them to ignore the bad behavior of men, I want them to be forced to feel, for even one minute, what it feels like to have so much verbal hatred and physical intimidation thrown at them for nothing more than being female and not wanting to share.
I just wanted to read my book.
It’s not my fault I’m pretty.
This is why I loudly and angrily berate men who are shitty to women.
This is why I stand up for women’s rights.
This is why, as a 40 year-old man, I’m starting to realize that I’m more of a feminist than I thought I was.
I remember this one time, a girl on here made a post about how she didn’t believe in gay marriage because civil unions were good enough, or something like that.
I saw the post because people I followed were reblogging it and calling her really horrible names, like homophobic cunt or bigoted piece of shit, and telling her to go fuck herself or throw herself off a bridge and die, and stuff like that. It was pretty vicious.
So I went to her page and those same type of things were being sent to her askbox and she seemed really overwhelmed, and most of all, utterly confused.
I went to her askbox and instead of telling her to kill herself, I calmly explained to her the difference between a civil union and a marriage, and why it’s not fair for gay people to be denied marriage equality. And - shocker - she had previously not known any of that! After a few more questions, she understood, and completely changed her position on the matter. She promptly made a post apologizing to people she’d offended and stated that she now understood why gay people should be allowed to get married.
But still, people kept harassing her, saying she only changed her position because people got mad at her, and that she was still homophobic and terrible and a bad person and all sorts of other really awful things that I don’t want to repeat.
I was so confused, because I saw some social justice bloggers, people who purport to desire this kind of social change, ignoring her shift in position; ignoring the great change that had taken place when someone, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, had bothered to try and educate her. What I saw then, and what I still see all the time, makes it clear that some so-called social justice bloggers don’t actually care about educating the uninformed and bringing about social change. They just want someone to scream at.
And while it’s not your duty, or anyone’s duty, to educate the uninformed, as a person privileged with education and information, doesn’t that seem like a more productive thing to do than berating the ignorant? Doesn’t that seem like the right thing to do?
Julio Diaz has a daily routine. Every night, the 31-year-old social worker ends his hour-long subway commute to the Bronx one stop early, just so he can eat at his favorite diner.
But one night last month, as Diaz stepped off the No. 6 train and onto a nearly empty platform, his evening took an unexpected turn.
He was walking toward the stairs when a teenage boy approached and pulled out a knife.
“He wants my money, so I just gave him my wallet and told him, ‘Here you go,’” Diaz says.
As the teen began to walk away, Diaz told him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.”
The would-be robber looked at his would-be victim, “like what’s going on here?” Diaz says. “He asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?’”
Diaz replied: “If you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was get dinner and if you really want to join me … hey, you’re more than welcome.
“You know, I just felt maybe he really needs help,” Diaz says.
Diaz says he and the teen went into the diner and sat in a booth.
“The manager comes by, the dishwashers come by, the waiters come by to say hi,” Diaz says. “The kid was like, ‘You know everybody here. Do you own this place?’”
“No, I just eat here a lot,” Diaz says he told the teen. “He says, ‘But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.’”
Diaz replied, “Well, haven’t you been taught you should be nice to everybody?”
“Yea, but I didn’t think people actually behaved that way,” the teen said.
Diaz asked him what he wanted out of life. “He just had almost a sad face,” Diaz says.
The teen couldn’t answer Diaz — or he didn’t want to.
When the bill arrived, Diaz told the teen, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for this bill ‘cause you have my money and I can’t pay for this. So if you give me my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.”
The teen “didn’t even think about it” and returned the wallet, Diaz says. “I gave him $20 … I figure maybe it’ll help him. I don’t know.”
Diaz says he asked for something in return — the teen’s knife — “and he gave it to me.”
Afterward, when Diaz told his mother what happened, she said, “You’re the type of kid that if someone asked you for the time, you gave them your watch.”
“I figure, you know, if you treat people right, you can only hope that they treat you right. It’s as simple as it gets in this complicated world.”
Because birth control is suddenly a religious issue. Because women can be fired for using birth control as a contraceptive. Because the benefits of no-cost or inexpensive birth control are overlooked. Because ignorance necessitates posts like this.
Because I don’t know a single woman who has not been harassed, derided, assaulted. Because I know many women and girls who have been raped. Because I’ve seen the long term, life long repercussions of sexual abuse.
Don’t tell me there isn’t a war on women. And don’t tell me the economy is more important than this. This barely scratches the surface.
Repeat after Soraya Chemaly: I am a woman and I have these human rights. The right to life. The right to privacy. The right to freedom. The right to bodily integrity. The right to decide when and how I reproduce.
I came upon these two on the sidewalk. They were having a conversation. “Excuse me,” I said, addressing the girl: “I’m sorry to interrupt, but is there anyway I can take your photo?”
“Why would you want my photo?” she asked.
“Because you look beautiful,” I said. And she did. She was Sudanese. There is a very distinct beauty among people from the Sudan, and she was filled up with it. Suddenly the man cut in:
“I was just telling her she was beautiful,” he said.
Naively, I assumed I had just walked up on one stranger giving a compliment to another. I wanted to capture the moment. “Let me take your photograph together,” I said. The man seemed reluctant, he started smiling nervously and inching away. But the girl called him back.
“Come take a picture with me,” she said. Encouraged by her attention, he returned. She put her arm around him, and I took the photo.
As I examined the photos on my camera, the man started whispering to the girl. She answered him in a loud voice: “I told you! I’m not that kind of girl.” She seemed agitated now. Finally sensing that I had misread the situation, I stepped between them. The man began hurrying down the sidewalk.
When the man left, the girl’s demeanor changed completely. She seemed shaken. Her eyes were tearing up. “He just offered me five hundred dollars to go out with him,” she said. “And then when I said ‘no,’ he offered me one thousand. Why does this always happen to me?”
“It happens a lot?” I asked.
“All the time,” she said. “I’m sorry I’m getting emotional. I just can’t go out of my house without this kind of thing happening. I have a son. I’m a mother. I would never degrade myself like that. I just don’t understand why this keeps happening.”
“Do you mind if I tell this story?” I asked.
“Please,” she said. “Tell it.”
Let’s hope this man, and all men, realize the emotional damage they are inflicting on the women they try to buy. In the meantime, feel free to SHARE.*
Dear Tumblr, fuck you for trying to erase this.
I’m saving this post because as many times as Tumblr tries to erase this woman’s story and act like anything about this was okay, that’s as many times as I’m reposting it. They can either cut me off or stop being assnuggets about this. whichEVER.
i will always reblog this. because if this woman were white, the mass-erasure of this image and story would not be happening. and that just speaks volumes to me. the bigotry that contributes to this woman’s constant harassment is the same bigotry that led to the erasure of this story in order to ‘protect’ this man. they are COMPLETELY connected. this is a vicious cycle that perpetuates anti-blackness and the degradation and silencing of black women and women of color as a whole.
oh look trubr0wn just deployed more truth bombs.
i am the truth bomb terrorist.
FUCK YOU TUMBLR. I will reblog this every god damn twelve hours. You will NOT erase this woman’s story just because HONY is a bigot who is full of shit. Tumblr staff is full of shit. They are ALL full of shit. And fuck every single one of you shitty people for thinking that you’re going to win. You will NOT.
Hey this disappeared off my tumblr how strange
anyway, here it is again, supporting this lovely lady who has to put up with this crap just because she exists and goes outside, and to call shame on a society that would actually force her to put her arm around the creep who just upped his price after she told him that she wouldn’t whore for him
Here it is, calling attention to the FACT that the aggressor, the perpetrator of this outrage was the one protected, and the victim is just supposed to disappear
To that I say no
Open season on Black women is OVER.
I’m going to back up my Tumblr.
But I just want to see if Tumblr will ignore the e-mail I just wrote to them getting unwanted messages by users I’ve told to leave me alone and will send me another e-mail about “violating copyright,” if not try to delete my blog for reblogging this picture and story that needs to be seen and heard.
I’m not claiming ownership of anything, BTW. Picture, story behind the picture, and the erasure of the picture copyrighted2012 by humansofnewyork.tumblr.com . And reblogging this picture has an educational reason behind it — to show how black women are dehumanized, and then silenced if they ever speak out.
Tumblr deleted this post from everyone’s blog. Here it is again. And people have saved copies to their computers, including me. Story’s not going away. The internet is forever.
Reblog, reblog, reblog. Though, I will say, this happens to women in general. I think women who are members of ethnic minorities get it 1000x times more often than white women. I think women who are immigrants and therefore seen as outsiders get it 1000x more often than women in their own native country. But it happens to all of us, all of the time, because we are women or percieved as women and that means that we are for sale, all of the time. Always. People think that we are for sale and that if we refuse, the issue is only how much.
I am not like this poor woman. I am not asked every day. But I am asked every few months. When some stranger asks where I’m going and I feel safer saying, “To work,” than not answering, because I work a night job they assume I am for sale but that is far from the only time.
And while I think the intersectionality of sex and gender and race plays a huge, huge, massive role in the treatment of this woman and the way tumblr has handled this post, the fact is, society believes we are all for sale and that we must always be silenced when we fight that notion.
I had this happen to me in China. I was buying a train ticket and a group of men came up to me, slapped 200 yuan (about $30 USD) on the table and said in Chinese “I want to buy you for the night” When I just glared at the group of giggling men he said “oh, is that not enough?” and put down another 5 yuan (less than $1 USD). I don’t know if they were trying to make a joke of a foreigner or if they were serious, but it was not funny. When I talked to one of my Chinese friends about it later, she said that sometimes men like to do that because they think it is funny and to just ignore it. Isn’t it just fantastic that women are taught that this is normal behavior that they just have to deal with?