I’ve been debating whether or not to join in on the #yesallwomen conversation. Mainly because I don’t want my mother or family to worry that I am off living in an unsafe land where I am not in full control of my well being.
But after numerous events – both good and bad – over this past week I feel that it’s my duty as not only a woman, but as an entrepreneur of a body positive, women forward company – to say something.
Very often – almost daily – I am publicly accosted or harassed in some fashion. 85% of those times – I head back to report it to my significant other. The other 15% I keep to myself – to spare him. His reaction is always a mixed bag of anger and concern. I don’t want to make him paranoid – but I know he worries about me each time I leave the house.
The fact of the matter is – the only times I feel safe, at peace, and relaxed in public are when I am either escorted by him, my 70 lb pitbull, or a group of many friends. The fact that of the matter is – I get dressed, feel confident and great about myself, and the second I step outside I feel my invisible guard go up immediately. I see almost every man as a potential threat. I am constantly wondering who will be the first to harass me.
On my way to a launch party for an amazing woman forward brand – I was accosted by a drunk man on the train. It was 6 pm – the train was full of people – women and men alike. No one did a thing. No one said a thing. And while I was not scared of this man in that I thought he might harm me physically – he was totally intoxicated and half my size – he was invading my personal space. He leered and leaned over me in my seat. When I got up to escape him, he followed me. And as I faced away from him and anxiously waited for the doors to open – he was so close to my back that I could feel the brim of his hat. He slurred phrases at me in Spanish, sprinkled with telling me “I love you” in English. The only phrase I was giving in return was “get away from me.” He did not. And as I felt his hat press against my back I turned and yelled, “Get. Away. From. Me.” in his face as a man stood next to me and did nothing. Everyone on this train saw and heard, and no one spoke up. More people stop me when I trip and fall on the sidewalk then when my life is possibly being threatened right in front of them.
On the way home from another women empowering event – I walked towards the train with a female friend. We approached a group of young, men – possibly homeless – but clearly wandering on their own accord. Inside, we both sensed they were planning something. And as she stepped off the sidewalk and into the street to avoid them – I continued on confidently – only to have one of them take a fake fall and land, face up, on the ground in front of me – head pointed right at my skirt. I moved away and not so kindly told him my common phrase – “get away from me” as he sputtered out “you’re drop dead gorgeous” – what an ingenious pun. As it became clear that I was not impressed or interested, but instead irritated – he quickly flipped his approach and called me “the prettiest transvestite he’s ever seen.” And as my friend and I walked on, and I flipped him a not so friendly hand signal – he then identified us as “sex and the city sluts.”
We walked away from the situation ranting about how common this occurrence is – and how incredibly unfair it is that we are not deemed, by strange men, worthy of the dignity to simply walk down the street – to breathe the same air and be left to live our lives safely. An older woman about 10 feet ahead, heard our rant and commended us on our anger. She was happy to see young women taking a stand. And while that felt slightly encouraging – again – where was the reaction, or aid, from anyone around us at the time?
This is New York City. The city does not sleep – and neither do it’s residents. But no one stops to speak for those whose lives are being threatened or in the very least, impeded on. So #yesallwomen – because, to quote a male friend of mine, the number of women you know who have been sexually harassed is not zero.
#Yesallwomen – because every single time I walk alone in this city, I am on guard – I am looking out – I am patiently waiting for the next man to decide I am not worthy of occupying his sidewalk.
Because I wear a faux wedding band in case a man decides that my disinterest is not enough of a reason to leave me be – and instead, he needs to hear that I in some way “belong” to another man. That – he can respect, but me – he can not. Because the fact that I am wearing a skirt in the summertime – or any time – is not a reason for a man to address his thoughts about my body – aloud, rudely, and in public.
Because when I don’t say thank you – or god forbid, do not smile – to what can be classified as nothing but street harassment – I am immediately labeled as a bitch or slut. Because these men believe that I owe them something by purely being alive – that I got dressed for them this morning – and that obviously, I must be dying for their attention.
Because no – #notallmen are awful creatures, walking the streets and making women feel unsafe (I live with and love one who is the furthest from) but because #yesallwomen have to defend the idea that their bodies belong to them and no one else. And that their right to be safe is not a privilege to be given – but a necessity to be had.