Thursday, June 16, 2005

living in fear

I walk down the street, I look down at the ground, I never make eye contact, and most importantly, I never smile. I don’t want to encourage them or make them think I’ve noticed them. I somehow think that will keep them from saying anything. It never does. I still hear, “hey! Come back here! I want to talk to you!” “where you going baby?” “you have a good day now.” “you’re gorgeous baby.” “I’d like to take my dick and stick it in you, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” “you should let me fuck you hard, baby.” I refuse to respond to these comments. I want to run away from them. But then I hear, “what, you too good to stop and talk?” “you should say thank you, bitch!” “where you going? I’m trying to talk to you?!”

And all of them act like I’m a bitch because they were “just trying to be nice.” “no. no you’re not,” I want to say to them. Did they say hello to the guy that just walked by? How about that overweight girl? How about that older woman? Hell, how about the tall skinny girl? They see i’m diminutive, they feel some kind of power over me, they see I have breasts (no matter how loose-fitting the clothing), and they think they can harass me. They pretend they’re complimenting me, when we both know they’re humiliating me, they’re objectifying me, they’re degrading me.

What bothers me the most is that these men are always minorities. I’m uncomfortable talking about race. I’m certain it has something to do with a disconnect with my own status as a person of mixed race. I hate feeling a fear of minority men just walking down the street. It’s never a fear of violence, but a fear of what is the imminent violation of my womanhood in a deeply personal, though non-physical, way. Why would anybody think it was okay to do this? When they see women like me, who keep their heads down, and are obviously bothered by it, afraid of it? Not a single day goes by that I don’t get a handful of degrading comments tossed at me. Not a single day goes by that I don’t pray for silence every time I pass a man whose eyes I feel on me.

I was leaving my building and I hear a hispanic accent, “you so beautiful baby! Hey baby, where you going?” and like always, I keep my head down and quicken my pace. I hear, “hey yasmeen, stop!” in a peppier, more girly voice. It was my door guy, the cutest gay Puerto Rican ever, Ceasar. I turn around and relief swept over me. i started yelling, “oh my god, it’s you! Don’t do that! Do you have any idea what I put up with every day!” and he giggles, like always, and when he sees how exasperated I am he apologizes. It has happened to me before. I have a hyper-sensitivity while I’m walking down the street. I see a figure. I know he’s looking at me. It’s drizzling and I lower my umbrella to try to cover my face so he’ll stop looking at me. I hear a voice say, “hey!” and his arm reaches out to touch me. I jumped and hit him with my umbrella. It’s danny. A security guard I know at a Lincoln center building (where a friend works and where I often meet her for lunch) was walking by me and was trying to say hello and I almost beat him down, assuming he was one of them.

When I was in 4th grade I had stayed at school late. We were building bridges out of popsicle sticks. We were having a contest to see whose could hold the most weight. I had mine in a big box and was walking back to the babysitter’s house, where I would wait for my mother to get home from work. A white man with blond hair in a ponytail was fixing his bike on the sidewalk. I walked around him and half a block later he was riding down the street at a slow pace. I heard him say, “little girl…little girl would you like to touch my penis?...hey…did you hear me? Would you like to touch my penis?” terrified, I started running with my box, my backpack strapped tight, to my sitter’s house. She went off in her car to find him but never did.

I blame that white man for making me afraid of half the men in this city today. Though I’ll never appreciate the comments, I think they’d roll off my back a lot easier had that day in 4th grade not been seared into my memory.

29 people who played with me:

Blogger Jon said...

I’ll be honest with you, I really don’t understand people sometimes. Most of the time, I would like to know where they are coming from, but not in this case I hope I never understand why guys would make comments like that. And who exactly are the whores that these lines are working on? “Yup, I met my wife on the street one day when I asked her to touch my penis. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be the happiest man in the world right now. I’ll admit, I was hesitant at first, but once the words were out there, I guess I just let my charm do the rest.” And everyone would be like, “Awe, that’s so sweet! He asked you to touch his penis? I wish my guy were half the romantic yours is. You are one lucky lady!” some world we live in, huh?

6/16/2005 11:24 PM  
Blogger Nadia said...

Jon: LMAO.

Jazz: I wish I had written that. I didn't have the same 4th grade experience, but I have had a variation of it at several points throughout my life. Fear is controlling our lives and I hate that. I hate not even being able to walk around in a damn mall without being conscious of men, especially those of a certain race, leering at me. It's not physical, but it sure as hell is personal.

6/16/2005 11:53 PM  
Blogger JustJunebug said...

I feel your pain. Not so much now, I say as "an older woman", but it still happens. I get disgusted as well. Reading your entry tonight made me sad for you. I walk with my head high...until I see that person walking towards me. And then the head goes down. No one should have to do that. Ever.

6/17/2005 1:20 AM  
Blogger @ said...

Jasmine,

It's so very unfortunate that you had to deal with that kind of thing as a child..and now as an adult.

That piece was beautfully written and so honest. It takes guts to be honest.

6/17/2005 1:21 AM  
Blogger Digitalicat said...

4th grade? Damn. I'm so sorry you had to go through that.

You know, if your clothes are baggy enough, you could probably hide a side-handle baton inside your shirt. That just might solve a lot of problems, you giving random strangers a Rodney King beating for looking at you funny.

6/17/2005 1:28 AM  
Blogger jac said...

That is the most frankest statement I have seen on a post for a long time. True that the incident in child hood scared you. I apolagise on their behalf as I am a minority myself by colour, but outside your country.

6/17/2005 3:05 AM  
Blogger cadiz12 said...

jazz, i'm so sorry.

i had a very similar incident when i was walking home from school in third grade. my usual buddy had gone home sick from school. these two guys in a red pickup drove slowly alongside me, cooing at me to try and get in their truck. they didn't say anything about touching anything, but i don't think i've ever run so fast in my life.

i'm constantly sizing up every person i see in the street as how much of a threat they are, too, but i look nearly all of them in the eye.

jasmine, you shouldn't have to put up with this bullshit. maybe try looking the mfs in the eye and ask them what the F* they want. that'll make them shut up. and if you're loud enough to embarrass them, it'll at least make them think twice before trying again.

6/17/2005 3:34 AM  
Blogger Katie said...

I think saying F*** is a bad idea, based on the things they could do with that word, but I agree with staring things (they're not human to me) down. Nothing is stronger than a glare, and it shows those bastards that you are more than a dimunitive woman to be objectified. I believe it took guts to post this, and as a woman with the same sort of fear (slightly different, not racial, but men across the board) I'm quite touched. I have my own stories... but I won't go into that.

I'm very sorry that happened to you in fourth grade. I can't tell you how angry it makes me.

6/17/2005 6:01 AM  
Blogger jinius said...

Maybe you'll feel some reassurance knowing that you're not alone and that unfortunately it happens to alot of women. I got harassed every morning by the bus dispatcher everytime i got on the M15 bus. It wasnt anything too sleazy. "You're beautiful" or just a long, uncomfortable gaze. But the point is it was inappropriate. 2 calls to MTA and scores of email complaints later, I can now ride the bus w/o having to hear him say anything. Silence is nice.

6/17/2005 9:17 AM  
Blogger mrsmogul said...

I hate when they the hispanics go, "MOMMY" Like ewww why would you call me that?

6/17/2005 9:26 AM  
Blogger Stephen said...

A few random comments:

1. I think it's more a class thing than a race thing. Although the fact that there is a correlation between the two is another problem. It's a question of whether or not a boy's father instills in him the necessity to respect others in society. And, sadly, I feel that there is a better chance that this respect will not be passed along if the boy is raised in a poorer household. This behavior is far to prevalent in today's society.

2. This makes some women put up such a defense that it makes it so difficult to talk to them. I know that this is overstated, and I don't want to sound cliche or call myself a "good guy". But this type of behavior makes it difficult for a girl to believe that a random "you're beautiful" is just a compliment, not just a guy pining for a piece of ass.

Great blog, although this post has been a bit sobering. It's a shame you have to deal with guys like that.

6/17/2005 9:59 AM  
Blogger Hermes said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/17/2005 10:48 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

Wow, I can't believe people(I believe it happens in New York, the city is awesome, people up there, not so much), but a guy on his bike? I find myself wondering how someone can justify to themselves, much less, others, saying or doing something like that.

Sorry it had to happen to you. I agree with Katie about keeping your head up. Make eye contact and some(not all unfortunately) of them would definitely not have the balls to say things like that if they had to look you in the face. For the ones who keep talking, I would think if you kept your head up(you don't have to respond or even look in their direction) you might not feel as defeated as you sound like you do.

Fear is always going to be there in certain situations, try not to let it rule you. People are animals, after all, and they can sense it.

6/17/2005 11:18 AM  
Blogger Andy said...

It sucks to have to put up idiots all the time. You just have to remember how stupid these people are and how crude and useless is their existence.

There's not really anything you can do about it because if you acknowledge them it'll only encourage them. Just keep your head up and try not to be afraid. These guys are harmless and will only do damage to you (mentally) if you let them.

For other more physcial occassions I recommend mace...or a mace, whichever you prefer.

6/17/2005 11:51 AM  
Blogger Ale said...

Jasmine girl!! I GOT SOMETHING FOR YOU TO TRY ON THESE BASTARDS:

next time some one is trying to say something to you or just staring at you nastily... START PICKING YOUR NOSE very exhibitionally... with great care making sure you reach all the way into your nostril... than use another hand even... you can also stick your etire hand in your mouth and pretend that you are trying to get something that is stuck in the back tooth....or... pick an imaginable wedgy in a VERY unsexy way....

I totaly do that, and you hear how they go from "hey sexy baby... blabla... to EWWWWWWWW" and thats where it end.

you don't have to be in fear, they're trying to gross you out, well GROSS THEM OUT RIGHT BACK!!!!

once in a while, I'll turn around and say: "so you like looking at me huh!?, keep looking you shit-head, keep watching me as I pull snot out of my nose!!!!" - but that's only if I'm super angry that day, after they see you pick your nose, or your teeth, you dont even need to say anything.

next time try it, and you'll laugh at how fast they'll stop

6/17/2005 12:57 PM  
Blogger R. U. Serious said...

You know, guys like that drive me nuts. I miss the days when a father or an older brother would go kick someone's ass for being so crude. Actually, I am too young to really remember those days, but they sound better.

Damned If I Know

6/17/2005 2:11 PM  
Blogger pentopaper said...

I hate this. HATE this. It happens everywhere and unfortunately, the majority of the time it is a minority. And I want to yell, "Don't you know you're contributing to the stereotype!" There's one episode of Sex in the City when Miranda starts yelling some obsenities back to an over zealous construction worker. Men don't know how to take it. Not that I'm suggesting you do that b/c it could be dangerous. But sometimes you get to that breaking point. In a psych class we learned pervs get off on the fear. One girl in class said she saw a man watching her from outside her house playing with his you-know-what. The psych professor said in a situation like that you should POINT AND LAUGH. It humiliates them and they are no longer turned on. And then, of course, you should call the police. Don't think calling NYPD would help much. But where I live the cops have enough time to go after sick people like that and at least patrol the area more often.

6/17/2005 2:19 PM  
Blogger jazz said...

to all: thank you thank you for your concern and comments (ale, i'm DEF trying it next time. that is AMAZING). i don't want anyone to feel sorry for me, at all. beyond that 4th grade thing, this is something that ALL women have to deal with and i absolutely agree with stephen that the correlation is about race, but more importantly, CLASS. i didn't mention it but i live within a few blocks of a housing project, which is where i get most my harrassment in a day walking to and from school.

i never really thought about them sensing the fear and being able to control it that way. i've just always been afraid. and re: the 4th grade incident, i should be grateful that i wasn't hurt, that he didn't try to touch me, and that i'm not one of the millions of people who were abused when they were little. talk about real scarring...

this is something i think about every day, but it doesn't weigh me down all the time. it's something i notice most when i leave the city or when, like i mentioned in my post, i become so afraid of someone i know who is just being playful or trying to say hello (not realizing the full effect it can have).

sorry to post such a downer, next post will be happier. i promise! ;)

6/17/2005 2:34 PM  
Blogger jazz said...

also, to put new york in context, it helps to walk looking down at the ground b/c otherwise you risk stepping in dog doodoo. it never pays to walk with your head too high in new york city...nobody ever cleans up that shit!

6/17/2005 2:37 PM  
Blogger Former Intern Andy said...

I saw that a few times while I was walking around with girls in NY. It's pretty insane, I must say.

And it's funny because they said the exact same things you are experiencing. So, not only are these guys socially defficient, they're completely unoriginal. And if I was a girl, getting the constant cat calls, that's what would bother me most of all. The unoriginality. :)

6/17/2005 6:38 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Problem is with new york it ain't just dog shit. but good point about looking down.

6/17/2005 9:26 PM  
Blogger Al Sayf said...

That's kinda sad what happened to you at such an early age. You being traumatised by it is really justified. I've heard really bad ones where the abusers are actually related. How does one deal with that? They (the abusers) can come back anytime they want for the simple fact that they are related. And most of these cases are not even reported. People can be really sick these days.
Anyway, considering what you have to always go through, I strongly suggest that you keep a pepper spray handy at all times. Take care.

6/18/2005 1:15 AM  
Blogger MEP said...

Lady, dog poop or not, I think that you should hold your head up as high as you want and just walk like you own your space. I think the commenter who mentioned them sensing fear and enjoy it. If you keep your head up, pay no attention to if, and keep walking, they lose all of their power b/c they might as well have said nothing - it had no impact on you whatsoever.

Good luck girl and keep walking.

6/18/2005 1:17 AM  
Blogger Hermes said...

i-pod = eyes down + no poop + inability to hear crude, rude men.

6/18/2005 2:28 AM  
Blogger Mister Underhill said...

That's creepy as hell, that last bit.

6/18/2005 4:13 AM  
Blogger jazz said...

hermes: i LOVE the ipod. seriously. i think i love it more than people.

6/18/2005 11:20 AM  
Blogger shake said...

hey- I just randomly started reading your blog and i love it!!

i go to NYU, so I completely know what you're talking about. The worst is when they are in a car so they can like slowly follow you down a block. No matter what it scares the crap out of me. This year on St. Patrick's Day a guy followed me home from a bar, and had one of my friends not saved me it could have been really bad.

Basically it sucks to be a woman (in that aspect anyways). My biggest fear is that one day the guy heckling me on the street will be the same guy who followed me home.

Anyways, thanks for writing about this, I think it's really important that people are aware that what may seem like little comments are really a big deal.

6/18/2005 6:44 PM  
Blogger kaiyareturns said...

Wow, I completely relate to what you've posted... and having issues with the minority crowd of which, I've basically learned to just keep casual and just give the "what's up" before they can say anything nasty.

What's so obnoxious is that you could be sitting infront of someone in the subway and they will start talkign to you as if you should be assuming they are talking to you (YOUR BACK).
and if you keep ignoring the "hey what's ups..." you seriously feel like you're gonna get jumped soon, with all the "what you think you're too good or something?"

whenever i'm in nyc i notice the cat calls & comments starting from the taxi driver that's taking you from the airport and from then on... the attention is not necessarily negative...

i definately get a couple asshole comments here and there (like for no reason) standing on a balcony and getting called "SLUT!" (w/finger pointed at you said in NAZI fashion) by some guy waiting on the street below and its night time and i'm wearing a tank and jeans.

but you just have to remember it's them not you. but the fear thing... it's a vicious cycle. the more they do, the more fearful you are, the more fearful you are, the more they prey...

i guess it's why we develop the BITCH FACE. the I COULD BREAK YOU FACE. It sucks b/c it's so negative, but it's the only way to survive!?

BTW, ale, cadiz, r and i were in rome, where there were plenty of times to bring out the *nose picking*. or picking teeth works just as well. we'd see guys coming and be like "quick! quick!, pick your teeth!$!#!!!" just to try to divert any more attention...

6/19/2005 2:46 PM  
Blogger savina habanero said...

Trick them, I say! Point at something behind them (eyes wide and jaws dropped optional) to divert their attention, then walk away like nothing happened. Anyone stupid enough to degrade himself by trying to degrade you will be left confused, and you get the last laugh, love.

6/22/2005 7:15 AM  

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