for those who still don’t get it

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yesterday i came home after a hot, sweaty, truly exhausting 12-hour day. i’d been wearing work-approved corduroy pants in the 85 degree humid heat, and when i got home, i wanted nothing more than to sit around in my underwear for a few minutes before toiling some more on the house. i thought i was allowed to do what i want in the privacy of my own home. silly, silly me.

i hurled my pants to the floor in my living room, which has curtains. after laying around for a few minutes, i was like, “god damnit, i want a blueberry-hazelnut smoothie.” so i went to my kitchen to make it. my kitchen has two windows that look out on a narrow pathway to my neighbor’s house. in the two minutes it took to wash out my blender and assemble a smoothie, a dude walked by. he looked in the window and saw me wearing underwear & a clingy tank top. he stopped. he stared. i made eye contact & glared at him. he walked away. and then he came back again.

i retreated to the living room & put on a skirt, enraged that i can’t even do what i want in my own fucking house without dudes making me feel uncomfortable. enraged that i can’t have even just one thing that is safe.

i made my smoothie, it was great, and i kinda forgot about that incident. i painted my bedroom, watched half of “jeffrey,” read a zine and went to sleep. i was woken up at 3am by two dudes loudly shouting outside of my window. it was mostly just loud drunken bullshit, but as they walked by my house, one of them started talking in a lower voice. “nuh-uh,” said his friend. “i’m tellin’, you, man!” he yelled. “it got my dick all wet and shit!” “you could get your dick wet in your own home, fool. no need to come over here.” and they laughed meanly and went inside their house.

i couldn’t get back to sleep. pittsburgh is safe, probably the safest place i’ve ever lived, and i’d forgotten for a minute there that i am nothing but prey in the eyes of so many people. because i can walk around in a skirt and guys don’t yell about how they want to rape me, because people don’t really go out of their way to try & start shit like they do in other places. i had let my guard down; i had forgotten. but once i heard that voice jarring me from my exhausted slumber, i sprang into action like a hunted animal. i jumped up. immediately awake & on guard. how do i get out if they come in. what do i do; where do i hide. immediate escape plan, attack plan. everyone i know who is, or who is percieved as, a woman knows what i’m talking about. i get way less shit than most ladies do because i’m tall, because i am not femme, because i am not conventionally attractive, because i look tough. none of this matters at three a.m.

none of this matters when their voice is bouncing off the walls. they closed their door & probably forgot the whole thing. it was just a little offhand comment to them. it wasn’t that way for me. i lay awake in the roast-y guestroom, trying to calm myself down. luckily, sheer exhaustion won out and i fell asleep pretty quickly. i didn’t have to lay awake thinking about every invasion. the dude who wanted to rape me & my housemate because it was his birthday and he hadn’t gotten a birthday present. my ex-best friend, raped in a cab at age 14 and i didn’t take cabs for years because i didn’t want to accidentally tip her rapist. the dude who threatened to kill me because i talked back to him. the new jersey four, in prison because they fought back to a guy who called them dykes & yanked their hair out. that guy was portrayed in the press as some kind of hero. i could go on and on, but i won’t.

i used to always feel like this. this past year in pittsburgh has been a vacation, mostly. and a year without that constant strain has done amazing things in my heart and mind. but i knew in the back of my mind that i was just deluding myself. and yeah, nothing actually happened. most of the time, nothing does. but i still can’t shake this feeling that i am always at war, that i will never be safe anywhere, & that this will never go away. nearly every woman i know understands this feeling perfectly. nearly every guy i know dismisses it, or pretends to sympathize. there is no way to let them know how it feels–even dudes who are persecuted for being queer or weird or whatever; it’s not the same thing. it’s not as pervasive. dudes aren’t forced to watch dudes being gaybashed in nearly every mainstream movie & primetime crime drama, & have that be treated as though it were just a normal part of the culture. dudes aren’t told, and shown, in hundreds of ways throughout their lives what happens when you go out by yourself, when you take walks, when you live alone, when you live your life the way you fucking want to.

i have a whole lot more to say about this. but my time at the library is running out & honestly, i don’t want to write about this any more. i’m exhausted.

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2 responses »

  1. Hey Ocean, I really sympathize with your plight. Particularly with the privacy part, it is completely invasive not to feel like you have a space apart from the fucked up shit of the world. And you are right ultimately men probably have no idea what it is to be “surveyed” in the ways that women are often and discussed as if you were slabs of meat. And you are right it is not the same as being bashed for being queer. However, I can kind of relate (i.e. I understand what this might mean) to how this works, to some extent, when I get called “fag” or “fruit” by neighborhood teenagers and they make me feel severely unsafe in my neighborhood, as if all of the neighborhood finds my presence and that of my boyfriend’s completely intolerable and they would rather have us suffer under the brunt of their hatred (and potential violence) than get to know us, or share a sidewalk with us. Or how in the past I’ve been told that I should go back to Argentina sometimes or treated like filthy immigrant at others by people selling stuff in drug stores or at whole foods. I realize these experiences are incredibly dehumanizing, embarrassing, and they deflate our feeling of safety, and also that this blog is your valve for releasing some of that pressure. I also understand that these different prejudices and assumptions of privilege and exertions of power aren’t always comensurable.

    But I guess I think politics should be a little more than us heirarchizing the ways in which we have been victimized and moving toward solidarities, this is kind of where politics begins on some level, right? My ability to understand your plight in whatever, minimal way, is influenced by slightly similar experiences of homophobia, racism, and classism, and I think this can build a little bit of solidarity between us, maybe?

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