I’m writing this on the R train as it rattles slowly along toward Brooklyn. I’m headed to pick up my 6-month-old daughter. I’m writing because I’m still reeling from what occurred on the Times Square subway platform a few moments ago. I was walking to the end of the station as I always do. I saw a man, a stout, balding, nondescript looking troll, staring at me as I walked toward him. I watched as he slowly extended his arm and fingers, in particular his pinky finger, so it would make contact with me as I walked by. I’m wearing a skirt. It all happened quickly, in seconds, as these things always do, and sure enough as I passed him his hand jutted out and stroked my thigh. Without thinking I turned around and hit him as hard as I possibly could. I didn’t even stop walking, nor did I say anything. I did turn around to look at him as I hit him, and his face was one of shock but not of surprise. He knew why I had hit him; he just couldn’t believe he hadn’t gotten away with it.
Ive been sexually harassed so many times since my adolescence that I’ve lost count, but I’ve never reacted like that before. Normally I think, process, choose my words. There was no brain power that went into the decision to smack this asshole; it was pure instinct. As I headed away from him I immediately regretted not verbalizing my anger and yelling at him too, but I imagine that choice was instinctive as well. Besides, I think he got the message.
I am not someone who condones violence. But I’m so tired of my safety and personal space being invaded over and over again. I am a 32-year-old woman. I am a mother. I am not someone you can fondle without my consent because you feel like it, nor is any other girl or woman. Not my friends. Not my daughter.
When I’ve explained sexual harassment to men in the past I’ve been struck at their confusion over why it is a big deal. How is someone whistling at you threatening, they ask? Here is what they don’t understand. Those moments, which may seem insignificant and small, create an unsafe environment in which women are forced to live. Last month, after I yelled at some men in a car who made kissing noises at me, I was terrified to then walk down a quiet downtown street out of fear that they’d circle around in their car and hurt me. These moments force us to operate in a state of fear. They define who is in control and who can have their control taken away. And I’m so fucking tired of it that I’m starting to snap. I’m now hitting people. Because as much as I want to believe my daughter will not have to live with this same fear 10, 20, 30 years from now, I know that she will. And nothing makes me more sick to my stomach.