Today I was harassed. Again.
I won’t go into the details of today, and actually in comparison to other things that have happened to me, this is probably an average form of harassment. Regardless, I feel compelled to write about this.
As a middle-class woman who has a roof over her head*, the degree of harassment I experience most likely pales in comparison to what many other women experience. Despite this, the powerlessness I feel when I am harassed does not change. It suffocates me, arrests me, and infuriates me.
Every time I share these experiences, I am told, “This always happens to you” or “You’re the only person I know who goes through this.”* I’m not sure why this is. I don’t dress sexy (of course even if I did, I STILL shouldn’t have to deal w/ this shit), stare at men and slowly lick my lips, or “accidentally” drop my wallet and bend over in an obscene fashion. Fuck, I’m not even hot. If anything, I’m sort of Hello Kitty-cute. People even tell me I remind them of cartoon characters or that I look like I’m in 8th grade. So, WTF? Sorry, that was a rant.
I remember the first time I was sexually harassed. I was four. The next significant time was when I was 12. Then I had several experiences in college. When I was 4 and when I was 12, I didn’t feel powerless. Just confused and embarrassed. It was when I hit college that I started to feel stripped and lost. In college I had two experiences that I would consider to be pretty major forms of harassment. In between those “big” incidents, I’ve had kind of the run-of-the-mill experiences. Men who were too aggressive in trying to get my number, piercing looks, catcalls on my way to work, innuendo at work, etc. No matter what happened, I felt the same the way. I don’t know how to take back my power.
Because of my family history, I grew up with a critical class-consciousness. Class was primarily on my mind. Class trumped gender; class trumped race. When I started college, however, I became very aware of the intersecting nature of my sexuality, my gender, and my race. I think this is partly why I am so sensitive now. When things happen to me, I may or may not reflect and connect it to my race, class, gender, etc and examine the intricacies in the exchange. Regardless, there is always this initial gut feeling. I get pulled out of my relatively privileged life, my bubble, and get reminded that to mostly everyone else, I am “just” a woman of color.
* my former best friend actually had the nerve to say that it was Karma. That fucker, blaming the victim!