I am a young Asian American adult who lives just about 10-15 minutes away from the center city.
I’ve had a pretty sheltered life growing up and I would say I still do.
With that being said, I cannot tell you how many times I have been verbally harassed on the street. These include cat-calling, whistling, and disturbing comments.
Now, most people, and maybe you right now, think “street harassment” is…kind of ridiculous and a bit too extreme. “Boys will be boys” and the only thing women and young girls can do, no matter how much we avoid busy streets or street contact, we have learned to keep on walking and ignore. No one really thinks much when a man “complements” a women by saying “hey beautiful.”
I was one of those girls and now as a woman, I still am. When I get cat-called, I ignore. Keep on walking and don’t make eye contact. They probably have nothing else better to do. My thinking was limited to only this much until street harassment led to stalking.
One day, I was going to a good friend’s graduation party. To get there, I needed to take a train and a bus there. This train is my main source of transportation outside when my family can’t take me. I’ve seen, heard, and smelled really terrible stuff sometimes on my train rides as a Passenger , but I never feared for my life until this day.
I sat on a two-seated chair near a window. My chair and the chairs behind and beside me were faced north but the chairs in front were faced south so that I could see people’s faces, and they could see mine. A couple stops later, a male comes on board and sit on one of the chairs facing south, only 3 or 4 feet away in front of me. I don’t make eye contact with him as I stare outside the window, but I feel like he’s staring at me. As he talks to his friend in slurred words, I thought maybe he wasn’t looking at me. But then, he started to whip his hand up and down close to his face and said “Hey!” It caught me off guard. He excessive need to call me put me on the spot and my eyes unconsciously looked to the waving hand. I only looked for maybe half a second, but I remember his red face and body covered in tattoos. When he saw that he caught my eye he proceeded with “you’re really pretty.” If you knew how uncomfortable I was, with other people staring at us in the train, I can only ask myself to forgive me when the words slipped out of my mouth when I said “thanks.” THANKS. For the first time in my life I replied back.
Thinking back, I’m sure I said thank you because I was in a strange situation. I didn’t know what to do and what happens next after just saying thank you can put anyone’s life in danger.
When I get off the train, I walk-run out, hoping the crowd would slow him down so that he wouldn’t see where I was heading to. Only problem was, I didn’t know where bus 22 was. As I frantically tried to find my bus, I see him at the corner of my eye and he notices me. He calls out and hunts me down on the streets but I dart away, doing all I can to find the bus. “Hey, Hey! Little girl!” He called out. When I glance back to my shoulder, he is still there. I could hear my heart in my ears. ohmygod ohmygod I’m gonna die. Bus 22…22…22…where is it! When I finally find bus 22 I turn back once more, he is not there. I get inside, sit down, and try to call my friend. I remember my hands were shaking, fumbling over the screen and all I wanted was to hear a familiar voice. I thought about the possibilities that he would find the bus and sit next to me or drag me out or force me to come with him if he had a gun. I was too lucky that day that he never found me ever again and I am still here, safe.
It’s been over a year since this has happened so you’re probably wondering why I decided to write about now.
My neighborhood is going through some serious gentrification with 1-10 expensive homes being built on almost every block and just recently, a house is being built near my house. It’s one thing, going on a train, getting stalked for a bit and knowing you will not see your #1 stalker ever again, but it’s another when you have to go to work and come back home and just seconds before you reach your home sweet home, you get some comforting street harassment from the construction workers. That is just how every woman likes to end their day.
They work in the sun and do laborious work, but that doesn’t give them the right to call me out every.single.day. I’m unsure if I want to take it to their contractor, but they are taking away the feeling of being safe at home. I do feel unsafe because I don’t know their motives for calling out and if they decide to become Mr. #2 Stalker I could be in some serious danger. These men know where I live, when I go to work, when I come home, my family members.
As I try to figure this out myself I call to my strong girls and women, and I want to tell you that you shouldn’t give in to street harassment and know that it is a form of harassment. You’re gonna think it’s a crazy idea, but it can start with a hello, you’re pretty, hey good lookin’, and smile for me baby.
I don’t ask for much. I just want to be safe.