This piece was adapted by the author from a post originally written for MMCCLL.
I would like to take public transportation more. I’m lucky to have a car, but for cost, environmental, and parking reasons (mostly parking reasons), I try to bike or take the bus whenever I can. My most frequent route is to take the 18 up Nicollet to the Downtown Y, and I bike all over south Minneapolis. However, the biggest barrier that stops me from trudging out to the bus stop is how much emotional preparation that the bus—even just being out on the street—requires.
I’m not talking about the very real fear/threat of assault that women experience–that’s a whole other article. I’m talking about the daily wear of avoiding and enduring catcalls, heckles, interruptions, and questions, all unsolicited.
Examples of unsolicited “approaches” I have experienced on my commute:
- “Excuse me, what ARE you?” (in reference to my Asian phenotype)
- “Hey, so what book are you reading? Is it good? What’s it about?”
- “Where you going? Can I come with you?”
- “HEY! What’s your name? I said WHAT’S YOUR NAME?!”
And that’s not counting the whistles, jeers, or even just stares across the aisle. As a woman I often feel like I don’t know how to respond to Approachers, especially ones that aren’t outright rude in of themselves. I’m not angry at them for individually coming up and asking me how I’m doing, I’m mad at a culture that makes most people feel welcome to interrupt me when I am clearly not trying to chat. So I’ve taken up the defensive:
If you ALSO have this problem and ALSO would like people to leave you the hell alone while you live your life, I’ve made a handy toolkit! Five things to always have on your side to send a clear signal to the world that you are tired/late/thinking/not trying to talk and just trying to get to the gym/the store/your house/your friend’s house.
(Just kidding none of these things work.)
Note: A couple weeks after I did this project I was walking up the alley to my apartment building at night and a drunk guy called me a “stupid f*cking c*nt” for not saying hi to him. Unfortunately, I did not have any of the toolkit items on hand.