Dear Diary

April 25, 2012

A lot of outrage and a little bit of fun.

Naomi

Last Friday, I had a double whammy of unsavoury experiences, both involving street harassment. Maybe this is an unfortunate rite of passage, seeing as I’ll be 18 by the time you read this (happy birthday to me!!!). I heard my first whistle at 13, and I’ve had enough car honks to last a lifetime, but those were harmless in comparison to this.

One thing men will never truly understand is the constant threat of unwanted attention that women have to deal with. My fellow Rookies and I had a discussion about this, and it made me realise that if you ask any women on this planet, she’s likely to have had at least one experience, possibly multiple, with street harassment (if not worse). It seems to be something that we have to prepare for every time we leave the house.

When I left the house this time, I didn’t prepare—I was more concerned with whether it was going to rain. I walked to the lake, which was quiet as usual. I decided to take the long way home, the one where the only people I encounter are usually dog walkers.

There were two boys at the park entrance, and I thought nothing of it. I had my headphones on but could tell one of them had addressed me. I can’t remember exactly what he said, something about “love at first sight” and my “pussy” and “behind.” I put my headphones back on and walked by, without music this time, so that I could stay aware. I thought that would be the end of it, but they kept following me. They were tormenting me, and I didn’t know what else they would do or when they would stop. They discussed my iPod and I wondered whether they would rob me, but no, I “must be poor” because I had an “old one.” I felt so completely bare, in an empty park, like I had no protection. When I got to the road again, they thankfully gave up, and when I was far enough away to feel rid of them, I just wanted to sit down and recover. And my gosh, I really needed a hug.

I found a bench on the green, surrounded by shops. I had just sat down when I was approached by a man who asked if I was OK. I thought maybe he was a concerned stranger? But that wasn’t the vibe I was getting. He asked for my name and number. I refused. He asked how old I was. I said 18, and he sounded mildly (but not that convincingly) surprised and said he was 30. He asked if I wanted to take his number “just in case.” No. Then he asked if I would like to come back to his flat. No! I was creeped out. I didn’t want to be there any longer, I just wanted to be home. Luckily he got the message, and I walked away, past the leering men smoking outside the pub. Everyone I saw made me flinch. I don’t know how he had the nerve! Mum said I might have looked vulnerable, which make me feel even more icky.

Honestly, I felt like shit. I hoped writing it all out would help me get over it, but I keep on thinking “ew.” Ew that males both older and younger thought it was perfectly all right to treat me like that. Ew that as a women I have to deal with a society within where people will treat me like some kind of object. Ew that my friends and I will probably have to deal with this in one form or another for the rest of our lives. It was the life sentence that bothered me the most. My daughter will probably have to endure this as well.

Now please, tell me feminism doesn’t need to exist. Tell me that I shouldn’t believe that future generations will look back and say, “That shit used to happen?” Tell me I shouldn’t be fucking angry. ♦

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26 Comments

  • VanyaTheDinosaur April 25th, 2012 7:12 PM

    I believe I just lost the rest of my faith in the human race because of Naomi, Katherine, and Ruby’s stories.

    By the way, I wrote something to the effect of Naomi’s post on a bathroom wall because I had been reading Hollaback! stories and was /so/ pissed (please excuse my language).

  • suburban grrrl April 25th, 2012 7:29 PM

    NAOMI THE SAME EXACT AWFUL “FUCK, THIS SHIT STILL HAPPENS?” THING HAPPENED TO ME A FEW MONTHS AGO.
    http://sub-urbangrrrl.blogspot.com/2012/01/it-still-sucks-to-be-teenage-girl.html

  • Emilie April 25th, 2012 7:42 PM

    Dylan, that sounds AMAZING, bonfires, tennis, dog walkin and drunk kareoke- when can i move in????

  • Yellie April 25th, 2012 7:46 PM

    Ruby, I completely know how you feel. Isn’t it sad that you try to give a dead animal some respect and people misunderstand, and think you are “disturbing the peace”. It’s really awesome that you stand up for what you believe in. :)

    Love shout out to Katherine and Naomi… been there before!

    On the positive, feeling the ~LOVE VIBEZ~ Dylan, great for you!

  • moonchild April 25th, 2012 8:15 PM

    OH GOD. Ruby, if I was you, I would seriously be sobbing and just go to guidance. I would NEVER have the calm enough to stand up for burying the rabbit. Great job!

    Was it really graphic? Who would do that? Seriously. I totally feel ya.

    Gwen
    http://under-a-bridge.blogspot.com/

  • alliya April 25th, 2012 8:25 PM

    Katherine I totally had the same kind argument with my mum this week. My parents are conservative Muslims, and I am too, I wear the headscarf and that’s my choice, but don’t wear skirts all the time which is the more traditional thing. She suddenly started a campaign for me to start wearing skirts 24/7 and yelled at me when I came out wearing straight jeans with a knee length skirt on top when we were going to visit her friends. I got super angry and thank god Rookie published an article on how not to look like you’re crying. Turns out my friends who wear skirts went through the same thing and I try to dodge my mum’s remarks about my outfits from now on :)

  • Pashupati April 25th, 2012 8:39 PM

    Naomi, let me give you an Internet hug if you’re comfortable with it. It really sucks but it’s nice to know there are people who works to change others’ mentalities, to make them understand it’s not okay.
    Ruby, Katherine, you merit an Internet hug too! <3

  • Ruby B. April 25th, 2012 8:42 PM

    Oh, Naomi, that’s terrible! Nobody should ever have to deal with that. It actually makes me really sad just to hear about it. I’ve never been street-harassed before, but maybe that’s because I often look like a 10-year-old. I still worry about it, though.

    And Katherine, I totally know how you feel and it sucks!

  • Maggie April 25th, 2012 9:02 PM

    Whoever did that to the rabbit needs to PAY. That’s horrifying

  • KinuKinu April 25th, 2012 9:14 PM

    Naomi, I’m so sorry. That’s terrible and I hope you’re okay.I feel so angry right now. Extremely angry. I remember in the 3rd grade, a kid touched my butt. Not by accident. I slapped him and told my dad. He almost confronted the kid, but told the principal instead. I don’t know how they can see it acceptable. Like, do they even wrap their head around the fact that strangers asking for name and number is FUCKING CREEPY?!?! Do they think walking behind someone and yelling ‘pussy’ is OK?!? I can’t even think of what’s going in their head.
    I’m sorry to anyone who has to go through this. It makes me angry. My dad actually gave my mom a zapper.I t puts you in shock, it’s a mini electro-nizer. She gets off of work late at night so my dad gave it to her. I feel sad that we aren’t safe, and to feel legitimately safe, we have to use weapons. I’m sorry Naomi.

  • Kristen April 25th, 2012 9:49 PM

    Naomi, that was spot on. I hate that I feel vulnerable when I walk alone, especially at night.

    (http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/04/16/120416fa_fact_marx?currentPage=1)

    I HATE THAT I READ THIS^
    and thought it sounded like a great idea, but then worried about being raped. I hate that when I told my dad about it, he said he would feel safe with my brothers doing it, but not me. “It’s different for you, you’re a girl.”

  • Kathryn April 25th, 2012 10:03 PM

    Ruby, ugh I can’t believe the disrespect that people can have for other living things. That sort of reminds me about how my mom was telling me how these women she was walking with said that when they would see a snake while they were gardening or whatever, they would cut it up with a shovel. So vicious. It makes me feel queasy.

  • Mako April 25th, 2012 10:11 PM

    I just realized the importance of self-defense. I am searching for a martial art to study for the personal development, enlightenment, and for self-defense. I am 28 with 2 kids, and my kids aren’t “school”ed and now I believe if I have them learn one thing, it is martial arts for self-defense. Seems so obvious, but it didn’t occur to me even during all the traumatic times of my youth, that if I had been armed with the ability to defend myself my fear would have been minimized and my confidence maximized. Advice to all young ladies every where: learn self-defense, it is the one most practical thing to learn.

  • Abby April 25th, 2012 10:24 PM

    RUBY!!!! That story made me want to throw up. How could someone do that to a helpless little animal?? Ugh.

    Also, Naomi, I feel you. I’m so scared to go to college next year and have to walk alone, especially at night.

    Also Also, Katherine, I totally get that. I was watching Law and Order: SVU the other day, and there was this rather graphic scene where one of the investigators is undercover and about to be raped, and my dad flipped a shit about me watching it. I’m seventeen, and he’s never had a problem with it… it was really irritating. I’m a big girl, I can handle things like that. I know it isn’t nice, I know that it’s graphic, and I would never let a kid of mine under 14 watch it without extensive discussion, but I’m seventeen. Suck it up, dad.

  • caro nation April 25th, 2012 10:30 PM

    Last time I was verbally attacked by some fucking assclown, I gave him the most powerful two middle fingers I could and screamed “Up yours!” I also memorized him license number. I saw him a couple weeks later, same car, and he drove away as soon as he saw me.

    But this didn’t prevent me from crying, because as of then, nobody had admonished me to the turmoil caused by sexual harassment.

    But you can’t let them break you on the outside.

    Also, Ruby, I think you should publish a book of essays, in the likeness of David Sedaris. I adore your anecdotes and vignettes.

  • LittleMissE April 26th, 2012 2:54 AM

    Ruby, that’s so awful. Basically the only important thing I’ve learned from middle school is that a lot of people suck.

  • JennaF April 26th, 2012 8:30 AM

    Dylan, have you read “Tales of the City”? (Armistead Maupin.) Or watched the miniseries based on it? (The old, original one.)

    If no to either of those, you must.

  • Jaime April 26th, 2012 9:25 AM

    These diaries are my favorite part of the website — I completely relate to all of you in some way. I’m a bit older (turning 22 this Saturday) but NONE of this shit ends (my mother still thinks she has a say about what’s appropriate for me to wear, for instance. Kind of thought that would end when I started paying my own rent!).

  • tallulahpond April 26th, 2012 1:02 PM

    RUBY YOU ARE AMAZING. I would totally have done that- what a brilliant thought! And then stupid teachers have to ruin everything. Ugh. I mean, most teachers are pretty cool, but shouting at you when you’re trying to help the poor thing preserve a bit of dignity? Not good.

  • MikaylaT April 26th, 2012 1:09 PM

    Oh Ruby. I applaud you for trying to bury that rabbit. I hate to say this, but if I ever tried to do that, my school would do the same thing. Awhile back, I was in a fight with another girl over the boy I was dating. She threatened to cut me with a razor, and it was a big mess. The vice-principal was supposed to take care of the whole thing. She received TWO days of in school suspension. I know a girl who got five days out of school suspension for a FACEBOOK post. The next day, the girl approached me saying my boyfriend got her pregnant. Keep in mind, this is in 8th grade. I was crying, and told my friends WHY I was crying. I got called down to the vice-principals office not too long after. She lectured me for 20 minutes about how I shouldn’t be spreading rumors and that she had to do “damage control”. I was never so angry in my life. Sometimes teachers think they’re so high and mighty, when in reality, they’re human like the rest of us.

  • julalondon April 26th, 2012 1:15 PM

    Favourite part of rookie ever! Ruby, i’m so sorry, i think i would have probably started crying and started to shout at the gym teacher.. Poor rabbit!
    Naomi, i can totally feel you. I had to deal with stuff like that as well and I TOTALLY KNOW THE FEELING YOU HAVE AFTERWARDS. It’s terrible, let me give you an internet-hug!!=)

  • whodatgal April 26th, 2012 2:56 PM

    Ruby.B- Omigod what utterly horrible people. I hate teachers. HDAJSKXLJSHJ Annoys me so much!

    Naomi- That is horrible. Internet hug \:)/

    Katherine- how can I watch Girls? I’m in London it won’t let me but I’m desperate!

  • MissKnowItAll April 26th, 2012 8:48 PM

    Katherine-Try watching Skins when your parents walk in. My mom walked in on the series premiere and she was convinced that I was watching porn.

  • Jes April 28th, 2012 12:38 PM

    Ruby- I feel for you. Teachers’ silly rules often result in good, kind people getting a lot of mean. I eventually learned that the only way to not get in trouble in elementary and middle school was to never talk and do nothing except for what the teacher tells you to do, which is an impossible goal for any sociable, thinking, unique person.

    However, I think that there is a lot less petty rule enforcement in high school. But it’s probably because teachers and principals have more serious stuff to keep track of, like kids smoking pot in school bathrooms and skipping class.

  • NotReallyChristian April 29th, 2012 12:15 PM

    I spent three months living in Italy a couple of years ago, and Oh. My. God. the street harassment is ridiculous. The number of times I got followed home when I was out at night (literally slammed my door in people’s faces), the time I got whistled at *by policemen from their police car* – seriously? I won’t say I was ever scared (I was in Florence, which is pretty small and safe) but I was creeped out on many, many occasions.

  • Cammy May 11th, 2012 10:55 AM

    Oh Naomi, I know exactly how you feel. As a brazilian, you don’t have idea what I suffer every time I step out. Most of brazilian men are like the italian ones.