A story of street harassment

A few years ago, my sweetie and I were taking a transit bus home from somewhere in the evening when two teenaged girls jumped onto the bus, frightened. They told the driver there was a scary man harassing them in the street and so they jumped onto the bus for safety. They looked about fifteen and they had no money or bus tokens. The bus driver was a total asshole. He didn’t give a shit that these two underage girls were being harassed by an adult man and he just barked at them for not having bus fare. He ended up allowing them to stay on the bus anyway, but not without making them feel like jumping onto a bus had been the wrong choice. The two girls sat on the bus not really knowing where they were going or what they were going to do next, and also feeling guilty for getting onto a bus without fare. The bus driver drove all the way to the end of the bus route, which was our stop, and then said everyone had to get off because this was the last stop and the bus was now going into the station for the night. We all got off. These two fifteen year old girls were dumped off at the last stop at night with no money and no phone and they were already terrified. The bus driver drove away. So my sweetie called a taxi for them and gave the driver money to take the girls home. While we were waiting for the taxi, I wanted to tell them so many things. I wanted to tell them that they did the right thing jumping onto a bus to get away from the harasser, and that the bus driver was an asshole and shouldn’t have treated them this way. I wanted them to know they made the right decision and that they had good instincts and should trust them. But I was so upset I could barely get any words out. I think my sweetie explained some of this to them but I don’t remember exactly what she said. The girls talked about how terrifying the city was and how they just wanted to go home. We hardly had any money ourselves, and we would have never spent money on a taxi for ourselves since the bus is cheaper. But we had to do something for these girls, who were stranded and scared in a strange part of the city at night and had no way to get home. This was a long time ago but I still think about these two girls. I hope they made it home alright, and I hope they didn’t get in trouble. It wasn’t their fault. And I shudder to think of what would have happened to them if there hadn’t been a pair of lesbian feminist guardian angels on the bus with them that night, to make sure they had some help. We were the only people who cared.

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5 thoughts on “A story of street harassment

  1. … and that’s how we know that there is something wrong with the culture we live in. If that harasser had just been a monster, an abnormality, an exception from the rule, then the bus driver would have offered help.
    (Not to mention that, if harassment was not so normalized, he would have been way more shocked about the whole thing. Maybe even called the police. But harassers are considered the normal fauna of a city at night, apparently. Like bears in the woods … wait, they actually shoot bears that attack people … bad metaphor.)

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  2. Men fucking know that their “compliments” are hostile. Once long ago when I lived up in a small coastal town in the mid-Atlantic US I worked a cash off the books job for a produce wholesaler who had a booth at a historic port market. But more importantly, he had two truck parking places to support his booth. He ran a whole restaurant supply business out of those two parking spots.

    So at this time I had only ever been aware of the High School level intimidation of women. I wasn’t into that, but I now understand that I still supported it in some ways though I had never seen full scale street harassment.

    One of the two truckers I loaded veggies for was a major catcaller. He’d see a victim and go all out. They were walking with long strides, shoulders back, head high, and breasts forward.

    But after his catcalls they slumped and took shorter strides. I said “I saw her too, so strong and proud, Just take a glance for a couple of seconds like I do . But when you shout all you do is turn pretty girls into ugly ones.” But he wanted slumping shuffling women.

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    • I am not sure how many men are even truly attracted to strong, proud women. (And don’t just want to break them).
      Beauty ideals are mostly about disempowering women. Talking about shorter strides, high heels would have accomplished that, too.

      He might have thought his catcalling makes the girls prettier. What did he say?

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      • Nah, he thought slump and shuffle was the way it should be. And here like a fool I thought we were supposed to like breasts. Head straight, shoulders back, natural long stride, and what she’s got is out there. Cool, I thought, but I learned otherwise.

        This is one of the first lessions I had that I should avoid porn. Porn informed me other men don’t really like tits. What? Square shoulders and breasts of any size are awesome.

        Somehow i got through my porn years still believing that. So now I consider breast implants as a socially sanctioned form of breast-rape. But with all the choicey-choiceness these days I could never say that. Gotta love all that free choice and agency BS when women are under men’s knives.

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