‘Twas a Sunday night, and I was biking home after a few hours of working hard editing a video at the library. The time had been productive, I had nothing else to do that night, the tank was clean. (The tank was clean?!?!) I pulled up to a red light. (Madison has bike lanes ERRYWHERE because it’s hip like that).
To my left, I heard a male voice ask a question. Confused, I glanced over, and realized he was talking to me. But the question was stupid and didn’t make sense, so I ignored it. This is when the rest of the guys in the car (unfortunately a pack of four) decided to join in, yelling across at me and asking me questions. Shortly thereafter, the light mercifully turned green … And then we hit the next intersection.
The light was red, and I couldn’t turn right to escape, because it was a one-way road. What followed was basic idiocy and harassment. Again, at a loss for what else to do, I ignored them. The light eventually turned green: they turned left, I went straight: the end.
This kind of thing has not happened to me much in my life, but I know it can be an everyday occurrence for people living in certain areas. I went to a small Christian undergrad, where there were certainly scumbags, but they weren’t really given free reign of the campus.
The issue here is not that I felt unsafe -- I was at a busy intersection in a relatively-well lit place – although that is sadly a common issue for many women. You know how I felt? Dehumanized. Because really, they were essentially making fun of me for being a woman.
How lame is that? By their stupid comments and their belief that it is somehow their right to get my attention, they were saying, “Ha ha, you have two x chromosomes and I only have one.” (Good one.)
Of course, after this encounter, I thought of all sorts of cutting replies, such as “Really? Has shouting at a woman on the street from a car ever worked for you?” none of which would have helped.
When I was growing up, my siblings and I never fought physically – we were verbal fighters. (Yes, we’ve been dweebs from birth). We had a canon of favorite insults, and one that achieved high status was “You’re so immature!” always said in snottily condescending tone. The funny part of this was that we were kids; we were ALL immature by definition.
But in this case, I’m pretty sure I’m more mature than the college-student ding-bats who get their kicks out of harassing innocent bikers.
Unfortunately, I don’t think pointing this out to them would cut to their souls the way it did my siblings and I back in ’98.
The solution? Besides education, I have no idea. Personally, I’m considering channeling Batman and investing in some of those little bat-shaped throwing stars to throw in the eyes of passing verbal harassers.
And I guess the fact that I have no idea what to do about this is the whole problem: I feel just as helpless right now as I did in the moment.
If y’all have any helpful advice feel free to send it my way, or, better yet, want to write a guest post just chock-full of wisdom, please, have your people contact my people. (Seriously, you guys know how many times I’ve written desperation posts in the wee hours on Blogging Eve - I will take all the help I can get.)
May your weekend be free of idiots, especially if they run in packs!