h2>Dating : 08.25.19
We were just walking to the store, holding hands. A group of men passed us by, spitting the words at us as they passed. It was broad daylight, on the 606, in one of the most liberal cities in the country. Two months ago, Chicago held its twentieth annual Pride Parade. This isn’t where this kind of thing is supposed to happen. I would’ve expected it back home, down South, in church- the places it’s happened before.
I just got angry. That’s understandable, I think. It was also out of fear- what if they followed the fucking dykes? What if they wanted to teach us a more serious lesson? My adoptive mother is very brave. She taught me that being loud about abuse is often the only way to stop it. My first night working at her bar, she told me, “Wenn ein Mann dich hier belästigt, musst du ihn zwischen seine Beine schlagen, und schreien.” If a man harasses you here, punch him between the legs and scream.
“Fuck you, whore,” I called back, loud enough to get the attention of the bystanders. I must’ve seemed like a bitch. A fucking dyke who had it coming. I just wanted them to pay attention. The scariest thing is being harassed when no one pays attention.
“You’re the fucking whore-” he was much louder than I had been.
“I feel sorry for you, women are fucking objects-”
“Not for you,” I yelled back. I made eye contact with a man pushing a stroller. He seemed annoyed that I had caused someone to yell curse words. Look how uncomfortable you’ve made us now, he seemed to say. Why did you have to yell back?
My girlfriend tugged me along. They don’t like to hear that any woman/object is not for them. To them, a woman who is unavailable- because she said no, because she didn’t smile back, because she is a fucking dyke- is a challenge.
“I’ll fucking rape you-”
I turned around, and he was looking at me, held back from the challenge I had presented him with by his friend gripping his arm. My girlfriend kept walking, eyes down.
“I’ll rape you, bitch-”
The man with the stroller continued walking. Three joggers, four bikers, a large family and an assortment of dog-walkers passed by. Paying no attention.
My voice broke before I could scream “fucker” with much conviction, which was embarrassing because I was scared. My hands were shaking. I turned my back to the men and kept walking, squeezing my girlfriend’s hand. Our palms were slippery. Nobody was paying any attention at all.
“In situations like that, you just have to be quiet, and not engage.”
My girlfriend’s aunt had picked us both up from the closest grocery store. My girlfriend had tear stains on her cheeks.
Wenn ein Mann dich hier belästigt…
“There’s no need to say ignorant things back. Better that there is one ignorant person in the situation, than for you to stoop to their level.”
…musst du ihn zwischen seine Beine schlagen, und schreien.
I did not feel that I was the ignorant one. The only lesson there for me to learn was to make myself smaller in an attempt to shield myself from abuse. I have done that before, and it has never worked for me. A woman who is unavailable- because she stayed quiet, because she got loud, because she is a fucking dyke- is a challenge.
I cried as hard as I could that night, trying to convince myself that I am a little bit in control, trying to convince myself that next time, it can be avoided if I stay quiet. Trying to convince myself to learn some lesson. It did not work.
We were just walking to the car, not holding hands. My girlfriend and her mother were behind me. As a man passed me by, he slobbered the words to me. It was broad daylight, I wore no makeup, long shorts and a shapeless tee shirt, and I avoided eye contact with him.
“Where are you going, pretty baby-”
…musst du ihn zwischen seine Beine schlagen, und schreien…
I kept my voice down, kept my head down, did not engage even when I felt him turn around to stare and kiss at me from behind. When he had safely passed, I whispered,
My girlfriend also whispered, “Disgusting.”
We kept quiet. He did not threaten to rape me. He seemed content to picture it in his mind’s eye.
“If that didn’t teach you guys a lesson I don’t know what will,” said my girlfriend’s mother in the car. She was talking about the incident where I was called a fucking dyke, not a pretty baby. I felt very tense. My body is a spring waiting to burst forward and protect myself. I imagine a metal spring ripping through my chest, ripping into the man who kissed at me. I wanted to take a shower, to rinse off his stare.
“You don’t need to be saying shit under your breath. Everyone gets so sensitive about shit. Just shut up and let people live their lives.”
I thought that I would write about how I encountered violence while butch-presenting and merely unwanted kisses while femme presenting; I thought I might draw some masterful conclusion about how women’s resistance- through our appearance, behavior or attitude- is seldom respected but always cathartic; I thought that I would have something thoughtful and engaging to say about being called a fucking dyke and threatened with rape, or being called a pretty baby and raped in a man’s imagination. I thought I could come up with a definitive answer about which is the better choice when being reduced to an object; loudness or quietness. I thought that I might analyze the bystanders who stood silent, or the women who instructed me to. I thought I might convince myself that there is some lesson here to learn, but I have nothing to say except that next time, wenn ein Mann mich belästigt, werde ich ihn zwischen seine Beine schlagen und schreien.
Being loud about abuse is the only way to stop it, and when it cannot be stopped, it is at least a release. I will coil the spring back inside my body, and let it rip out with abandon the next time I need it.