Whose bodies?: On public harassment and victim blaming

(Originally posted on tumblr, here.)

A few weeks ago a man approached me while I was downtown waiting for the bus. We both had just exited the 150, which runs from my campus and the Veteran’s hospital (both in La Jolla) to downtown San Diego. I was listening to music on my phone as I usually do, sunglasses on, unsmiling. I was not mad or unhappy in any way, just keeping to myself. The man walked up to me and waved his hand in my line of vision, smiling.

“Hey lady!”

I smiled back, and then looked down at my phone.

“Lady!” He motioned for me to take off my earplugs.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“You should smile more often, you’re awfully pretty!”

“Thanks,” I said, again looking back down at my phone.

“But I saw you on the bus though. You know what the problem with people is these days? You people don’t interact. You don’t smile! You just listen to your music and tune out the rest of the world! You should talk to people, honey, c’mon.”

I sighed. He went on. I smiled. I even agreed with him. I did and said anything I could think to do or say to indicate (politely) that the discussion was over and I didn’t want to talk anymore. But he was oblivious, or just didn’t care. I was basically stuck there, with all the women near me silent (probably thankful that they were not the subject of this dude’s tirade), wishing I could just tell him to shove it and walk away. I didn’t say anything like that though; it wouldn’t be polite. He eventually walked away and I chalked it up to a minor annoyance. Continue reading