My butt has been grabbed, and my body has been objectified. I’ve been ogled at by so many construction workers and yelled at so often by people in cars that most of the occurrences blend together. They’ve become a “normal” part of my day. Once, a car just drove by and the guy yelled, “show us your pussy!” when my then-boyfriend and I were walking home from the cinema.
I’ve searched my mind palace and came up with the worst anecdotes I can recall at this point.
I remember the first time I was sexually harassed in the street like it was yesterday. I was fourteen and walking to my best friend’s house, a few blocks away from my own home. It was bright and sunny. A Coca-Cola truck parked at the corner store was making its delivery. The delivery man was standing there, staring at me. Again, I don’t believe it matters what I was wearing, but I’ll tell you anyway. I wore washed-out-bell-bottom jeans with tan-coloured stitching on them and a brown suede tank top that had ruching along the top with a small tan suede bow in the middle. The way he looked at me made me feel dirty.
I was fourteen, remember? I thought I was cool and powerful. I yelled over “Take a picture, it’ll last longer!” He replied, “I would if I had a camera!” Then he just stood there staring. I walked away. Furious. My blood was boiling, as I felt his eyes on me. He stood and looked on until I got to my friend’s house, which was just down the street. He saw where I went, and I wished I could have fast forwarded time. I couldn’t get away from him any faster. It still gives me shudders just to think about it. I remember questioning my outfit, thinking it was my fault, instead of thinking about reporting him to the company.
I was walking down the sidewalk next to the highway (it’s less dangerous than it sounds). I was wearing a tank top that said Superstar 69 and very baggy cargo pants. Again, I thought it was cool to dress like a boy. I thought I can wear this if I want to and I did. I was standing on the corner of a street waiting for the light to change when a truck honked at me. The driver eyed me until the light changed and we both could go. I think it was the last time I wore that shirt.
We were visiting family in southern Ontario one summer. I was sixteen and liked to drive around with my Dad. My uncle had to work so we got him a coffee and stopped by the repair garage he worked at. He wanted my Dad to check out a nice car they were working, so we went in. I was wearing a teal knitted mini-skirt and a form-fitting brown tank top. When we left I remember some of the stares but dismissed them. Later on, my Dad told me that my uncle’s co-workers thought my Dad was lucky to have a “young hot wife”. Where in the world did he find me? They had asked. I was disgusted. I love my Dad, but he was forty-seven at the time.
I was nineteen, walking home with two large reusable grocery bags in my hands. Three young boys walked by me. They looked like they were twelve or thirteen. As soon as they walked past, one of them yelled “Big Juicy Melons” and they all snickered. I mostly remember the rage I felt. The flush to my face; the shame I suppose. I was so pissed off. How can it be that these puny kids had so much power over me? I wanted to turn around and ask them who said it? Grab the kid’s shirt and tell them to never talk to a woman like that again. Unfortunately, I was too embarrassed and upset. In the moment, I thought it wasn’t my place to yell at these kids, to make a scene. A minute later, I had changed my mind, but it was too late to turn back. I went home, incredibly upset and told my then-boyfriend about it. He brushed it off and laughed. I still think of those boys today and hope they didn’t grow up to rape or beat women.
At twenty years old, I was waiting for the bus on a sunny day while listening to Kesha on my iPod. That’s when I was faced with a guy riding his bike. He smiled at me and then put two fingers up against either side of his mouth and stuck out his tongue. He then wiggled it to convey that he wanted to “eat me out”. (I just learned this is apparently called a “vagface”.) He went by too fast for me to be able to say anything, but again this feeling of shame and rage filled me. I wanted to yell at him, to tell him I wasn’t going to take this abuse. I was enjoying a beautiful day, singing along to a great song before this person completely ruined it. He obviously knew I wouldn’t immediately say “Oh yes, that’s what I was waiting for my entire life! Please eat me out here.” He did that gesture just because he could.
I remember my friend’s younger brother making the same gesture to me when we were in high school and I hated him from then on. She yelled at him for it, but I had no idea what to say then either.
I now live in Germany and it’s not much different from Canada. The only difference is when men yell things at me from their car window, I have no idea what they are saying because it’s either in Turkish or German. I still cross the street if I am alone and to avoid coming face to face with a man at night. I don’t like going out too late by myself and always look behind me, paranoid. I don’t walk by the bars or casinos because I know there will be drunk men coming out of those doors.
One day, I was at school and a guy looked me up and down and said “Na” and nodded his head upwards. I had no idea what that meant exactly, but I could sense it meant something like Joey Tribbinani’s character’s catchphrase “How you doin’?” I texted my new German girlfriend and asked her if guys try to pick girls up with the word “Na” and she said yes. I think it’s so lazy and condescending to look me up and down and nod at me. Thank you for gracing me with your approval of my body, but no thank you. If men could stop objectifying me now, that would be great.