Last Friday was full of explosions (gunshots or fireworks, anyone?), barbecues, and all sorts of other things that screamed “America”. Also on that list? Misogyny.
Rather unexpectedly (and to my and my partner’s delight), my best friend ended up coming down from Minnesota for the weekend. Friday I got to play tourist with her while my partner was at work, and then we all met up for dinner. It was a lovely day…until the train ride home, when an extremely drunk soccer fan boarded the train, waving his Brazil flag and shouting about how much Colombia sucked. We tried to mind our own business, hoping he would turn out to be just a harmless drunk too caught up in his own stupor to pay us too much attention.
No such luck. Within minutes, he had started harassing our friend. She expressed a lack of interest, but he persisted, at which point my partner and I stepped in. We told him to fuck off. He got more persistent. My partner stood up and physically shielded our friend from him. He moved and continued trying to get her attention. Soon, both my partner and I were standing between him and our friend, telling him to back the fuck off, and he was threatening to crack my head open and asking my partner, “What are you, anyway?” My partner ended up getting off the train to talk to the conductor, and after trying to stare me down for a while, the guy left. Our friend asked me later if I was scared. I wasn’t. I was just really fucking angry.
I am not usually a violent person. But I would have been, had he gotten any closer than he did.
And now it’s almost a week later, and I’m still angry. Angry that women have to put up with that shit. Angry that this drunken douchebag thought he was being clever asking my partner “what” ze was. Angry that no one else on the train said or did anything at all, because this is so commonplace. Angry that I stood up for my friend without thinking, but have been too afraid to stand up for other women on the train who I’ve seen in uncomfortable situations. Angry that this is what society calls normal. Angry that my friend immediately started apologizing when it was over, as though it was her fault.
It’s not okay. It’s not right or fair that I have never dealt with that bullshit, because I am read as masculine and/or male. It’s not right that a dude won’t back off when a women tells him no, but that there’s a chance he’ll stop and listen to people he perceives as masculine. It’s not okay. I have privilege that allows me to choose whether I engage with such asshattery. Women typically don’t. I know from past experience that I will not necessarily do for a stranger what I did for my best friend, and that is not right or okay, either.
I want to do better. I want to wield the power of my masculine privilege to make whatever spaces I inhabit safer for women. I hope that last Friday’s encounter sticks with me and pushes me to show greater strength of character whenever I see men making women feel uncomfortable or unsafe, regardless of whether I know them.