I wonder what Aretha would say about this one: I have always had this theory (supported by some reliable academic literature) that in our society, a woman needs a man in one shape, form or interpretation to justify her presence in the public sphere. If she is out with a man, she is less likely to be hollered at. If she is out at a bar or club or, frankly, anywhere, she is often forced (or feels forced out of fear, discomfort, and unwanted attention) to invoke the presence of a man, i.e. “Sorry, I’m seeing someone/living with someone/here with someone.” More than once I’ve been asked, “So, I don’t see a ring on your finger!” or better yet, “It’s just dancing.” Howabout, no means no?

Well this theory was completely shattered the other afternoon as I was eye-assaulted not once but twice in the time it took my boyfriend and I to purchase a subway foot-long and find a bench in front of the White House at which to eat. First, Ollie ducked into the restroom and the four men eating their lunches at a table ten or so feet from me all put down their subs to stare—not to look, to stare. Despite my uncomfortable shifting and defiant eye-lock right back at each of them they kept right on staring. Ollie rejoined me and we went outside to eat our lunch. Unfortunately, this subway (17th and G) has glass walls so all of the men simply adjusted their seats and continued to stare at me after we were sitting outside on the bench.

Both of us were aggravated (I was ranting big-time at this point—I was starving and wanted to enjoy my lunch in peace) and so we relocated to a bench in front of the White House to eat. Despite Ollie’s and my canoodling that I would have thought made it very clear I was not on the market (not that a person should have to canoodle or even validate their presence with a sign of “I’m spoken for”), a man riding his bike slowed down to grill me. I made eye contact hoping the awkwardness would send him away, but he continued. Ollie locked eyes with the man which made him look away temporarily—and as soon as Ollie returned to the meatball sub, the eyes were all over me again, accompanied by a creepy (even sinister—am I projecting too much) smirk. I was so pissed. The man then doubled back and rode by us even slower. I should just have postcard sized-photos to hand out so creeps can leave me the hell alone and let me eat my sandwiches in peace. Ollie was super annoyed, as was I, and the man on the bike was finally shooed away by the police preparing for the afternoon motorcade.

Now this sidewalk and this subway were both swarming with women. Was it the phallic shape of the sub sandwich I was shoving in my mouth with both hands that caught these people’s attention? Was it my charming good looks (wink, wink!)? I conjecture that the subway incident was symptomatic of my being temporarily ‘single’ while Ollie was in the bathroom. The explanation for the bike guy…I happened to be sitting still rather than on the move, an easy target for someone who likes to take a good (unwelcome) look. An actuarial crime, then, perhaps—I was just an easy target for a man’s hungry eyes? Either way, we need to talk about this stuff, share our stories, break the silence, remember these happenings are NOT the victim’s fault—and be sure to demand a little RESPECT!

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this is ladies night

washington, dc, United States
Have you ever been walking down the street and been hollered at, or perhaps been beeped at by a car - or whistled at while waiting for your ride? We know what it feels like and we want YOU to know that WE'RE RIGHT THERE WITH YOU. Share your experiences here. Share your stories, your reactions, your reflections... maybe your message will help someone else.