Sunday, July 15, 2012

Being a woman...

Today I read about photographer Liz Gorman getting groped in Dupont Circle and then I discovered the CASS site, which is worth checking out.

Years ago, in Chicago, on a crowded street on a sunny afternoon, I had an eerily similar experience. Last Friday night, although thankfully there was no contact, I had a creepy experience that reminded me that even at 62, being a woman means I sometimes feel very vulnerable, in a way that men don't.

As I was finishing up my walk, about 2 blocks from my house, I heard someone coming up behind me. I thought at first it was someone on a bicycle, and although I was on the sidewalk, I glanced over my shoulder to see if I needed to get out of the way. To my surprise, the guy was not on a bike, but was on foot, jogging, with a dog on a leash. He held a cellphone to his ear, and he was talking loudly into the phone, so loudly that I could hear his conversation, and my hearing is not that great. Among other things, he said he was only in Dallas for a couple of weeks, yada yada yada. Flags went up in my head on hearing this because there are no hotels anywhere near my neighborhood, and if that was the case, whose dog was he walking? But then I thought well, he must be staying with a friend, or in a friend's place...

He was jogging, I was walking, so I moved to the side to let him pass, but he didn't pass. Instead, he stayed right behind me, closing the distance, with the dog off to the side. This felt weird, and made me nervous. I increased my speed, and as I turned the corner, to my relief, I saw an elderly neighbor whom I don't know by name, but whom I frequently see when I walk in the evening as he steps outside his house to allow his ancient dachshund to take a few steps for his evening constitutional. As usual, we exchanged hellos. I slowed a bit to let the jogger pass, but the jogger slowed too; he wasn't passing. I could see my elderly neighbor checking him out, and I thought well I'm not the only one who finds this weird. I'd completed the short block and was now at my street; relieved, I turned the corner, thinking I'd lose the creep. WRONG. He turned the corner right behind me, and continued to stay about 10 feet behind me, although he was now in the middle of the street, which didn't particularly reassure me. I heard him say into his phone that he'd been running for 1.7 miles and the comment seemed so pointless that I got a feeling that there was no one else on that call. Suddenly, to my great relief, I saw another neighbor jogging toward me on the opposite side of the street. I ran the rest of the way to my door, unlocked it, and rushed inside, very relieved to be home safe and sound.

Was I unnecessarily paranoid? I don't know. But I'm pretty sure that guys have completely different concerns when they're out in the world, and I wonder if this will ever change.

cross-posted on Talking to Myself


JACKIE said...

The only consolation, and it's so small it's almost invisible, it that he was probably getting off on the power trip. Yeah, real power trip making an almost senior citizen keep looking over her shoulder.

Perhaps you need a nice, Gandalf the Grey style walking stick.

Cynthia said...

I believe that most men don't think about their personal safety until they feel a threat or observe a tangible vulnerability. Women, on the other hand, have to think about their safety from the time they prepare to leave their home until they finish getting ready for bed -- even if it's on a subconscious level. Being female in our culture requires a level of vigilence that most men have never imagined. It seeps into everything we do -- from preventing attacks to behaving in such a way that we won't be blamed if we are attacked (or accepting the attempts at shaming if we choose to act with the freedom that men enjoy.) How much energy could we put into other areas of life if this was not the cultural norm?

JACKIE said...

Hell, we'd probably have colonies on the moon and be heading for Mars. Look at all the energy that's been spent in the last year alone dedicated to keeping women third class citizens.

We need a hell of a lot less of the Virgin Mary asking politely for God or her son to intercede and a heck of a lot more, say, Eleanor of Aquitaine. When Henry honked her off she rallied her vassals and took to the field with an army. (apologies to any Catholics out there, but I have had it. There's still a touch of the Quaker but I'm out the door for the last time.