I wait for the bus on Third Ave, between Pike and Pine, just about every day. At least twice a week, sometimes more, a man, a stranger, says something about my ass. Someone calls me baby, someone asks me how I'm doing in the same "wanna see my dick?" tone as Joey on Friends—my favorite for creativity/least favorite because shut the fuck up about my ass was "I like that wagon that you're draggin'." I usually ignore the person. One time I said "Please don't call me baby" and he called me sweetie instead. Last night, actually, after a man told me I "looked mad" after he came and asked how I was doing, I said "I'm just trying to get home, dude" and he asked if he could come home with me.
I've learned that if I talk back too harshly the man instantly switches from hitting on me to insulting me. Suddenly I'm a fat bitch. It's weird and sad how a woman defending herself is, in a street harasser's eyes, the most unattractive thing a woman can do.
I hate that bus stop, especially at night, but it's the most direct route from downtown to where I live in Lower Queen Anne. And nearly every time I mention this obnoxious harassment to a male friend the question gets asked: Why don't you just take a different bus home?
Because I don't want to go five extra blocks in the dark by myself from a different bus stop? Because this shit happens everywhere, no matter where I go? Because whether I'm at Pine and Third or First and Mercer or in New York City, if I'm standing or walking by myself, someone, somewhere, has said something to me about my body and changing my location doesn't change the problem. As Anna pointed out yesterday, it's not a compliment, it's a power move. And as the great feature in last week's paper showed, it is an issue for so many people, in so many different ways, no matter where you are.
But the shittiest part is, the conversation almost always turns into a conversation about what the person being harassed should do differently. But that is 100% the wrong thing to focus on. I haven't a) found a way to make it stop and b) found a reaction that works every time, despite years of trying. There is, literally, nothing a woman can do differently to ensure this doesn't happen. It's happened to me no matter what size I am, no matter what I'm wearing, no matter where I am. The only constant? I've always been alone.
Last night, when the man first approached me, there were other people at the bus stop, but none of them said anything as he continued to talk to me. I'm not sure that they should've—it didn't get to the point where I felt unsafe, but it would've been nice if someone had stepped in and pointed out that it was obvious his advances were unwelcome. Or, at the very least, make it known that someone else was paying attention, should things escalate.
So instead of telling me what I should be doing in these situations—taking a different bus, ignoring it, engaging in it, saying this or saying that—I want to know what will you do when you see it happen?