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We ladies understand the horror stories. Most of us have one or two. The times where men decide they have the right to impose themselves into our personal space, and refuse to respect our desire to be left alone. Because, of course, we owe them our time, our attention, even our sex.

This is where the legislative War on Women comes from. It is a natural outgrowth of the kind of attitudes that caused the incident related below the break. I came across this story on Tumblr, and reproduce it here to respect the author's courage in speaking up, her courage in letting the world know that women deal with this kind of shit all the time.

As posted by UnWinona, without any edits or changes.

I debated whether or not to share this story.

And then I debated whether or not to put it on Tumblr…but I decided it was important.  Because in my own way, I can (unfortunately) point out exactly what is wrong with men when they don’t realize how hard it is to be a woman.  How we do not have equal opportunities and freedoms in everyday life.  How most men, even good caring men, have no clue what we go through on a daily basis just trying to live our lives.

So here goes.

I often ride the Metro when I commute from North Hollywood to Long Beach in order to save money.  I bring a book, pointedly wear a ring on my ring finger to imply I’m married (I’m not) and keep to myself.  

Without fail, I am aggressively approached by men on at least half of these commutes.  The most common approach is to walk up to where I am sitting with body language that practically screams LEAVE ME ALONE and sit down next to me or as close to me as possible, when the train is not crowded and there are many empty rows.  Sometimes an overly friendly arm is draped over the railing behind me, or they attempt to lean in close to talk to me as if we are old friends.  Without fail, the man or boy in question will lean to close and ask me

What are you reading?

Is that a good book?

What’s that book about?

This serves the double purpose of getting my attention and trapping me in a conversation.  If I stop reading the book I enjoy to talk to you, random stranger, you hit on me or just stay way too close to me.  If I tell you to leave me alone, you get mad at me.  Because I somehow, as a woman, owe you conversation.

Tonight when I boarded the train in Long Beach at 10:30pm, it started up right away.  I was not on the train more than three minutes before three boys who looked eighteen sat in the row behind me and leaned over the seats into my personal space, close enough to breathe on me.  The one with his arm draped over onto the back of my seat asked me—surprise— “what are you reading?”  I went through my usual routine.  I told them loudly and firmly that I wanted to be left alone to read my book.  They got angry.  I was told “Why are you going to be like that?  I just wanted to talk!”  His friends start laughing at me and they don’t move, telling me come on! and why are you gonna be like that? until I tell them to leave me the fuck alone, stand up, and move to the front of the car near the three other people on the train, a couple and a business man in a suit.  They spend the next two stops shouting at me from the back of the car, alternating between trying to sound flirtatious and making fun of me, shouting “I bet she’s reading Stephanie Meyer!  I bet she’s reading Twilight or some shit!  You reading Twilight or some shit?”

They exit the train at the next stop, and I’m relieved.  The train is going out of service at the next station, so we all exit to board a new train to Los Angeles.  As we board, the business man steps aside to let me go through the door first and asks me if those guys were bothering me.  I say yes, that it happens all the time, and he tells he’ll beat them up for me if they come back.  He is a nice person who talks to me like I’m a human being instead of a walking pair of tits, and I make a mental note:  This is how a real man talks to a woman on a train.

The business man and the couple exit our new Blue Line train an exit or so later, and I think my night is ending on a good note.  A seemingly normal man enters the train with his bicycle.  At this point I am three rows from the front of the car, another man was sitting near the back of the car, and the rest of the car is empty.  Bicycle Man walks halfway down the row, and settles into the seat directly opposite me.  Perfect, I think.  Twice in one night.

It’s not the first time I’ve been bothered multiple times.  As such, I’m still amped from the teenagers on the first train.  So when this man leans across the aisle into my personal space and asks me, yes, what are you reading, I assertively but calmly tell him to please leave me alone, I am reading.  The man stands up, moving to the front and muttering angrily over his shoulder that it isn’t his fault I’m pretty.

Yes.  Exactly that.  I am the bad person in this situation because somehow this is all my fault.  I started this by being attractive.  I am making a mental note to bitch about this to my friends later.  I go so far as to write it down so I know I’m remembering it properly.  

It is at this exact moment I realize Bicycle Man is not taking it well.  The seemingly annoying but normal man a moment before is now talking to himself, becoming agitated.  In my years of being bothered by total strangers, I have learned how to hold a book and seem to be reading while taking in everything around me.  He is glaring at me, and says out loud in an angry baby talk voice “PLEASELEAVEMEALONEI’MREADING.  PLEASE LEAVE ME ALOOOONE.”

Then he’s up out of his seat and things go from bad to worse.  He begins pacing back and forth in front of his bike, alternating between screaming something about his mother being dead and calling me a slut, a hoe, a bitch.  I am frozen in place.  There is one other person in the car, and I’m not sure if trying to change seats will draw more attention to me or less. I trust my instincts and show no fear, doing my best to appear to be calmly reading my book, never once looking up to acknowledge the abuse he’s hurling at me.  There are four stops left until we reach the main downtown station where there are lights and security officers.  Those four stops are virtually abandoned, and I have no guarantee that leaving to wait for another train won’t motivate him to leave the train as well, leaving us potentially alone at a metro station platform just outside of Compton.  I’m frozen in place, trying to plan what I’m going to do if he decides to take all this rage directly to me.  I’m ready to kick him, scream, make enough noise that he panics and flees.  

At this point he’s punching the walls and doors of the train, screaming at me.  He stares me full in the face and screams







This went on for two stops.  No one came to see what was happening.  The man in the last row was as frozen as I was.  I’m not angry he didn’t come to my defense.  He was smaller, older, and frailer-looking than I was.  Again, I was worried if I got up, I would be turning my back on him to walk down the aisle.  In the state he was in, I had no guarantee it wouldn’t get physical, and I had more physical strength with my back to the window and feet in kicking position where I was.  If he had chosen to assault me, I would only be making it easier for him by standing up and putting myself directly in his path.  On and on, over and over, he screamed at me, screamed at his dead mother, screamed at me again.

The moment we reached the downtown station, I was out the door and down the stairs.  I still had to catch a connecting train to North Hollywood, and made sure there was no sign of Bicycle Man before I entered the car.  That’s when I finally starting shaking, and almost threw up.  By the time I exited the Red Line and reached my car I could barely breathe and my heart was pounding out of my chest.  Even now, in my own home, my hands are still shaking and for some reason the stress has made my back muscles feel cold and numb.  From all the tension, I can only assume.  I can’t eat anything, I still feel like I’m going to vomit, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t cried so much, so hard I still have the headache.

So when people (men) want to talk about “legitimate” forms of assault, tell girls they should be nice to strangers and give men the benefit of a doubt, tell them to consider it a compliment, tell them to ignore the bad behavior of men, I want them to be forced to feel, for even one minute, what it feels like to have so much verbal hatred and physical intimidation thrown at them for nothing more than being female and not wanting to share.  

I just wanted to read my book.

It’s not my fault I’m pretty.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    I spy with my little eye something starting with 'm'.

    by Shade Tail on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 03:50:01 PM PDT

  •  True, true, true. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  Oh yes the mass transit entertainment show... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaraJones, Pandoras Box, luckylizard

    Young pretty woman alone is asking for IT... Had one bozo follow me home where I was alone since the family was gone... I locked the doors and called the cops... He went from me to the next day following a young woman to her high school where he burst into the school with a gu... holding hostages and demanding they deliver her to him like some sacrificial maiden... Amazing what hormones do considering that men are always dismissing women as too emotional and too ruled by hormones...Uh HUH...  

    I was astonished by his talking about his mommy like you as a female were responisble to step in and hold him and tend to him. GACK, my ex husband was like that...looking for a mommy replacement that would give him every attention he needed. He was so bad he was jealous of our son and after the first time he hit him so hard that he left a paw print through his diaper I told him that I would literally gut him at night if he ever hit the baby again... Then I left him when he put holes in walls and broke things.. He married again and I understand one of his other sons ended up with a mysterious head injury that left him with disabilities.

    Women as the fantasy, the tender, the caretaker, the soother, the sex kitten, the eye candy, the nutrition menu for every appetite and every emotion that needs care that they do not know how to deliver to themselves... Adult men can understand themselves and can have empathy... Too many adolescents running around unable to do anything but demand others take care of them under threat of force.

    How can you tell when Rmoney is lying? His lips are moving. Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 04:42:31 PM PDT

  •  Street harassment, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Pandoras Box, luckylizard

    a real thing. A huge thing. Probably the biggest thing I can think of that millions upon millions of women deal with every day that is virtually invisible to many men.

    Try telling them about it. Even the good men rarely believe it, don't understand it, don't accept that something so huge and so awful happens to women every day. It must not be a real thing. It must be just millions and millions of women overreacting to the threat of assault, rape, or death.

    If there were one thing that would improve women's everyday lives in a massive way in this country, it would be a sudden and complete end to street harassment. I can't even imagine what a world like that would be like. It would be... awesome. It would be awesome.

    "Lady, that baby couldn't possibly be mine. I raped you." Magic ladyparts strike again.

    by LaraJones on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 04:49:29 PM PDT

  •  Glad she decided to tell her story (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaraJones, luckylizard

    Thank you for bringing this up.
    While I believe most of us have stories of similar harassment, I've rarely heard women share them even with each other, let alone with men. I've had similar experiences walking down the street (followed down the street and into a restaurant, where the staff said they couldn't make the man leave or call the police unless he actually hurt me) and in my car (hot summer day, windows down, stopped in traffic, a man in a car stopped next to mine shouting threats and obscenities). I think I told my husband about the former but not the latter. Most men have no idea what we live with just trying to go about our lives.

  •  Women always "owe" something, dont' we? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaraJones, Pandoras Box, luckylizard
    Because I somehow, as a woman, owe you conversation.
    We "owe" a strange man conversation; we "owe" a man a chance at a job (by surrendering our own); we "owe" it to add to the gene pool, on others' terms; we somehow "owe" men comfort, assurance.

    Here's to refusing all that "debt." No, we aren't going to pay your price.

    It's here they got the range/ and the machinery for change/ and it's here they got the spiritual thirst. --Leonard Cohen

    by karmsy on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 05:29:38 PM PDT

  •  We all have these stories. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaraJones, Pandoras Box, luckylizard

    One guy I knew in college couldn't understand why I didn't like him.  The first thing he said to me when we were introduced was that he could break me in half with one hand.  And he couldn't figure out why I didn't like him.

    I have other stories as well.  Don't we all?

    Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

    by loggersbrat on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 05:33:00 PM PDT

  •  I think this is a violation (0+ / 0-)

    to post the entire post...

    three paragraphs is all that's allowed under fair use, unless you have the original author's permission to post the whole thing in it's entirety, which you should include with the repost.

    Not trying to be nerdy, or a scold, but this is one of those things that can get the site in trouble if it is not observed, I believe.

    Enjoyed the diary.  

    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 05:43:14 PM PDT

  •  It's a strange thing, isn't it? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LaraJones, Pandoras Box, luckylizard

    That women's appearance is a public good, it belongs to everyone somehow (and men, in particular), free to comment on or harrass because of it.  It is simply an invitation.

    Of course this is also true for women who are not attractive, but the way that publicnes of their appearance is acted up on is different.  Everyone (and especially men) are free to comment upon, insult and hurl abuse at women who are not attractive.


    Words can sometimes, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds. --Elie Wiesel

    by a gilas girl on Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 05:49:32 PM PDT

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