Actually, I think my favorite pull-quote is: “‘Women and girls are puzzling,’ concluded Detective Anthony – but he is neither the first nor the last man to so decide.”
i have been thinking a lot about cat calls on my bike. i am going to write a big piece about it for fat grrrlz #3. maybe not so big, but a bit more fleshed out than it will be right here, right now.
one of the things that happen with cat calls is a really big power exchange. it takes the power away from whoever is getting cat called, relatively quickly. when the cat called gets attacked on the street while they are walking, it takes a while to get away from the scene. sometimes, there is an option for the caller/attacker to follow the called and extend the harassment. becoming voiceless in a rather quick exchange of power is hard to deal with at times. there are a lot of options for the attacker. they can stop, continue or get their friends to join in. they can also get total strangers to join in because in this power exchange, the attackers are usually being relatively loud with it with minimal contact to the attacked, hopefully, so on-lookers don’t see it as being dangerous. it is dangerous though. it is very dangerous. any type of power-exchange which takes power from a somewhat autonomous individual and puts it in the hands of someone else is fucking dangerous. taking away the voice from anyone is dangerous. taking away the power from the attacked, helps transition this person into an object (i think the transition has already occurred for the attacker/attacked, but for onlookers and other people joining in on the act it helps shift the attacked into an object further). this act is very dangerous. there is no accountability in these acts, for either parties. when one is made into an object, they don’t have voices or power. i can’t begin to say it more, but this is fucking dangerous.
on my bike, i gain an awesome amount of freedom. i have the opportunity to swerve through traffic, ride away from dangerous areas, quicker than i would, if i were walking. it also gives me a great amount of autonomy and a little more time to make decisions when i am getting attacked. when i am riding alone on a street and wait at a red light and two attackers come up from behind and make a comment about my fat ass and what they would do to me. they take away this freedom. this is fucking dangerous. i have more options on my bike. i can yell back and get away and not feel afraid that they are going to come after me that quick. (unless they have a car, but usually they don’t). there is still an exchange of power. the minute the attackers yell at me, and other people witness it, and nobody else says anything, they gain power. they gain my power. when i yell back, and nobody says anything, i get my power back. i let them know “hey, i am a fucking person. i am not some fat ass on a bike that just wants to get fucked by you”.
just yelling back isn’t good enough for me. i am trying to develop a few statements that can really fucking get back to them. i usually tell them to go fuck themselves, or i ride with one hand and give them the middle finger. one time, i rode back to the guy and asked “do you actually get pussy like this? DO YOU?” and he didn’t know what to say back. i made him accountable, i said ‘hey dude, i am a fucking person too! i should have some sort of say in you objectifying me and it isn’t awesome’. the point of this is not only to make the attacker accountable but to also make yourself accountable. in the power exchange and the transition to objectification, nobody is accountable and it becomes an act of faceless consumption. i want this to stop.
yesterday, i think i reacted in the best way, so far. i was riding by and a dude in his 40’s did the most awkward kissy sounds. over exaggerated kissy sounds i have ever heard. not only was it disrespectful but it was unsafe. i am riding my bike on a narrow street and he is just fucking distracting me. at the light, i pulled up next to his car and said “hey, i just wanted to let you know that what you are doing to female bike riders is not only fucking disrespectful, but very fucking distracting and unsafe” and he didn’t know what to say back, then he said “…wait what did i do? just appreciating true beauty..” and i said, “no. if you were appreciating true beauty, you would have asked to fucking talk. you would have asked my name. you would have told me to have a good day. instead, you made a kissy sound to me. the same sound people make to animals that they think they are better than, to get their attention. you made a kissy sound in hopes that i would turn around with my mouth open to suck your dick. this isn’t an act of appreciation. this is an act of disrespect. i have a name. i have a family. i am a person. and i am just trying to get somewhere, just like you are. in your fucking car. so please think about that, the next time you objectify another woman on a fucking bike or on the street”
he apologized. i just rode on, i didn’t say “it’s alright” or “thanks”. i just rode on. i think this was the best way i could have reacted. i made sure i felt safe enough to get away with relatively good speed and that in case something happened, there were other people to hold him accountable. but this is what i tried to do in my reaction, hold him accountable for his actions and un-objectify myself. i think it was a good reaction.
As the one-person official committee for the Brooklyn Peace Prize, I hereby bestow the award to Brandi for amazing strides in the realm of rocking out, zine writing, and empowerment against harassment AND ESPECIALLY for actual works of effective diplomacy against encroaching misogyny and unbalanced power divides on the streets of The Better Borough.
Did you hear? Today we are supposed to blog about women in technology. Hurrah! Since blogging, women and technology are the triumvirate ruling my professional life (and everything else I do every day), I figured I should acknowledge it with someone else’s Ada Lovelace Day post:
Additionally, if I haven’t talked to you about it already, these three blogs— Feministing, Jezebel, and Feministe— are the subjects of my thesis, and you should check them out. They make for some pretty great studying, and I would be sick of this project by now if they weren’t so good so consistently.
Hell yes, Big Ups to ladies and their tech! Check out the ladies of NYC Resistor who all do great work (some of might recognize former Project Runway contestant and fashion-tech innovator Diana Eng).
Also, in celebration Adafruit Industries is having a sale. Cash in! (Buy me a kit!)