I was walking through the Boston Common to an appointment the other day when a man yelled something to me about what he intended to do to me. It was physical and vulgar. I ignored him. First safety rule: don’t engage.
Waking back from my appointment, I passed him again. This time, apparently offended by my non-reaction last time, he yelled at me that I was arrogant. He kept yelling after me as I walked on. He listed many of the unpleasant personal characteristics he perceived me to have. I ignored him.
Then I forgot about it — until I decided I wanted to blog about it. I couldn’t quite get a handle on what it was I was trying to say, though, so I e-mailed a few friends. Rebecca and Jess helped me work it out — thanks guys — so what I’m about to say is a joint effort.
Random abuse from misogynists, in one form or another, is a routine part of many — most? — women’s lives. It happens to every kind of woman. Women of every shape, size, and color; femme women and butch women; anyone who identifies or reads as a woman. As Rebecca wrote to me, “It happens when the shouter finds the woman beautiful and hot; it happens when the shouter finds the woman ugly. It can be sarcastic; it can be an invitation. It can mean ‘get away from me’ or ‘get over here to me’.” It is done by men who say something uninvited believing themselves to be delivering a compliment, and men saying something uninvited who know themselves to be delivering an insult, and the point I want to make is: IT’S THE SAME THING. Again quoting Rebecca, “really it’s all the same when it’s shouted to someone on the street.” It’s seeing a person as a body and no more, and not just that, but a body unworthy of respect. Plus, as Jess pointed out, no matter what is meant by it, it always feels like a threat.
Routine experiences like these, experienced by my friends, my sisters, by me and by strangers on the street around me, are among the many reasons I found myself needing to write Fire.