I think about being a woman all the time. I think about it when I interview for a job or open a bank account, during sex, in the shower, in my relationship with a man, and in a non-gender-fixed way. As part of the “invisible knapsack of male privilege,” it seems that most (underline most, not all) men do not think about their sex in these situations.
Since I moved back to New York City this summer after graduating from college, I can add to the above list: I think about being a woman when I go to my apartment, when I leave my apartment, when I’m on the subway, when I exit the subway car, when I walk down the street in [work clothes/Friday night clothes/laundry day clothes/summer weekend clothes], when I walk [alone/with a female friend/with my boyfriend], when I walk into a store, when I notice the security camera outside of that store, when I bike, when I sit, when I eat in public, when I smile, and when I give people the NYC blue steel.
This is an absurd list because, as one may notice, I think about being a woman in EVERYTHING I do. The issue I am presenting is not as simple as, Hey, I’m a woman and people look at me. The harassment women receive, which is EXPECTED and ACCEPTED, has bullied me out of basic public spaces. I do not go to the store below my apartment anymore because the clerk leers at me, winks while my partner stands there, calls me “sweetie.” When the subway eeks its way to my stop, I make sure to walk to the exit closer to my apartment so I risk less street harassment on my 2 block walk home. Even when I’m biking, whizzing past people like lampposts, I hear fragments of their comments like, “Ey sexy” “Can I have a ride?” and sometimes just, “Body.” Like people of various marginalized identities, I am being constantly policed. My body is being constantly policed. As a woman, these are inextricably linked and objectified – my body and my sex.
By writing this post, I do not offer any directive or action against this behavior. Rather, I have been craving a way to express how damaging this way of life is for me – because it has become a way of life – weighing the frustration of walking further to go to a different store for ginger-ale when I’m sick against the frustration of being harassed with no out when I’m sick. This post is for anyone else who has been there, and to question, once again, the rape culture we live in that can brush off such harassment as “just part of life,” while men line up in front of me, bike ahead of me, and walk down the street – explore spaces freely – without strangers’ words ringing in their ears.