But a group of men got to me first.
First they called me names, fake intimacies, referring to my gender, my body. They lured me to engage, acting as if I’d dropped something. I could have; it was that kind of day and I didn’t have my glasses nor anything on me I could afford to lose. They wanted me to linger and they laughed and watched me twirl around myself: a show for themselves, a game they played. I was the prop.
When I realized what was happening, I called them names. They laughed. I boarded my train.
I felt frazzled but mostly angry. What gave those men the right to screw with me, a random woman? And how was that fair, with five of them and one of me? And why, because I’m a woman, should I be susceptible to such things? And though they struck me as harmless, young men with not enough to do (no, I don't want no scrubs), a teeny part of me was screaming alarm. I was scared because I was vulnerable: Alone, on a dark street, surrounded.
Looking back on it, calmer, I was likely over-reacting. I was in no immediate danger: There was a crowd around the corner and the boy was on the line in the phone in my hand. And I’m no stranger to these stupid cat-calls and heckling that is the sad reality of being a woman. Whistles and inappropriate comments from moving cars are easy to brush off.
But in this new city of mine, for whatever reason, these men want to engage, want me to talk back, and sometimes they get too physically close for comfort and I have to tell them to back off. One of my friends long had to endure a man, yelling at the top of his lungs as she walked by, “I want me some of that p&^%$y!” Over and over. Every. Single. Day.
But this is my larger point and embarrassing confession: It has changed the way I dress. With riff-raff hanging out on street corners, I’m not going to wear a skirt or dress that shimmies up to my hips as I’m biking, so that they can mess with me when I stop at intersections. I wore pants nearly all summer.
Yes, I live in a city, but I’ve never felt more vulnerable than when walking in the wintery New England woods. So city or country, I’ve just chalked this up to stupid behavior sparked by my gender. And it’s damned unfair.
I know there’s a big emphasis in the blogosphere about dressing for yourself, owning your style, and having the confidence no matter the environment. And I know changing the way you dress because of this sort of discomfort can be seen as negotiating with terrorists, especially since I’m likely not in any real danger. I mean, who gave them the power to dictate what I put on in the morning? But the truth is, I simply don’t want to deal with it.
I’m admitting this now because I’m of two minds about it. Part of me feels I should dress in the way that makes me feel comfortable throughout my day, including dealing with these bozos during my commute. Sewing is clearly important to me, but feeling safe is paramount. Another part of me feels I should dress solely for myself and harden myself to any comments that flashes of femininity inspires.
Many of us embrace our femininity through the clothes we make and wear. I’d love your thoughts on this. Do you have to deal with this where you live? Does your environment change the way you dress?