So I'm hurrying to catch the bus, listening to a NPR podcast about systemic racism when an African American gentleman in bright yellow pants and a bowler cap rubs his semi-erect choad against me and says, “Hey big legs.”
I'm not a confronter, I'm a tattletale. I have a bus to catch. So instead of smacking dude I tell the bus driver.
“His stick?” asks the driver in accented English.
“No, his dick,” I repeat clearly. My face is bright red, and for once it is anger, not just embarassment. I don't know what's gotten into me but lately I've been giving zero fucks. The people sitting in the seats up front look worried. I'm holding up their commute.
No, seriously, I don't know what's gotten into me. I make a lot of noise about the systemic sexism that allows women to be groped with impunity in public buses in India and Japan, but the truth is when harassment happens to me I'm more likely to just get on with my day. I got places to go. And the dude that rubbed his dick against me is probably crazy, not a predator. He's probably just as much a victim of the system as me.
The place where his dick rubbed against my big leg burns.
Did you know that our brains are far more plastic than you think? The things that you repeat to yourself over and over actually influence our synapses, changing our beliefs for better or worse? This is why mantras work, why women in my life tell me that their lives changed forever by meeting their eyes in the mirror and repeating compliments every morning. I can count at least ten separate incidents of unacknowledged bullshit since the day Itold you, dear readers, that I wasn't going to put up with it anymore. Every time I told myself next time I was going to call the dude who groped/harassed/belittled me out on his shit. And here I've landed, somehow marginally more assertive.
A few stops down the road the bus driver leaves the wheel and finds me to say he's called the police. Now the whole back of the bus is curious. My face is a sunset.
I acknowledge I have power another person might not, and that it's not fair. That I'm a young well-dressed white girl used to being taken seriously. That no other combination of genders and race is as fraught with history as this one. That when the cops show up they're probably going to put the the dude who touched me with his dick through some racist bullshit. That the parents of the dude who rubbed his dick against me were probably turned down for a housing loan due to Federal Home Owners act of 1934, which meant that his school district was underfunded, leaving him unlikely to get a job which provided health care and that if he did have access to health care it probably wouldn't have included the mental health treatment he needs.
When shit like this happens I regress. Five minutes ago I was a human being with a bus to catch. I was smiling at strangers and planning a productive day. Now I'm a little girl. Now my brain is flooded with cortisol. All of my defense mechanisms are rushing to protect me, mostly by assuming blame. I shouldn't have worn these skinny jeans. It's my fault. Looking pretty or sexy is a liability. He's ruined these jeans. I won't be able to wear them without thinking of the man in the yellow pants. If someone I love touches me at the wrong time in a way that reminds me of this of my body will shut down.
It's no way to live and I'm not willing to live in a society where it's acceptable to make women feel this way.
I guess what I'm saying is that it's a bullshit system all around. I wish that dude didn't have to be out there on the corner rubbing up on commuters. I wish that I didn't have to rely on an inherently corrupt and patriarchal system to defend my honor. In the best of all possible worlds, I hope that the cops can't do shit without me there to press charges. Mr. Yellow Pants is going to go on to rub his dick against some other girl and this one's going to kick him in the balls, which might be the only way to actually stop the cycle. Fuck the system. Fight your own battles. Yeah, I'm going to keep telling myself that until it comes true.