As has happened to me many times before, on Sunday I walked by a man who tried to initiate a conversation with me.
As I have also done many times before, I ignored the man. This upset him.
“I was talking to you, bitch. Fuck you, answer me.”
This has happened to me many times before as well. Not always these exact words, but a message with the same intent.
It seems that whenever a man wants to speak to me, I owe him a response, and I should be thankful that he is paying attention to me in the first place.
This man’s behaviour, like any man participating in gendered violence, is abhorrent. I and all other woman do not deserve to be treated like objects. But the problem is that we live in a heteropatriarchal society that condones, if not encourages, gendered violence. Additionally, few people acknowledge there is even an issue, let alone will do something about it.
The fact that a man will rarely if ever get called out on his behaviour is the problem: I have seen more women call out men for their words than I have men. In fact, I have never seen a man tell another man his behaviour has been in appropriate. Not once.
A woman talking back to a man is a threat to male masculinity because the women is not being demure and passive but instead embodying so-called traits of “maleness”. It is a practice I would engage in more often myself, except in doing so I am always at risk of physical violence.
Have I talked back? Yes, and many times. Has it been worthwhile? Yes, I feel that it was useful to disrupt then man’s (or men’s) hetereopatriarchal thought processes and surprise them. But I’ve had to do it in a space where I know if something went wrong, I would not be alone. It’s kind of terrifying to have someone who is more than half a foot taller than you and probably double your mass yell at you and scream into your face that they’re going to kick the shit out of you (which has happened). Likewise, if a physical altercation ever started I don’t know how well I would be able to protect myself because I’m already at a physical disadvantage because of my medical issues.
Most of the time I have not felt safe to do so, so I try and ignore what is being said. Not because I don’t have anything to say, not because I don’t want to say something, but because I fear for my safety.
I am however getting increasingly frustrated that this is the tactic I have to take in my life. I and other women do not deserve to be treated this way, but until more men are of the same mindset and are willing to act, the longer this will continue.
Step. The. Fuck. Up.