Copenhagen: A man on the street started taking photos of me with his cell phone until I went into a coffee shop and hid in the bathroom for 10 minutes to make sure he hadn’t followed me in.
Train to Sweden: 3 men sat down next to me speaking Portuguese and started staring at my boobs and making lewd comments (ha! I understand you assholes, I speak Spanish) about me until I got up and moved to another seat, sitting next to a safe looking grandma-grandpa type couple.
Budapest: The leers and the looks and the whistles out the car windows, every time I walked anywhere.
Krakow: The drunks on the street who wouldn’t let me pass by them on the sidewalk, and when I moved to step off the curb and into the street, one grabbed my arm and asked me to dance.
Warsaw: A man in the park was walking close enough behind me that I started feeling like he was following me, he was giving me creepy vibes. Finally, when I stopped just glancing over my shoulder to confirm that yes, he was still really close, and I turned all the way around to give him a dirty look, he grabbed his crotch and made a gross face.
These incidents are so common place in all of my travel experiences and even day to day life, that they barely register. I don’t call my mom, they don’t get a mention in my nightly chat about my day with my boyfriend because they’re not “big enough.” That’s how used to being sexually harassed myself and I’m sure most women are. It amazes me that in 2016 this is still “normal.”
I could mention that I wasn’t wearing a shirt that shows cleavage on the train. I could mention that I’m very, very visibly pregnant. I could mention that I walked around the whole trip wearing full coverage leggings or long dresses. I could mention that I never went out at night, all of this happened in broad daylight. But none of that should fucking matter.
Women deserve to walk around safely, anywhere they choose to travel, be it from their house to the bank two blocks away, or in the middle of a foreign country.
Yep, I said it, we feminists do think that we deserve safety, that we’re entitled to it. I’m sick of men (and women), the patriarchy really, acting like being safe is on us. It shouldn’t matter how I was dressed, or whether I was showing cleavage or not on the train to Sweden. I should be entitled to not be made to feel scared and uncomfortable in a public space. I should be entitled for those men not to look at my boobs and make gross jokes. I should be entitled to walk down the street and say “excuse me” and pass a man freely without him grabbing my arm, without any kind of physical touch, whether I’m in a dress or not.
Yes, I am a woman. And yes, I have a right not to be raped or harassed regardless of where/when/how I’m going where I’m going.
I wrote this post because I want men to have a glimpse into what it’s like to travel while being female. To exist, really. I wish that they would stop and think what it means to have your space and safety encroached upon, on the regular. I know it’s hard to understand if you’ve never experienced it, but that’s why humans are born with the capacity to feel empathy. If men could put themselves in our shoes, I’m sure they’d be much more vocal advocates of stopping catcalling and harassment and intimidation of women in public spaces (and hopefully private too.
In the words of this woman who wrote a super similar post about working out and getting harassed because of what she’s wearing, “We deserve more.”