All The Ladies Who Truly Feel Me, Throw Your Hands Up At Me (Or: #WWBD)
Last weekend I saw Beyoncé in concert. It was a tremendously epic and empowering evening and everything one would hope and expect seeing Beyoncé in the flesh would be.
But that’s not the point of this post.
I traveled to New Jersey from NYC for Bey. It wasn’t exactly an unreasonable schlep on an ordinary day, but when you’re attempting to cram essentially an entire MetLife Stadium’s worth of rabid Beyoncé fans on a limited number of trains between two points within a very specific window of time, you’ve got yourself a recipe for disaster.
Yet that’s still not entirely the point of this post (plus, when Beyoncé asks you to do something, you just do it, you know).
Thanks to the nightmare that was the post-concert trip home, my roommate and I found ourselves on a moderately crowded A train back to the Upper West Side at approximately 2 am.
Let’s keep in mind that last part: it’s 2 in the damn morning. I am, for lack of a better phrase, Beyoncé’d-out. I have the worst headache I can recall in recent memory, I am sweaty and sticky and tired from 3 hours of non-stop dancing to “Love on Top” and other such varied Beyoncé and Jay-Z hits of the last decade, and oh yeah, it is also a time of night/morning when humans probably don’t need to be interacting with other humans, period.
So we’re on the train. I’m sitting, and my roommate is standing right next to me. There is also an unassuming-looking man, probably in his mid-20s, standing next to her.
The man asks us how our night has been. My roommate answers, and I nod in groggy agreement that it has, indeed, been great but that I am exhausted. I can feel both of us mutually think that such a response has been sufficient deflection.
But, uh, you know…nope. Apparently 2 am is the prime time to talk to two girls that have demonstrated unambiguous disinterest in speaking to you, because this dude was relentless.
Let me be clear, though: while I’m not one who enjoys engaging with random strangers on the subway at any time of day, nothing about this guy seemed threatening. He was earnest, and he actually seemed like a pretty normal, nice, upstanding dude that might be more or less okay to talk to under different circumstances and during daylight hours. While it doesn’t excuse his behavior, I’m not even entirely sure that he was attempting to hit on us. I think he just wanted to hear himself talk more than anything.
In any case, I pulled out my phone in an attempt to further deter this fellow. He countered this move by talking about me to my friend, bro-ishly chortling, “Man, she really doesn’t want to talk to me, huh?” I closed my eyes. (Still 2am.)
And maybe it was because I had just sat through a concert by the woman who has given the world this, this, and this in recent years, but it continued to the point where I felt compelled to assure him that, no, I didn’t want to talk to him, tartly enough that any socially conscious human would have ceased and desisted. What would Beyoncé do, right? (#WWBD)
So when he replied, “Yeah, I’ve been saying to your friend how much you look like you don’t want to talk to me,” I spat back that I could, indeed, hear him, in what was maybe the most aggressive tone I’ve taken with a stranger in all of the time I’ve lived in New York City.
He continued to talk – about nothing – and my roommate continued to make polite attempts at disengagement until he eventually got off the train (with a group of male and female friends sitting nearby who had been silently watching him harass two girls for the past 10+ stops). My roommate and I exchanged a relieved look and that was pretty much that.
But the more I thought about it, the more incensed I got, to the point where I’m still thinking about it over a week later. What made me the most furious was not only that he was able to do it, but also that he was able to get away with it. That he, a male, felt like it was okay to run his mouth to me, a female, ABOUT NOTHING. This dude was literally talking to us about stuff as mundane as the weather. He obviously wanted little out of the exchange and was clearly doing it just because he could.
And all of his friends and an entire subway car full of people sat there and let it happen.
I don’t write about this because I believe it’s the worst injustice ever committed against a woman on public transportation. I’m not even that mad that I had to attempt to deflect his conversation, because I’ve dealt with enough weird dudes trying to talk to me in my lifetime to know that it’s probably never going to be something with which I won’t have to deal (which is a sad fact in and of itself). I don’t share this to make anyone worry about me (hi, mom) or to make anyone take pity on the fact that a man in whom I showed approximately -47% interest tried to (horror of horrors) hold a conversation with me. On the contrary: it’s far from the worst harassment I’ve ever experienced, and it’s – unfortunately – lightyears away from the worst forms of harassment women in general have ever experienced, period.
But, when you stop to think about it, the fact that such an everyday form of male privilege exists — a type of behavior that made me stop to question whether I’m overreacting or if it’s even worth mentioning — is a unique type of maddening sexism. And I think that makes it worth writing about.
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