One day, back in the late 70's when I was in Junior High, I was running laps during gym class. As one of the last few to finish the assigned exertion, I heard a couple boys running on the other side of the field shout, “Run You F***g Whore!” I did what a lot of girls and women do when boys and men verbally punish us for being female and that is to internalize the guilt instead of putting it where it belongs; back on the guys. I look back on that incident and wish I had the courage to yell back at them or at least the strength not to have internalized the shame and blame.
My reaction to that incident would help me with a similar one I experienced
I was walking along the side- walk near my home, minding my own business, when a small car full of young men drove slowly past me. With his head hanging out of the window, one of them shouted at me, “Hey You Stupid Bitch!” I turned around to the young bully and shouted, “Hey! Shut Up!”
What happened next surprised me almost as much as it would surprise the maligning male and his amused buddies. I don’t know whether it was my age, mood, my years of feminist sensibilities coupled with the fact that it was my Birthday, but I decided to turn and walk briskly in the direction of their still sluggish vehicle. I like to think that my decision to do so, was sanctioned by God because there were no other cars on that side of the road and the way seemed to be paved clear for me to take the next step.
Since I was already being compared to a dog, what would be more appropriate than to chase a Mazda full of misogynists down the “friendly” Canadian intersection?!
So… off I went. My fast walking turned to a slow jog. I could see the boys’ satisfied smirks turn to disbelieving dismay as I began to move off the sidewalk and run into the street alongside the car. Finally, the driver, convinced I had no intention of backing down, grew a lead foot and took off down the road and disappeared into traffic. They may not have been frightened of me, but they were definitely thrown by the idea that a female might not just shut up and take it. Instead of internalizing their words and blaming myself for having the audacity to walk home alone, or just to walk while female, I made them confront the fact that I was a human being; deserving of respect. Did they respect me? Probably not, but I like to imagine that just one of them might think twice before shouting horrible insults at another girl or woman again. In my other fantasy, the mouthy boy grows up to become an anti-sexist lecturer : )
I don’t advocate that everyone respond the way I did.
My circumstances made me feel comfortable enough. It was daytime, I knew my surroundings and I kept calm. I didn’t even swear at the guys; tempting as it was.
Looking back, I probably would rethink chasing a moving vehicle on foot; for many reasons. Now, when I remember that incident, I can hold my head a little higher and walk a little taller because I struck a small blow for women’s dignity.