He pulls up with his window down and looks me over and asks, “Want a ride?”
I’ve never seen this guy anywhere in my life. So I wait for him to realize his mistake—because he must have thought he knew me.
He looks me in the face with absolute confidence and zero recognition.
So he didn’t think he knows me.
Through my confusion, my brain assembles the pieces, like gumballs clattering into place in an empty gumball machine.
So a middle-aged white dude driving a red sedan pulls up to a 33-year-old stranger. He offers me a ride. He doesn’t say where he’s headed. Nor does he ask how far I’m going. He simply invites me into his car.
He doesn’t even offer me a lollipop.
I thought this only happened to children.
One common cultural myth is that rape, harassment, and just general creepy behavior (and this counts, I think) is a result of how women dress. Men, seeing exposed thigh-flesh or breasts in bra cups, cease to be human, go into hypnotic “I must rape” mode, and lose access to their frontal lobes.
So it must be my cargo pants.
Khaki cargo pants just scream sex.
After all, I do live in a neighborhood where sex workers loiter on street corners. Guys pick them up all the time, pull into a gravel lot across from my house and hump in their cars, tossing condoms and other paraphernalia from their windows before driving off with license plates that read “FUCKER1” and “8ADASSZ”. In my hoodie and cargo pants, I must look just like a sex worker.
Also, he looks harmless. Balding, obese, maybe 50, he looks like the kind of friendly neighbor I like to chat with while watering the front lawn.
And maybe that’s his edge.
Women are socialized to experience male attention as a compliment. As somehow flattering that we are worth notice. His harmless appearance is only the icing on the cake. How many women has he tried to pick up? How many have said yes?
The reality is that male attention is often creepy and even threatening–regardless of actual intentions. Add into the mix the fact that 16% (RAINN) to 25% (U.S. Government) of women have survived sexual assault, and men–we women really need you to approach us with courtesy and respect.
So guys, if you just met a woman–or saw her on the street (and all of these have happened to me on Seattle’s lovely bus system), please note the following:
Whispering in a woman’s ear if you don’t know her is creepy.
Grabbing any part of her body is threatening.
Offering to walk or drive her home is beyond creepy. You just met her. She doesn’t even like you yet. You are a stranger. Hello.
Commenting on her body is creepy-threatening. I mean, come on. You just met her. I don’t care how attracted you are. Start with some respect. If you had just met a man, it would be weird if the first thing you say is, “You have such nice hands.” Creepy. Stop it.
Asking personal information is full-on threatening. Women will wonder what you plan on doing with that information. Don’t ask where she lives, where she works, whether she’s married, and so forth. You just sat down next to her on the bus. It’s none of your fucking business.
Responding with outrage if she asks you to step away, stop talking to her, or otherwise limit your interaction is downright scary. Believe it or not, women get to pick and choose their friends. Shocker. If you feel she was mean about it, step back and review your approach. Did you give her equal space in the conversation? Did you keep a comfortable physical distance (at least four feet)? My girlfriends only get nasty when a guy makes them feel threatened. Stop thinking it’s all about you and back off.
Basically? Stop treating women like puppies or like commodities whose attention and sexuality you have somehow bought and now would like to get what you paid for. I mean, this isn’t the Sixties. Do you really need us to go around wearing signs that read, “I AM A HUMAN BEING” to remind men that we want the same respect you get, i.e., not being propositioned 24/7?
In the end, I finally used my words to convey exactly what I was feeling: “What the hell?”
“No?” He said. He waited a few extra seconds to see if I’d change my mind. I didn’t. I gave him my best what-the-fuck-is-wrong-with-you look. “Okay…” He tapped the gas and rolled down the road a few feet. Pulled over at the next intersection and watched me continue walking home.
I decided to take the long way around, 20 minutes out of my way. He was gone by the time I came back around to my house.
My only regret? I didn’t think to take down his license number.
And people think feminism is dead? Baby, we’re just getting started.