Due to my car not working lately, I opted to walk to work today. The tough thing is, I have loads of anxiety about walking by myself in the area I live. Also where my work is located is a rather bad neighborhood, a girl I know got mugged last spring walking in broad daylight on one of the cross streets. Police are around my building or called every few days over something or another.
Lots of people walk though, in broad daylight…it’s said to be “safe enough”
I would feel okay, if it weren’t for the frequent cat calls that cause me to be embarrassed and sometimes afraid. Some women see it as empowering to walk alone, In spite of being bothered. I could see that, in an ” I won’t let you make me feel afraid” sense.
I suppose maybe it’s all how you look at it. These are things I said to myself in the doorway, trying to be positive since I had no other choice. My anxiety rising the more I thought about the long walk through downtown, a fragile creature, alone.
My attire was carefully chosen. I donned huge shades, and ear buds to drown out some crude phrases and also cover the embarrassment My face would wear upon hearing them.
I dressed a bit differently. I chose Jeans, flats,and a baggy jacket to cover my fitted tank top, though it was a warmish day. Fully aware that my usual: bright fitted clothes and shorter dresses would only draw more attention to my womanly shape. I prepared methodically… Thinking that would help matters.
From the man who drove along side me in his truck asking where I was going…to the street people who taunted me…to the well dressed older man in the fancy car who yelled out “ooow ooow neec a ride?” At the cross walk, it was made abundantly clear that my clothing choice wasn’t ever the cause.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no hardcore feminist. I understand that men will be interested in women and act on it, and that’s only natural since cave man times. In fact If I get a polite compliment from a man I always say “thank you”and accept it kindly and gracefully, regardless of the giver of the compliment. But sometimes, when rudely yelled at… I can’t help but feel like I’m treated like a second class citizen…or somehow less than a person because of my gender. Why is it acceptable for men to embarrass me or frighten me because I do something as simple as walk down the street? Is it in the name of appearing manly somehow? It often seems like any cat call or crude phrase, accepted poorly only aggravates the person and causes them to lash out in anger. It can be frightening, or at least unsettling to go for a walk in my shoes.
Anyway, I made it, I walked the entire way. When I got there, sweat pouring from my temples due to being stressed by my anxieties, and walking with too many layers in a pitiful attempt to cover myself, I threw off my extra layers and sat down to begin painting. After a few hours painting, my husband showed up to get me. Fortunately with my,car that was just back from the shop.
In the front seat, I ran my hands through the back of my hair taking a deep breath at a red light. My eyes closed for a minute, thinking “Thank God my car is fixed” Just then, a man sitting close by yelled, “Yeah baby, that’s how you do it, keep going.” as another man next to him laughed and nodded fervently.
Car, or no car, walking or driving, wearing a short dress, or slouchy clothing, I cannot change who I am, and I cannot change society.
As an artist, and a person, all I can do is keep on.