I <3 New York?

May 10, 2011

So, I am a born and raised New Yorker, a hardcore (though I don’t seem it) Bronxbaby. I’ve seen a lot of things in my life and will probably see a lot more. I love my city and anyone who has anything really bad to say about it will probably have to deal with a chewing out from me. Yes, yes, I know the very thought is frightening.

There are days, though, when I wonder if I’ve become too much of a city girl. When my boyfriend derides the attitude of drivers (and let’s face it: pedestrians) and their sense of entitlement and while I do sympathize, part of me thinks the only way to survive sometimes is to assimilate. Become tough, give back as good as you get. This is not really the answer, though, but it does help with the strain sometimes. And being able to yell at someone who cuts you off, and I’m talking about walking through the subway tunnels, is great for stress relief.

Then stuff like what happened to me this morning occurs and I wonder: am I too far gone? Ok, so, here’s the thing: it was nearly 8:30 this morning and I was walking to work at the Company-That-Must-Not-Be-Named. On nice days like today, I like to take the local train to Canal Street and walk the last couple of blocks. When you’re locked in a windowless office for most of the day, you take as much sun as you can, when you can. I had the walk sign, so I was crossing the street, bopping along to Lady Gaga, enjoying the energy that the high intensity beat and my super-strong, chocolate-laced coffee affords me. That’s when I turn my head to keep an eye on the cars. Hey, it may be a red light, but you never know during rush hour. Waiting at the crosswalk was this man wearing a baseball cap in a dark green car. The moment our eyes locked he mouthed the word “whore” at me, an ugly expression on his face. Like a mixture of disgust and hatred. It was definitely the strangest thing that has happened to me, and most especially the strangest thing that’s happened in the early hours of the morning. I said nothing, my eyes slid away, and I kept walking, nothing in my posture or stride conveying that I was bothered, upset, or scared by this man. And this is the way you need to handle people like that. Do not engage, do not escalate. Otherwise, who knows what might have happened? He could have been some nutjob out to run the first person who said something to him over with his car. But that’s not really what makes this such a strange situation.

What’s strange is that I wasn’t pretending I wasn’t bothered. I actually wasn’t bothered.

And this is so incredibly odd to me. Maybe I’m over-thinking this. In fact, I probably am. But you’d think I would have at least gotten a little flustered after I had crossed the street, right? But, no nothing. And two hours later, I still don’t feel anything more than just mild curiosity and befuddlement at my own lack of reaction. By rights, I should at least be a little angry. Not all out upset, because people are idiots, this is an established fact. But some sort of feminist annoyance at the whole thing. So what if my skirt is a little short today? Or if I’m dressed a little less conservatively than normal? That gives no one the right to call me a “whore.” I get upset if my friends call me those kinds of names as a joke. I find nothing funny about it. And yet when this total stranger passes judgment on me and spews hate in my direction, I shrug it off like it was nothing. And it was nothing, but it was still shocking. So why am I not shocked? Why am I not at least surprised by this type of vile behavior?

Have I become so used to random misogyny that it doesn’t even register anymore? I mean, it’s New York, women have been harassed in some way or another. I’ve been hit on, I’ve been ogled, I’ve even been touched inappropriately, none of this is entirely new to me. But that doesn’t mean I should be so used to it that I don’t even care anymore. When it gets to that point, I think it’s time to reevaluate the way I think. And it makes me wonder if there are other women out there who have been so exposed to casual cruelty that it doesn’t even register anymore. It makes me wonder: what will need to happen to make being called a whore an insult again?

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