To all the men who have (and will) threaten my public space

This piece is written by the amazing Bry, and was originally published in: i hope you like FEMINIST RANTS


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The first time, I was on a beach. You crept up behind me to grab my breast. It happened so fast, it almost felt like it didn’t happen at all. But it did, because even after I cried and showered, I could still feel your hand on my body. I felt so much shame and I had nowhere to put it, so I hid it away.

The second time, I was crossing the street. You came from around the corner on a motorcycle and slapped my chest so hard it felt more like a punch. I confided in my coworkers and they asked, What were you wearing? They told me, You should be more careful. So I covered up and learned to make myself small.

The third time, I was walking with my girlfriends to get coffee. You came along on a motorcycle and grabbed my breast. And, as usual, you were gone before anyone knew what to do. My voice was lodged in the pit of my throat; it wanted to scream but it didn’t know how. I felt like an animal in a cage, poked and prodded. Backed up into a corner.

The fourth time, I was on my bicycle. A downward hill separated me from my fiancé and you found your opportunity to grab me. The shame returned and it emerged from my body in a sea of tears. Even when I took precautions, you still found a way to strip me of my dignity. Even with a man by my side, I was exposed and easy prey.

The fifth time, three weeks ago, you got off your motorcycle. You crept up behind me and you pulled down my pants. You grabbed me and you ran off.

This time was different.

You see, the first time, the second time, the third time, and the fourth time, all of those emotions went somewhere. They got catalogued away in the recesses of my body; they sent messages to my muscle reflexes and my vocal chords. I didn’t realize it but all those times prepared me.

So this time I screamed. I screamed so loud.

I screamed This is my body, This is my body, This is my body, over and over. It became my mantra.

I spoke out. I told my friends. I made a police report. I didn’t find you, but I did find my voice.

With my words, I am transferring all the shame I feel back onto you. Please hold this and feel its weight. Please let it drag you down so you know the severity of your actions.

And in the future, when you feel the need to call out to me in the street — or whistle, or stare, or try to touch — please think twice. No matter how tiny you think your actions are, they are still a little piece of the same effort to exude power over my body.

You might say that catcalling is a little thing, to get over it already. You might even say, it’s a compliment, smile! I say, if you lived through our stories, you would know differently. Your actions, however tiny, trigger deep and traumatic wounds.

I didn’t realize it back then, but now I understand: You have made me stronger and fiercer than I could have ever imagined. Everyday, women like me are finding their voices and they are speaking out to demand change. Our voices are multiplying. Please don’t underestimate our power.

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This post is also available in: Indonesian

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