On Monday afternoon my work phone rang, as it is wont to do. I answered it.
“Good afternoon, College of Engineering.”
A man’s voice answered.
“I just have to ask you a question.”
My stomach sank a little at the tone in his voice. I have had these interactions so many times before that I feel like I respond to cues that I could not possibly articulate to you. I knew, in my gut, that he was about to be disgusting.
“Sure!” I said, trying to maintain my chipper phone demeanor. “How can I help you?”
“I just need to know what color your panties are so I can jerk off.”
My face and neck were suddenly hot and crawling with shame. I snarled “go fuck yourself” into the phone line and hung up.
Friends, I am so tired.
When I walked home from work on Monday I felt so strange. I had my headphones in. No music playing, as usual. Just a condom against the world. A prophylactic to allow me to ignore people when it suited me. When men yelled things at me from cars or “mhm’d” their way past me on the street.
I listened to the muffled sounds of the world around me through the plug of my headphones. I could barely make out the sounds of birds in the trees at the park. The sound of my own footsteps seemed so far away.
I felt so fucking sad in that moment. Here I was, muting the world around me just so that I could create a barrier against harassment.
I took my headphones out.
I listened to the unfettered sound of the world around me and smiled.
I spend so much time trying to protect myself from harassment. Sometimes, in the summer, when it is too hot to cover my body entirely in cloth, I will stay inside until I have an escort. Other times I will wrap myself in jeans rather than a short skirt in order to avoid the possibility of leers and comments.
I refuse to wear sexy clothing when I am going to be taking public transportation.
At work, when people say weird or inappropriate things, I freeze.
I refuse to be this person any longer. I refuse to act as though I am afraid.
I have taken my headphones off.
I will wear my short skirts whenever I please.
And everyone at work had better be prepared for me to go full-on feminist killjoy on them when they tell me I should smile, or call me “sweetheart.”
I am officially done muting the beauty of the world around me and curating my behaviors in order to make it so that these jerks do not see the chinks in my armor.
I’ve had enough.