Is a woman's confidence hanging by a thread?
A few days ago I went through one of those incidents women are generally prone to at least periodically. When you're alone in a bus, or in a section of a bus, and there is a guy (and, in the worst cases more), possibly inebriated, that hit on you in the most gruesome, pushiest, abusive manners. I'm gonna give details, we've all been there.
I don't know what gave him the right to downright harass me - it was a pretty classy pickup, he got even poetic between obscene references. I somehow felt to a small degree flattered because he told me I am a beautiful woman and all, but all in all, I tried to keep my poker face (I got blocked in a sneer and occasional sarcastic puffs) because I knew I shouldn't make him angry so I put up with it and refused him and pushed him away as politely as possible.
Anyway, I can't say it was a serious (or legitimate?) incident, it was something that happens often - especially in a city like London. The only thing I noticed was the next day, today, I felt dirty, tainted, my confidence was shattered and then I realized what had happened. Men don't need to hurt you physically to impose their dominance on you. (To be honest and fair, there are women who do this as well, but this type of harassment, especially in public places involves a less powerful character that is being held in place by the powerful perpetrator, and as there is no escape, except through violence or outside interference, she has to put up with it)
I was amazed how a total stranger that I had no positive feeling of whatsoever - he felt more and more repulsive and disgusting as the bus ride went on - managed to destroy, in ten minutes or so, the confidence and strength I endeavoured to gain these past few months. I was talking to a friend sometime ago, and I realized that being a woman, you're not supposed to be confident and feel entitled - even if you've worked hard and for a long time for it. You're supposed to be quiet, anxious and docile. I remember telling her that if I were a man, I'd be ruling the world by now.
But I digress, my point is, this was a vicious attack packaged into a semi-pick-up. I was lucky that he didn't ask for my phone number, but made me save his (like I'm gonna call him!!!). I began being afraid that I will run into him again, I wake up worried that if I go out on the street, or take that bus again, I'll see that person again. I'm afraid of running into him. What if he will not be alone the next time? What if there will be other men with him? What if they're all going to be drunk?
I guess I'm not the only one with these thoughts, that's why I think there is a pattern here. We have become more or less immune to catcalling and such "innocent" harassment, but when it becomes physical and directed towards you, when they invade your space, even if they don't touch you per se, even that can get you into a very bad place. When it gets personal and you can't escape, how do you recover from it?
This is, I think, one of those grey areas where you can't say it was too intrusive, but it wasn't benign either. How do you stay away from these invasions? How do you not chat with such a character, without getting him angry and possibly actually hurt you? I remember my first flatmate, she was a law student, and she was sometimes telling about the cases she was studying. And one of them, was a lesson for both of us. A girl who went to the club, over-confident and ended up murdered because she pissed off some guys there. I always think of that possibility. I always try to avoid conflict, especially when I know for sure I am outgunned.
At the moment I don't know how to get my confidence back, I worked so hard for it and it's gone because of a drunk a*hole that thought I am a beautiful woman and felt the need to tell it to me by invading my space and embarassing me by treating me like some sort of a sexual object. He actually thought it worked, I think, I mean that I felt for it. What I forgot to say, that at first, he didn't know I understand his language and addressed me by swearing and saying really ugly things, when he realized I speak that language, omg, he became poetic and "honest" as he said. I didn't give him any feedback or a sign that I want to talk to him.
The question then is, was it that he didn't get the message to leave me alone, or was he ignoring it? I don't know if I was wrong to sit there and not run away, but I surely didn't flirt (unless irony and sneering and generally staring into the void anywhere else but where he was is nowadays considered accepting a guy's passes). I keep playing the episode in my mind, I know I shouldn't, but I do. I worry about the other people that were in the bus, I worry about what they thought of me. I keep thinking whether I should have moved further back or went downstairs, I don't know, but I do feel anxious about it and the future.
Back to the point of this post, is it only me or is a woman's confidence hanging by a thread? A very thin one, for sure. Does it really take one man invading her space in an ugly manner to shatter her pride and confidence? Is it normal to be so? Isn't it 2013? And why is it that while I'm in England I feel more attacked than when I'm - say - in Romania? Is it that there are different types of harassment and I'm used to that one, and not this one? I have so many questions, I don't even want to think about this, I take this post as a cathartic action and I hope after finishing it I will feel more at peace and with a lighter heart.
In any case, I'll finish here, go to sleep and hopefully wake up tomorrow morning with a renewed sense of self and courage to get out of the house.