7.17.2008

NO. You Do Not Have The Right To Grab My Ass

I am fucking tired of walking through the streets of Oakland and being judged as racist for avoiding groups of black men*. I'm avoiding men of all races throughout the day. Every fucking time I have to walk anywhere, there's always got to be a creepy guy who gives me one of those looks that just forces me to either skip a bus stop or walk on the curb of the street next to the cars whizzing by. I have even taken out of the way detours walking to some of my destinations because I am afraid of being cornered by a man.

So I come out of work today and then I see a group of three black men, at least six feet tall, loitering in a *four foot wide* space between a building and the bus stop bench. If I walk through, I would be forced to squeeze my way through three men. So when I decide instead to make a really obvious detour in front of the bus stop, walking like a damn ballerina on the cub of the street, I hear:

"HEY. Why you walkin' all the way over there?" It was accusatory. It was me being light skinned and supposedly *afraid* of black people. It was obvious by the way he said it, and I get it a lot. I was thinking, fuck, are you kidding me?

Man, fuck you. Fuck you so much because of that. What, being black is the only possible element in my decision? Man screw you. You act like you don't know what you are doing. Three fucking penises in a four foot wide space. I don't care about the color of your penises, I care that you *have* them!

This is something I've gone through, not something I just imagined in my supposedly racist mind. I was talking on my damn cell phone outside...during lunch, mind you. Pure daylight, but distracted. And then all of a sudden...boom. Full on ass grabbing. His hand slowly sliding back off. eeehhhhh. I was frozen. The guy, yes he was black, but he was a man. A man who was more than six feet tall and took advantage of me. "Ohh I just had to grab that." NO YOU DO NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO GRAB MY ASS. No, you do not have the right to come closer to me right now. Get the fuck away, I am calling the police. God.

It took me two months to get over that shit (and I know that it was nothing compared to what too many other women go through). Nevertheless, I went through two months of complete self disgust. It took me half a year to ever wear those jeans again. Now I panic if I forget my pepper spray at home...my pepper spray was the only consolation I could find after that.

I work at a place where I hear the most intense stories of criminal acts of violence against immigrant women. Rape. Sexual assault. Child abuse. Abusive men who use rape to *prove* that the woman hasn't been with another man. Or who take advantage of undocumented teenage children because the mother is busy working two jobs. No matter how long the staff have been working there, we all have the same disgusted reactions when we get new clients. "How can anyone abuse a child like that?" "How could anyone even think of doing something like that to a woman?" Etc.

So this is my final two cents:

All men need to be conscious of their sex 24/7. Just as much as white men need to realize that they are both racialized and sexualized beings...black men need to realize they are not just racialized. They are also sexualized. Hey, I'm not saying some don't, but from what I keep experiencing, many don't even realize it. Guys, have you ever heard of that little dating tip about never taking a girl on a first date in an isolate/desolate/closed space? The translation of that tip is: "Realize that you have the penis and that a girl doesn't want to fear being raped. She doesn't know you, so how does she know if you're gonna keep it in your damn pants or not?"

It's not fair. We women are under constant awareness of our sex and our environment. I had to learn to no longer talk on my cell phone or be distracted in any other way when walking in the city. I also learned to take detours. I have even walked right past my own home when there is any man behind me. In fact just yesterday I did this and it was some white guy in a suit and a briefcase. I trust no strange men.

IT'S NOT BECAUSE YOU'RE BLACK!!!

*[EDIT: I removed "because they are black," since it came out of my incoherent ranting at the time of writing the piece. On a side note, if my rant was not clear, this should sum it up--I am not avoiding black men more than white or any other race when I feel that I suspect an unsafe situation]

8 comments:

Ashley said...

Hey Sara,

Your first sentence confused me a little... I think it's just the construction, but do you mean that you do avoid black men because they are black, or that black men accuse you of avoiding them because they are black, when in fact you avoid ALL men? The rest of the piece sounds like you're saying the latter, but the first sentence sounds like you're avoiding the men because of their race... Just wanna be clear before I respond.

Sara Rosell said...

Hi Ashley,

thanks for that, I edited it out. My whole point is that I am not avoiding black men more than white, Asian, Latino, etc.. But I am am also not trying to remove race from the situation. It is more obvious when I avoid black men because it visually looks like a racist move...but I am constantly avoiding Asian, white, and Latino men too.

Kari said...

Preach!!! I live in Brooklyn and I face the exact same scenario. I am beyond frustrated with little boys attempting to prove their manhood at my expense. What boggles my mind is the genuine surprise when I choose not to answer their advances. Seriously?!?!?! You disrespect me by shouting lewd words and obscenities my way, and are upset that I do not respond to these advances?! Really?! And this is happens EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. when I walk home from the train. This can take its toll on a person.


As a Black woman myself, I understood exactly what you meant in the original phrasing. It is nothing personal against Black men. It is against all men who choose to ignore the sacred nature of womanhood and revel in their attempts to reduce us to our most base level with their unceasing verbal and/or sexual harassment. I think the reason that I receive this treatment mostly from Black men is because I live in a section of Brooklyn where Black folk live. When I go in another section of Brooklyn with other racial-ethnic make-ups I may receive the same treatment. It’s not a Black thing, it’s a man thing. And of course, I recognize that there are numerous men who do not practice this vile behavior. I applaud and salute them. I befriend and admire them. My beef is with the men who practice such continual disrespect. My beef is with men of an ethnic background who attempt to tread on my dignity. The female body is not public property. Keep your hands, and your shouts, to yourself.

Kari said...

Sorry for the typo, that should be "My beef is with men of *any* ethnic background who attempt to tread on my dignity."

Thanks,
K

Ashley said...

Okay, that is what I thought you meant...

I am disgusted by street harassment, and I also avoid men of any color in various situations. I do empathize with black and Latino men who think that I'm avoiding them because of their race, since they've undoubtedly gotten so much of that kind of crap through the years--I see where they're coming from. When I don't get into an elevator with a black man, how could he know I do the same thing with white men? Particularly if he doesn't have an awareness of patriarchy, he's pretty much certainly going to think I'm being racist.

It's a whole can of worms the way patriarchy and racism so often position white women and black men as enemies, with women feeling victimized by black men's sexism and black men feeling victimized by white women's racism. Truly a brilliant/evil piece of work by the kyriarchy.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey Sara!

No one has the right to grab you! That is sexual violence...NO ifs, ands, or butts.

Men can not say that a woman is wearing something enticing and therefore they can sexual prey on her! NOOOOO way.

Absolutely not.

Still...I wonder that if some women really do not want to be oogled at then why are they wearing a halter top with spillage and a pair of booty shorts...I'm just saying...

There is NO excuse for sexual violence... but some women who CLAIM they don't want male comments or male come-ons certainly do not leave the house LOOKING like they are attempting NOT TO have male attention.

I wrote a post about how it is widely accepted for black women to objectify themselves...and to accept fetishization from the media and from men...we need to decide whether OR NOT we want to be fetishized....

If we DO NOT want to be fetishized then we will present ourselves differently in what we are choosing to put on....

None of this is a defense for sexual violence....not at all...so I hope I am not causing any readers to feel I am relating ONE issue to the other issue...I am mentioning these two issues separately.

The other point I want to make is that I have talked with many black women who have been molested repeatedly...the person molested is NEVER EVER the one to blame...never....

One thing that we help women who have been molested to address is to examine their carriage, their body language and to show them how to protect themselves...

We also show them a video of men who are predators explaining how they "decide" which women they choose to molest...they have a method of DECIDING who will permit the violation and they speak about it on video... it is infuriating but also eye-opening....

Oprah had a show on this also.

Thank you for mentioning this issue.

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

ashley said...

"There is NO excuse for sexual violence... but some women who CLAIM they don't want male comments or male come-ons certainly do not leave the house LOOKING like they are attempting NOT TO have male attention."

This is classic victim-blaming.

Women who don't measure up to our culture's beauty standards are harshly criticized and judged. Women who try to live up to those standards are "asking for it."

Bullshit.

Listen, women can take pride in their appearance, and even want to look "sexy" by our culture's (male) standards. That does not mean they want to be harassed or objectified.

If women are objectified, the culture has done that *to* them. They don't do it to themselves. Women either decide to be derided for their appearance or to aim for the marginal amount of power that comes with beauty. It's a shit non-choice, and blaming women for choosing the latter is totally unfair (and totally letting harassers/the media off the hook).

Jack Stephens said...

"If women are objectified, the culture has done that *to* them. They don't do it to themselves. Women either decide to be derided for their appearance or to aim for the marginal amount of power that comes with beauty. It's a shit non-choice, and blaming women for choosing the latter is totally unfair (and totally letting harassers/the media off the hook)."

Damn straight Ashley, very good point.