Oh, dear friends. Would that you were with me here today to snap me out of my mood.
I walked to the bus stop this morning amidst gale-force winds here in The Land In Which I Live, eventually hopping on a double-decker for the 32 minute commute to my office. I was reading a publication of the Rede Lectures from several years ago, minding my own nerdy business as per usual while the bus bumbled along the high street, when I began to notice increasingly loud and rude conversation between two young dudes at the back. Their invasive interactions with each other frequently included a third party on speaker phone, usually incorporated lots of, um, choice vocabulary, and several times involved rapping sharply on the windows for a sustained time to get the attention of someone on the street below.
Sweet Lincoln's Mullet it was annoying. But after news of the bombings yesterday in Boston, I reflected that perhaps there were bigger things to be annoyed about than two punks on a bus.
I'm sad to say my resolve faded quickly. After yet another round of sharp banging on the window, I turned around just to see what in the name of Odin's Beard was going on. I should not have made eye contact. Because when I got off the bus shortly thereafter, both of them howled after me like that damn wolf in the old Betty Boop cartoons (please tell me I'm not the only one who desperately wants to stab Betty Boop in the leg with a spork, repeatedly.) I was furious, but did nothing. And now I'm in my office trying to put the incident out of my head by working or at least meditating on weightier world issues, but am unable to get past the injustice that women still have to deal with this kind of [insert scatological synonym] on a regular basis-- that just because I happen to have a vagina, two dudes felt it was within their rights to invade the entire bus's space and publicly demean my personhood. Even worse, perhaps, is the thought that while I left the bus and launched into a serious think about how to make the world better for my nieces and other precious young women, those two dingleberries no doubt sauntered off the bus, went to piss on a flowerbed in someone's yard, and then carried on with their days.
Now, I am personally blessed not to experience this kind of effrontery on a daily basis, but when I do I usually have enough gumption to shoot the offending party an angry look or reply with something that is equal parts witty and cutting (...even if only in my head, and several minutes later). I am convinced that women should NOT just walk away as I did today, because then we are sending the message that this sort of rapscallion behavior is okay, and women just have to accept it as part of life.
We sure as hell don't. This is not a case of turn the other cheek, my dearies, because I suspect that most of these men are too self-absorbed or unaware to realize that their asinine, unwelcome and offensive commentary really affects us. Therefore, I want to launch a Witty Insult Campaign. Every woman should collect a few good comments for her arsenal, and then deploy them when the time is right. Sometimes women will say to me they feel unsafe responding to hecklers. I argue that usually these incidents occur in quite public places (like a street or on a bus), that there is no bite to back up the bark (just a man feeling he is free to express himself however he pleases, wherever, whenever, and to whomever), and finally, in keeping with my assumptions about the originators of such commentary, they aren't anticipating a comeback because they don't see their target as human and capable of response. Hence, they will be dumbfounded or respond unintelligibly, by which time you will have put more distance and persons between yourself and the idiot. I also believe that if our retort is of a sufficiently "Oh, SNAP!" nature, the (i) public embarrassment of the offender and (ii) the entertainment value for all bystanders will cause all parties to ponder the incident more than they would otherwise. It's all about raising awareness, you see.
If we let heckling go on uncommented or adopt a passive attitude toward it, then it will become normalized--an accepted social practice--to even greater degree than it is already. Surely a more active approach is warranted. So today I'm going to begin compiling a list of snarky comments for men who feel it is their prerogative to verbally assault me in public. (A good place to start is the list Tina Fey gives to misogynist critics in Bossy Pants. Hilarious.)
Feel free to contribute.