Lessons in the Life of a Woman
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Politics and Activism

Lessons in the Life of a Woman

On Street Harassment

Lessons in the Life of a Woman
Asha Merchant

you are alone, my love

whatever else you may think

you are so, so alone

there is no one to be there for you, or to come to your defense

there is no one to protect you from the men who will come -

and believe me, they will come -

so it is up to you to protect yourself

when he whistles at you, ignore him - pretend that you didn't hear and that you are deaf to the cutting piercing shrillness

when his eyes roam you up and down with a leer, learn to keep your own eyes trained on the sidewalk so he doesn't see the flash of anger and shame in them

when he holds the door open with a gentlemanly gesture, only to firmly grab your ass as you walk through, stifle the impulse to jump or slap him across the face - instead, duck your head as you wrap your arms closely around your body and keep walking

always keep walking

when he calls out insults and sexual propositions, do not respond - do not dignify his crude crass words with a reply - he does not deserve it, and neither do you

when he comes up behind you to snake an arm low and whisper in your ear, set your jaw, walk away, and do not look back.

when he follows you, lose him in a crowd or duck into a dark alley until he passes by and your pulse returns to normal.

when he threatens to rape you, walk quickly yet without reply to a public place, and do not leave until he does, finger on pepper spray, trigger, taser.

when he corners you to insist upon your number, invent a name and number then smile sweetly and keep walking

do not say no

do not anger him

do not let your head come up in wounded fury

do not let him know he has hurt you

do not let him see the tears that sting your eyes as you try again and again in vain to swallow them

do not smile or walk freely - make yourself smaller, less noticeable

when you greet the man standing outside the elevator, a stranger, for-all-intents-and-purposes innocent, with a visible start and a look of pure terror, remember that this is normal

you do not know what his true intentions are

when even the old men are lascivious, do not remind them of their wives, or ask them, with biting tongue, if they would behave thus towards their own daughter - instead do not look at them and do not stop

do not stop - now now, not ever - not until you are safely within the confines of wherever it is that you can breathe freely

and then, my dear, only then

can you cry.



wrap trembling arms around your waist as you attempt to physically hold yourself together, curled up in a ball on the bathroom floor.

then, draw a deep shuddering breath.

stand back up.

infuse your eyes with fire and your spine with strength

open the door.

face the world.


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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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