Creeped Out: the Price of Being a Woman in Public

Yesterday was Pokémon Go Community Day. For those of you who don’t play the game, that’s a day when  a specific Pokémon appears a lot during a three hour period, often in a special colour as well and with an exclusive attack. In short, a day when we meet our friends and spend the day together, catching Pokémon and then having good food and fun together. I went with them for part of the time (I was out for a full two hours, I’m so happy and proud) and quite at the start, the following happened:

I was standing there with my two phones (yes, completely normal for Pokémon players as well), when some random dude approached me:

“Young lady, you’re pretty backwards, even I am more advanced in my usage than you!”

Now, first of all, no strange man in such a situation calls a 40 years old woman “young lady” as a compliment. He was berating me and trying to remind me of my place. Second: I have no clue what he was even getting at. He had obviously no clue what I was doing, but of course thought that he was entitled to explain it to me. I looked up from my phones:

“Excuse me?”

He continued:

“Yes, you gotta tell your phone what to do don’t you know…”

At this point I gasp interrupted him:

“Could you please leave me alone?”

Of course he reacted like any old white guy reacts when being told to leave a woman alone, he started to rant:

“I’m entitled to have an opinion! Am I no longer entitled to have an opinion or what?”

I answered that yes, he’s entitled to have an opinion, he’s just not entitled to my company, so he needs to leave me alone. He repeated something about this being a free country and so on and grumbling left me alone. This happened because now my friends and family, who’d been standing all over the place catching their own Pokémon had by now gathered around me to support me. We’re all pretty sure that this would have gone very differently if I’d been on my own.

I’m pretty sure all women here have had similar experiences. Such harassment has nothing to do with “looks” since I’m a fat middle aged lady. It has nothing to do with “being helpful”, because I obviously didn’t need or want any help. It’s got to do with male entitlement to the public sphere, where women are only allowed on condition of putting up with such shit. And it also shows how this entitlement is framed in terms of human rights and especially the ever favourite “freedom of speech”. That guy thought it was his right to keep bothering and lecturing me, while me telling him to get lost was akin to China mowing down protestors with tanks or something.


  1. Jazzlet says

    Yes I’ve had similar experiences. Especially in the bar at St Pancras station while waiting for the last train, having a quiet pint and reading -- being interrupted was pretty much guaranteed; still it was better than the unstaffed waiting room or the station concourse where there might or might not be staff. There is something about reading a book in public that makes a certain kind of man feel he has the right to interrupt, almost the duty given how often it used to happen, the right to comment on my choice of reading etc etc etc.

    I hope you managed the two hours with out any repercusssions for your back?

  2. says

    I’m pretty sure all women here have had similar experiences.

    Yep. In such situations I usually just walk away. That’s less risky than arguing and demanding the asshole to walk away and leave me alone.

    Here’s my creepy story. This one is from a couple of months ago.

    I went to a beach, where I was relaxing, reading a book. A middle aged man approached me and offered company. I agreed—I don’t mind having conversations with strangers, occasionally those turn out to be interesting. The conversation went fine at first, we talked about poetry and similar stuff.

    Then shit started happening:
    “You shouldn’t get yourself surgically sterilized or live as a guy. Nature has created men and women differently, and everybody should just accept their natural role.”
    “Surgically altering one’s body is wrong. My wife got her eyelids modified despite my complaints, and it took me months to get used to her new appearance. It was wrong for her to have this surgery despite my wishes.”
    “I despise gays for having appropriated the rainbow as their symbol. A rainbow used to be the first thing I was taught to draw as a child, but now all those perverts have sullied the rainbow.”
    “Gay prides are abominable. They shouldn’t happen. If gays must have sex with each other, they should do it in secret at their homes. Bringing all this perversion to a public place is unsightly. Letting children see those public events is a form of child abuse. Only a tiny percentage of gays are born this way. Most homosexuals become such after getting exposed to gay-friendly propaganda as children.”
    “Homosexuality is perverse, unnatural, and immoral. Gay men are just pedophiles.”
    “Imagine what would happen if all the people became homosexual. The humanity would just die out in a single generation.”
    “I can understand the existence of bisexual women. Women are naturally loving and soft and tender, it makes sense for two women to love each other and be tender to one another. But gay men, that’s not even possible, that’s a disgusting illness.”
    “Jews are greedy and evil, they have gotten themselves in change of printing American money, and they use this influence to cause worldwide financial disasters.”
    “It’s wrong for a Jew to be a director of a theater in Latvia, it’s wrong for them to hold any important jobs. They shouldn’t even try to have ambitious careers.”
    And so on.

    It’s incredible how bigots cannot even spot their own double standards and hypocrisy. During the conversation, the guy admitted to doing various things that aren’t widely accepted by the rest of the society (the two of us were in a nudist beach, and majority of humans in this country dislike the practice; he was also into ice fishing, something that’s actually illegal, because fishermen routinely drown in the warm winters when the ice is too thin). When he wants to relax in a nudist beach or do some ice fishing, that’s fine, because he likes both practices. When another person wants to get a plastic surgery or have some gay sex, then that’s wrong, because he dislikes those practices.

    Anyway, after a while the conversation got too ridiculous for me to have any interest in continuing it. I said: “You just called me sick and evil. That’s offensive. I came to the beach in order to relax, I don’t need to listen to your insults. This conversation is over.”

    Do you think a bigot would be polite enough to just leave? No, of course not. He left only after I raised my voice and repeated that this conversation is over.

    Half an hour later he came back, suggesting that I should move to another place behind some bushes where there is less wind. I raised my voice once again, telling him to leave. He left, but came back yet again after some minutes. He claimed that I have goosebumps and I must go to a less windy place. The level of patronizing was incredible. Apparently, I cannot even decide where to relax, and I need another man to tell me where to go. (The wind from the sea really was a bit cold, but I enjoyed the sensation, it felt nice.) I repeatedly told the bigoted asshole to leave me.

    At this point I started feeling uncomfortable, because he was noticeably creepy. The guy was obviously observing me from behind some bushes, he approached me whenever I removed my headphones and did something. I contemplated leaving this part of the beach and going somewhere else, but ultimately decided against it. So the asshole approached me for the third time, he just walked past me, murmuring: “Who convinced you that women aren’t humans or that you must insist upon not being a woman?”

    A while later, as I was already getting dressed and packing my stuff, he walked past me again, this time murmuring: “You must learn to have discussions and not get offended.” After I had already ended the conversation, the bigoted asshole repeatedly approached me 4 times in total.

    Moreover, from his actions I can conclude that he spent half a day staring at me and observing everything I did. Normally I couldn’t care less if another person stares at me, but that went too far for my comfort. There’s a reason why one of the rules for nudist beaches are “don’t stare at people, don’t disturb others.” Knowing that you are being observed is uncomfortable. There were plenty of other people around me, I knew that I wasn’t in danger and I could call for help is the asshole actually attacked me. On top of that, I myself have had plenty of martial arts training. But nonetheless, the entire situation still felt creepy.

  3. says

    He claimed that I have goosebumps and I must go to a less windy place.

    Oh their fake concern! Because of course us silly women and those they mistake for women cannot know even the most basic things like whether we’re cold or not.
    In reality it’s just them trying to put us into our place and regulating our bodies.

  4. says

    @Andreas Avester, that is definitively one extremely creepy asshole. It would be creepy in a park, double-creepy on a beach and much more than that on a nude-beach where it actually happened.

    Not being a woman I do not have this experience first hand (I do my best not becoming THAT guy), but I was a witness to this kind of creepitude in highschool. I was waiting for a bus with one of my school-mates when an older drunk started to harass him (yes, him) about how pretty a girl he is. He could not get it through his skull that 1) he is talking to a boy and 2) the boy wishes to be left alone. And he persisted in his drunk blathering until finally the bus arrived and we could leave.

  5. voyager says

    Yes, it’s happened to me, too.
    Once when I was Case Managing, I had a client call in requesting an assessment for senior’s support services.When I made the home visit the old guy met me at the door naked and proceeded to tell me his needs were sexual and that home helpers should help with all of his needs. I stood as tall as my 5’2″ allowed, took my voice down a register or two and backed away from his door towards my car. He kept calling out to me that he paid his taxes and was entitled to services and who the hell was I to say no.
    Another time, I was in the home of one of my long-term clients when her son arrived carrying a hand gun. I live in Canada where hand guns are regulated and it was the first one I’d ever seen. He was drunk, too, and started carrying on about his fucking girlfriend and then it was “hey, you’re hot. Nice tits. (it was winter and I was wearing pants and a baggy sweater) You wouldn’t do that to me would you? You look like a nice girl. Wanna’ grab some food?” I was terrified and I don’t remember what I said, but I got out to my car PDQ.
    Another time, I made a home visit to a guy whose house was decorated with porn and big game trophies. There was a real tiger rug and a real polar bear blanket and big-horn sheep and women with their legs spread and photos of people in assorted sexual poses, but the man was frail and legitimately needed service so I stayed and did the assessment. He didn’t say anything inappropriate, but he gave me the creeps. I threw up on my way back to the office. I did admit him for service with a male support worker who specialized in cranky, old men and it was fine, but I never made a home visit to him alone again.

  6. says

    Giliell @#3

    Oh their fake concern! Because of course us silly women and those they mistake for women cannot know even the most basic things like whether we’re cold or not.
    In reality it’s just them trying to put us into our place and regulating our bodies.

    I’m a paranoid cynic, so I suspect a different possibility. At the beach I was staying next to water and I was surrounded by lots of other people. It was a hot summer day, and the beach was packed. The asshole suggested us to go further away from the water to a less windy place behind bushes. That would be also a more remote place with fewer people around. And the bushes would obscure other people’s view of us. Being creepy is easier if you convince your victim to go somewhere where the two of you are alone. I’m pretty certain he wasn’t planning to attack me, but he called me evil and sick, the things he told me theoretically would qualify as verbal abuse (I didn’t feel hurt only because I have a thick skin and I’m long since used to transphobic insults; besides I wasn’t just listening to his insults, it was a two way exchange with me arguing back). He clearly wanted to verbally abuse me. Assuming he wanted to intentionally creep me out, getting me to a more remote place would help with the strategy.

    voyager @#5

    Holy shit! Those are some creepy stories. Personally, I feel a lot more uncomfortable if I’m alone with the creepy person in some isolated location. In public places creepy people are merely annoying, because I don’t really feel frightened. Being actually attacked is much less likely in a public place. At the creepy person’s home it would be a different matter.

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