Eliza Gauger is one of my internet heroes.
Eliza Gauger - What was your worst case of street/work harrassment
Since it happens—-literally and without hyperbole or sarcasm or any of the other facetious verbal tics I use to deal with serious issues in a way that doesn’t make me want to claw off my own face—every time I leave my house without a companion and most of the times I leave my house without a male companion (I need everyone reading this to think about that for a minute…every time. I am subjected to unwanted, threatening, possessive, insintuating, etc male attention every time I am outside. Every. Time.) it’s actually incredibly difficult to recall every individual instance, even the bad ones. It’s sort of like asking a combat veteran about every time someone shot at them.
But I’ve been thinking about this question for a few days and I think maybe I have a few interesting ones.
There was the time I was 16 years old and riding the Greyhound bus to Seattle to see my long term committed boyfriend at the time, who was 22 and was routinely abusing me in his own capacity (but that’s a different kind of story, and then again the same), and a middle aged man sat down in the empty seat next to me, trapping me against the bus window, and spent the next hour staring fixedly at me, telling me about how he had gotten out of prison that day, how he liked my waist-length, copper ringlet hair, and the nice outfit and makeup I had put on for my 22 year old boyfriend, who had insisted earlier that day via IM that I make myself look “fuckable” (his word) when I came to visit him that weekend. And when I turned to look out the window, smiling as gently as I could, smiling to keep this man sitting next to me from feeling like maybe I wasn’t being nice enough, like maybe he would have to do something more than just talk at me to make sure I was paying attention, I turned to face the window and the setting sun got in my eyes and I knew even before he said it that I would not be able to keep him from seeing they were green, that I was “a green-eyed redhead”, fitting neatly into a premade slot for women and girls who can check off certain clusters of traits and become a “type” rather than a person—I was a green-eyed redhead. Of course he noticed, consuming the sun in the bowls of my irises the same way he was consuming the scent of my conditioner, the pretty colors of my nailpolish, the lipstick I was wearing for my abusive boyfriend. Like this man had been sent to bookend me into the window seat until I got to my other male guardian—like he was walking me down the aisle of I-5, my honorable escort to ensure I passed from one custodian to another.
With my red hair and green eyes and ghost skin and doll face I was “fiery” and “exotic” but in a completely white, accessible, rich, European way. Like a unicorn, though my hair color was fake, never looked anything but fake, but these men don’t care. The symbolism of the Type is there and that’s enough. It’s as good a reason as any to massacre your hair color into teals and bruised purples and anemic grey-greens—colors they don’t have words for and for which there are no slots. It’s a good reason to pierce your face, to wear loud lipstick and no concealer, to shave your eyebrows, to tattoo your neck and arms. Poisonous frogs wear the same colors for the same reasons.