Today as I was walking from my car at the gas pump into the store, a man who was driving by me rolled down his window and made retching sounds like he was going to vomit. He then laughed, rolled up his window, and drove away.
This man’s action was aimed to harm, to hurt. There is no context in which this experience can be spun into humor.This experience is not abnormal. I see people asking why International Women’s Day is necessary or important – it’s because this behavior is still normalized or spun into humor instead of treated for what it is, an act of disrespect to demean me. My first reaction was to look in at my reflection in the store display windows; does my hair look oily and gross? Does my red sweater make me look fat? Are the shadows under my eyes more pronounced because I haven’t slept the last couple days?
Is my appearance retch-worthy?
Or was it the fact that I was wearing red, a color being worn by many women today for solidarity that made him retch? Did the fact that I am visibly supporting women make him want to vomit? Why? Does it scare him that women want to be equal and be celebrated?
The point is, it happened. This is just one example in many ways women are exploited every day. I walk to my car every day with my hand on the alarm button in case I feel unsafe and I want to alert others to this feeling. I have been told in past work environments that I am too intimidating because I lean forward when I speak. When I was in college in Student Government, I was told I didn’t have a right to speak or be there. And yet… what’s the point of International Women’s Day?
To speak out is to influence change.