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Creeps in the World

Katie Jane and I got together on the High Line yesterday for a really fun portrait session. It was so weird and cool to be on the other side of the camera and we had an amazing time. I’ll tell you more about it later (she posted a sneak peek here on her blog if you’d like to see – she’s amazing), but something happened right in the middle that really pissed me off. I was posing, and a man in his late 50s came up behind her and took a photo of me while standing a few feet behind her. As he walked past her, camera now down, and then past me, I snapped.

“You know, you’re really fucking creepy, asshole!” I said, fearless somehow. He smirked as he walked on, and I daydreamed for a moment about punching him in the nose.

When I explained to Katie Jane what happened, she blurted out, “I’m so sorry!” It wasn’t her blunder to apologize for, of course, but I got it. As photographers, we are asking people to be vulnerable so we can reach into them and pull out their stories and feelings. It’s a deep honor to crack someone open and capture them; I feel that way about people in front of my camera, too, and I understood how she felt.

***

I’m so OVER it. I hate that I always carry a hoodie to zip up to my neck on the subway, even in the summer, because someone is going to eyeball my cleavage and press against me if I don’t. I’ll fight back if someone touches me, but it’s way easier to just cut it off completely.

Last month some construction workers were putting up scaffolding. There were six on one side of the sidewalk and six on the other, building in tandem. An extra one stood at the beginning of the row and shouted “Incoming!” as I stepped past him and through the gauntlet of men who immediately stopped their work to gawk and make crude comments.

I’m pretty tough with one guy but the dozen were a bit much, and I just dissolved into tears and shuffled off, arms folded across my chest and head down.

Has this happened to you? How do you handle it?

4 Comments

  1. Talaura

    11 October 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Girl!
    The Naked Freaking Cowboy in Times Square the other day looked straight at me while I was waiting to cross the street and said, “Bring those big boobies over here.” And then told me I was selfish when I told him they would stay where they were. I have never been so angry at street harassment…which yes…happens constantly. I have so many stories. But the Naked Cowboy. Oh for God’s sake.
    I’m writing a play about it right now.

  2. Bailie @ The Hemborg Wife

    12 October 2013 at 7:40 am

    ugh and more ugh is all I can think of, I know as I get older I am starting to despise my chest which is ridiculous because what can I do it is just there but I also like you hate feeling that I constantly need to hide myself away.

  3. Johanna

    16 October 2013 at 11:49 am

    I’ve come a long, long way in my reactions to shit like this.
    When I was younger, I would just kind of….let shit happen. Try to make myself invisible so that it wouldn’t happen. Try to be small, inconsequential, inoffensive, not noticeable. And that shit happened anyways.
    So now, I make myself big. If someone rubs up against me on the train, I elbow them. If someone stares at me, I put up the bird, with both hands if possible, right in front of whatever part of me they’re staring at. If men on the street yell or say something, I have developed a tactic that doesn’t stop it, but confuses them into shutting up long enough for me to make a safe escape.
    I stop.
    I stare.
    I loudly say, “Wow.”
    Sometimes, add a “Really.”
    In as blank a voice, or as disdainful a voice as possible, depending on the situation. It confuses them, because #1 it’s a reaction, which they’re not expecting, and #2 it’s a type of reaction they don’t expect. They don’t get any power from me stopping, staring boldly, and expressing disdain. They don’t (as far as they know) make me feel unsafe or cause me fear. They just look like something I’d scrape off the bottom of my shoe. But there’s nothing they can say. I didn’t escalate. I didn’t tell them anything that would make them mad. I just…. “Wow. Really.” and roll on.

    Obviously, this doesn’t work in unsafe locations, or with people who give the vibe, but it works during daylight, and it works REALLY well on groups.

    <3

  4. Laura

    17 October 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I’ve developed a similar tactic to Johanna’s (which I love, and might have to steal!) – perfecting my “pissed off pedestrian” face, then casting it at anyone gawking at my chest or catcalling. Throw some rolling eyes in there too. I learned after awhile that I can’t help but react, but treating these creepos the same way I would treat a car trying to urge me through the crosswalk when I have the right of way – some combination of bored, angry, and disgusted – seems to be a happy medium between feeding them attention and ignoring it completely.

    If I was braver, I might just say something like, “Oh, what, you’ve never seen titties before? What a shame,” in my most patronizing mom-esque voice possible.

    As for subway creepers – I stopped taking the subway without one or more of my roommates. I have yet to have someone try to actively molest me while I was in a pair/group of people, but maybe I’ve just been lucky. Spending less time on the subway overall has improved my quality of life.

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