All posts filed under: Politics & Society

“Pussy Power” at Trump Tower – XOJane

“I would quite honestly bet a large sum of money that this shrill liberal harpie is talking unmitigated BS.”

A few days ago, I broke the cardinal rule of internet journalism: I read the comments. I’m usually good at avoiding that cesspool. As a freelance writer, I know better. But this time it was different. This time, the article wasn’t by me — it was about me.

The story this commenter was referring to was my “claim” that I had been groped at a rally outside Trump Tower on Tuesday, October 19. As I read the full comment, I felt my heart beginning to slam against my chest. I don’t mind being called a liberal harpy, or shrill. (Though, if the commenter knew me, they’d know my voice is actually fairly deep.) What enraged me was the ease with which my claim, my story, my voice, was dismissed.

I can’t quite start off my story by saying I was “minding my own business,” which is what a lot of my friends who’ve been groped can claim. I wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination minding my own business. After work, two friends and I headed to Pussy Power at Trump Tower (a rally organized in response to Donald Trump’s now infamous “grab them by the pussy” comment). It was warm, which was lucky, as I was wearing a borrowed tank top with a cat face on the front, accompanied by cat ears, and my sign: “Just because I move through public space does not mean my body is public space.”

The protest had been going for a bit by the time we showed up. We pushed our way to the street side of the barricade. I could reach out and touch the cars that sped by, mostly honking and cheering alongside us. I particularly loved the X10 bus driver who threw her left arm out of the window and leaned on the horn, dancing in her seat in solidarity.

We had been there for only a half hour when I noticed a man crossing the street toward us.

One of the jobs of the police was to usher people out of the street. They needed to leave enough room for both pedestrians on the sidewalk and cars in the street, respectively, and so we protesters were penned in, taking up half of the path and half of the traffic lane. I remember noticing the guy’s rimless glasses — I remembered them because my dad always wore rimless glasses. He didn’t say anything, but he walked back and forth, reading our signs. I held mine up, proud of my message — one that encompassed how I was feeling about the election, about life, about the world through which I walk.

He lingered.

I had my sign up over my head and was leaning against the barricade when he reached out with his right hand and grabbed my left breast.

Sorry, commenter, my “yam.”

I was shocked. I gave a gasp-yelp, probably shrilly, and shouted, “He just grabbed my boob!” (I’ve never really been one to use of the word breast.) Simultaneously, my friends beside me shouted out in anger. I was reaching out, trying to pull him back to hold him accountable, but the metal barricade was in the way. He slipped into the night, and I was left there, holding my sign in stunned silence, my cheeks hot with embarrassment from suddenly commanding attention.

The first thing that I thought was, I am so glad that didn’t happen to one of my friends.

The girls I was with had never been to a protest before. I spent the day of the rally assuring them we’d be fine; that if any fights broke out, we would leave, that I wasn’t going to go running full tilt into a group of Trump supporters to lodge my displeasure. If one of them had been groped, I would have felt terrible.

But it has happened to them. To my friends. Not at this protest, but in life. All of my female friends can recount a story just like mine.

A cop walked by to usher a woman taking pictures out of the street. I called out to him, “Excuse me, I was just groped. Are you going to do anything about it?”

He shook his head and walked away.

No doubt he thought I was “a paid troll of the Clinton machine” or “deranged over Trump” or by some weird tangential leap a “domestic terrorist” (all accusations from various commenters).

I’m a New Yorker. I was born at NYU’s hospital, I went to Corlears on West 15th Street, and then United Nations International School. I took the F train every day to school and swam competitively at Asphalt Green on the Upper East Side. I got drunk underage in Union Square (sorry, Mom). I have never had a problem with the police, in part due to my privilege, until that night.

“Excuse me,” I asked a different, younger cop who was walking by. I tried to keep the anger from making my voice shake. “I was just groped by someone. I asked a cop walking by if he’d do anything, and he just walked away.”

“Would you like to make a statement?” the officer asked, though it felt like a challenge.

“Yeah, I want to make a statement.”

Once the ball was rolling, there was no taking it back. I had promised my friends I would look out for them and, quite frankly, I wasn’t going to let a cowardly groper ruin my night. A lieutenant said I was more than welcome to stay at the protest and could go to the precinct later.

So that’s what I did. I made my way back through the mixed-gender crowd, in which I never once felt unsafe, to my friends. We stayed for two more hours. Every once in a while I would turn to them and say: “I’m still so mad.”

Making a complaint is an arduous process that involved a trip to the Special Victims Unit — yes, I did hum the Law & Order: SVU theme song to myself all night — on 123rd Street. I sat outside the room of detectives, waiting to be called in. It was like sitting outside your classroom after being kicked out for disruptive behavior — the embarrassment of being ostracized, of having done something wrong, thinking that I only had myself to blame for my current predicament.

I began reading a taped-up piece of paper behind me — advice for women who feel unsafe in public. The thing that caught my eye was this, paraphrased: Holding your keys is useless because to use them effectively you have to get too close. Carry an umbrella.

An umbrella. An umbrella will keep me safe. Too bad I didn’t bring one to the protest. Or to that festival my sophomore year of college. Or to… or to… or to…

Apart from the initial cop, I was treated with respect and concern by every officer I met (all male, save for one SVU detective). When I got home at 1 a.m., I posted in the Facebook event asking everyone to send me pictures from the time it occurred. Then I went to sleep.

I woke up to a lot of concern — family members, friends, people who I hadn’t spoken to in ages, all asking me if I was OK. It took me a while to figure out how they’d found out. I hadn’t thought it through — my post was on a public Facebook event. My friends’ newsfeeds were now buzzing with it, and I felt exposed. Really exposed.

A woman named Maya from DNAinfo found me and requested to interview me. At the end, she asked if I was OK with her using her my name. I didn’t even hesitate when I said yes.

As I hung up, I realized why I’d allowed her to use my name. I had felt, when people were handing me sympathy, annoyed. But that annoyance stemmed from shame, and I wasn’t going to let this skeevy guy shame me into anonymity. Use my name. Shout it from the rooftops.

When I read the interview, I was pleased. She proudly put in my “jingoistic mumbo-jumbo and politically correct buzzwords” (another commenter’s assessment) — the ones I learned at college. Words that encapsulate the lessons I was taught by my mom and dad, by my friends and teachers. Words like hatred and racism and sexism and xenophobia and transphobia. Those words.

It didn’t take long for the comments to start coming in.

I stand by my story. I stand by my story because I know it happened, and I have a sea of people who know it happened. I feel pity for those commenters, because somehow my experience has threatened them. My audacity to speak out has made them uncomfortable, insecure.

So, go ahead, internet commenters, place your bets. Because we’re done minding our own business. We’re done being anonymous.

Sophie Walker and WE Party: London Mayoral Hustings – Evening Standard

The mayoral hustings offered Sophie Walker, the Women’s Equality Party candidate, a chance to step into a public forum and she showed that she sees London from a different point of view. Women are half of the population, and within that we are also made up of minorities, so I think Ms Walker could have shown support for intersectionality (the study of overlapping social identities). This was implied in her answers, such as when she discussed how transport needs to be user-friendly for mothers who may not own cars or when she spoke about the pay gap — including women who work part-time because they can’t afford childcare. These undertones of inclusivity are a step in the right direction, and Ms Walker needs to address the needs of specific women for her rhetoric to turn into policy. Women are made up of many subgroups and her participation last night showed her astute understanding of this. When she said “the WEP will make London better for everyone”, I think she truly meant it. Originally Published in the …