By: Dvora Walker, age 26
The other day it felt like spring- for real. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and the gentle breeze felt just right. It was time for my first ice cream cone of the season. Here’s what I did.
Step 1: Purchase an ice cream cone at Burger King. Don’t judge me. Burger King has the best vanilla soft-serve, and we all know it.
Step 2: Look around the restaurant to see how many men are present. If there are a number of men present, it’s likely that one of them will sexually harass me as I’m eating my ice cream. Decide that I’m less likely to be harassed while walking outside with the cone.
Step 3: Walk down the street, licking my ice cream. Every time I pass a man, wonder if he’s about to harass me. Alternatively try to make eye contact and smile (don’t harass me, please, I’m a nice girl) and avoid eye contact and frown (don’t harass me, I’m angry and won’t stand for it).
Step 4: Finish my ice cream cone without enduring any sexual harassment. Feel grateful to the men I passed. Feel silly for thinking I would be harassed in the first place. Feel lucky- it’s been a good day.
Some folks reading this might think I’m being ridiculous. I wasn’t sexually harassed! Why make a fuss about it? Because this is the type of thing I go through every day, as a woman. I don’t mean that I eat ice cream cones every day (although that does sound nice), but rather that I’m constantly making decisions in order to avoid gender-based harassment, sexual and otherwise. I’m so often on the defensive, ready with a scowl for the next guy who whistles at me or a laugh for the next guy who (jokingly! Always jokingly) puts down women.
What I want is to just exist. I want to eat an ice cream cone and think about how delicious it is. I want to walk into an empty parking lot late at night and casually saunter to my car, carefree. I want to succeed in the workforce without having to overcompensate for my gender.
But if I do have to regularly face gender-based harassment and dismissal, then I want to know that what I’m feeling is real. I hate that our society forces women to constantly second-guess their own experiences. I wasn’t silly for thinking that I would be harassed. I get harassed all the time. I definitely get harassed while eating ice cream, as do many women. This is what my experience as a woman is like- it’s not fair but it is valid.