Sometimes when I am walking in public spaces
or waiting for lights to change on corners, for example today
a man starts talking about me behind my back or in the side of my peripheral vision
this one likes to get it started in third person, so he announces loudly to the world around us, so angry
“oh my god look at this slut trying her goddamned hardest to get raped. what the fuck is wrong with you woman. you need to learn how you’re going to get raped in the ass”
Of course, the people who speak hate to us
don’t know, or care to remember
that we are all children
with life stories inside us and around us.
One part of my brain is an academic.
I will lay out the intricacies of oppressive systems
I will memorize how they work
with their psychology and how they have come to be and what they mean
I will memorize patterns
so I can argue with you
and make my points in the most succinct way possible.
all this rests on the illusion
that human dignity and what it deserves is somehow a matter to be determined through some kind of rational debate.
Incidentally, yes, this man was a black man
because most of the people who humiliate me on the street are
maybe because white boys don’t lay verbal claim over what they already know they own, like white female bodies and public spaces
instead they save their most explicitly oppressive behavior for Facebook comments and private conversations and boardrooms and every single other space they already control, when they feel like it.
are the ones who walk beside me
and don’t say anything back when someone insults me, because they’re “uncomfortable” and they’ve just never bothered to plan out how to respond, huh
white boys smile, kinda pleased, when someone compliments them on my body beside them.
This man was bigger than me
because most men are
While I waited for my light to change
he came over to say his words closer to my ear drums
so I looked into his angry face
and watched him drag his lingering eyes all all all
over my body and tell me all all all
about how much I’m dying to get raped
on this sunny street corner where we stand next to each other.
I prepare responses in advance to things people say to me
but you can’t always predict what will come from a hate mouth
sometimes “I don’t appreciate the commentary” seems a bit flat
So this time I looked in his face and when I opened my mouth I said,
“Why are you trying to degrade me?”
and I noticed
at least this time
my voice didn’t shake
I am a blusher
sometimes I blush when someone asks me a question that I know the answer to
just because they’re looking at me
when I was younger I blushed even more
pink cheeks burning for a reason or no reason
absolutely nothing embarrasses me more than blushing itself
I hate hate hate being the white girl blushing
But this time, I didn’t blush.
To answer me, he spat why are you wearing those tiny shorts?
and I said because I put them on today
He got closer to my face and said, yeah and you see all those n*****s over there trying to rape your slutty ass?
No, I’m looking at you. You’re the only one talking to me. Why do you come over here to humiliate and degrade me? I’m just a stranger on the street
And he flicked his gaze and said,
Your light changed. Your light changed
which I glanced at but then looked back into his face and didn’t move
because I wasn’t afraid
because no one could touch me
and for once I really knew I could stand there all day and be only myself and it would be enough
so I repeated my question into his eyes
and he said, your lights changed
then he walked away
before I did.
I crossed my street.
In the ATM box
I watched my hands tremble like aspen leaves
If somebody told me it’s fear
I will tell them, no, just the power
Simone LeClaire is a 26 year old white girl living that sexy poor bachelorette life in Minneapolis in a tiny apartment with a tiny dog. As a filmmaker she is interested in wonder and the intersection of art, social justice, and community engagement. Most notably she directed the award-winning Elemental series of retold fairy tales and UPM of the hit local webseries, Theater People Season 4. Follow her beautiful and inspiring work at Directed By Simone on Facebook and Instagram: @directedbysimone