When the Male Gaze Feels Deadly

The other day  I went out for a run to the park. Just after I left my building, as I was crossing the street, a school bus passed so near behind me that I gasped out of fear. Now, I’m used to drivers cutting it close with pedestrians, and vice versa. There’s an audacity about walking and driving the streets of New York that you observe almost immediately; I quickly developed a similar attitude. There have been times when a car has come close  enough to me that I thought I could lose a toe, but even in those instances I wasn’t frightened enough to make a sound.

The driver and I made eye contact as he completed the turn. Our faces were close enough that I could see his lascivious grin and I realised he was staring at me through the entire manoeuvre. I’m sure he saw the fear on my face and heard me gasp. It did nothing to dislodge his grin. In that split second the truth of the incident became clear. That idiot had put my life at risk so that he could get a closer look at my body. I couldn’t believe it!! Some men are such pigs! Honestly!

I kept moving, and fought not to let the nasty image of his face ruin the rest of my jog. On my way back into my building though, I let myself remember what had happened and think on it a little bit. That man gave into his lustful desire to get as close to me as possible, in spite of what that meant for my own physical and emotional safety. He consciously decided to make an extremely tight turn in order to rake his eyes over my body and satisfy his lechery in the only shallow way that was possible. My own personhood, sense of safety, comfort and volition weren’t for a second considered. His actions were inconceivably selfish. I was two steps away from the opposite sidewalk, and I was afraid I was about to be knocked down!

That moment was a clear example of the inequality of the sexes in our society, and the reality women work so hard to explain: our bodies, our entire selves, are seen by many men to exist only for their enjoyment and service. We are so much more than that. We are full, complex, fierce beings just as much as men are, and demand the same respectful consideration. I’m well used to catcalling and unsettling stares, but rarely do I feel so completely objectified; so entirely at the mercy and whim of a man. It was sickening; violating.

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