I recently had an ugly incident at a movie theater. I went to a movie at Block E, which for all its suburban trappings and high maintenance, still attracts a rather rough crowd at all hours of the day. I was watching the GI Joe movie, and as it happened, I was one of only four people in the theater at the time – and I was the only woman.
I had a small nag, so I got up and moved to a different seat, and predictably, my nag was confirmed: one of the men turned around and beckoned me over. You know, that finger crook that gets used on small children? He of course expected me to just come because he called (oh fun with male privilege.) Instead, I screamed at him, “I’m just here to watch the movie!”
The guy was going to keep bugging me and yelling at me to come to him, but his friend stopped him. But that was it – I had to spend the rest of the movie worrying that this jackass would try something on the way out.
And on the way out, he did do the aggressive eye contact and the predatory body posturing. It infuriated and disgusted me, and I wanted to punish it on sight.
What especially infuriated me was that if a friend had been with me, male or female, I probably would have been left alone. Even more sad, I can think of multiple female friends who, in my position, would have actually interacted with this jerk and thus rewarded his invasiveness.
For some reason, when a woman goes out in public alone, there’s an assumption that she both wants attention – and that anyone who steps in her path deserves her attention. Age and attractiveness aren’t even factors. At some point the “invisibility” sets in, but for me, it hasn’t yet – and the “visibility” is starting to piss me off. In a day and age where you meet people by joining clubs and going online, this bizarre and creepy method of interaction that I see and experience specific to 2-3 blocks of Hennepin Avenue is just pissing me off. You don’t just walk up and start talking to strangers, at least, I don’t. But in that section of downtown, there’s always someone ready to bother me or anyone else minding their own business – and you can always see by their walk and a certain look in their eye that whatever they’re doing, it’s pure predation behind it.
I certainly do some magic to protect myself, but there are risks to inducing near total invisibility – like that passing motorist just not “seeing” you until…smack. I don’t move really fast, so it’s not the best plan where I’m concerned. And there are all sorts of forms of magic I do, shielding, projecting “cop” and occasionally pretending I’m out of my mind on something and running through screaming like a maniac. The last I haven’t quite found the nerve to try.
I’m angered right now because I’m aware I’m slamming my head into something that’s endemic…it’s not just an isolated asshole, because I’ve had similar incidents in the past that have taught me to just start screaming early. I’m running into an attitude, an embedded belief that their behavior is somehow okay or justified. The way my brain works, I don’t want to say something hurtful – I want to say something psychologically kneecapping that forces them to change their ways, and I just don’t know what that is 0r even if I’d hit home.
And this drives me crazy, because I like to go to spectator-type-things alone. One of my small, still pleasures in life is watching a movie alone in a near-empty theater. Or watching a dance performance, especially without someone at my elbow complaining how they “don’t get it” or telling me how stupid it is. I like to sit, alone, and see what images get triggered in my brain – and if I can’t be left alone when I am alone, how am I going to be free to enjoy anything?
I’m not above buying a watergun, you know.