When I was in my 20's and going to NYU, I lived in New York City. I walked almost everywhere. Seinfeld to the contrary, that's what most of us did. My friend Andrea and I were among the first who put on sneakers to walk home from work. I loved to walk in New York City. There was always a buzz of excitement and so many interesting people and places to see.
But, I soon learned not to talk to people on the street. A simple comment such as "Nice dog," could elicit obscene suggestions. I was used to having guys yell things at me from cars as they drove by. But the comments were never more threatening than "hey, baby." Plus the guys quickly drove away. Hearing obscene suggestions up close and personal was much more disturbing.
After I left NYU, I returned to the suburbs of Fairfield County, Connecticut. I haven't done much walking up here, until Spike came to live with us. Now that I'm older and dumpier, I'm no longer "worthy" of obscene comments and catcalls. I actually talk to some of the construction workers who are renovating the Hospital across the street.
I wonder how different it would have been if I had been walking a dog as a younger woman. Would it insulate me from unwelcome comments because I had a reason to be walking down the street? That's both a ridiculous and infuriating comment. Why should anyone need a reason to walk down the street?
That reminds me of a time when I was the only woman in a car with my boyfriend and two other guys. One yelled out the window at a woman walking by. I told him not to do that, that girls didn't like that. He said he worked hard and deserved to be able to yell at women. What of the women? Maybe they worked hard too and deserved to be able to walk down the street without being harassed. He never even thought of them.
Privilege in action.