I wake up, after repeatedly turning off my alarm. I try to find something modest to wear but it’s laundry day and all I have are dresses and blouses. I don’t want to wear anything too feminine today or anything that requires constant self-monitoring and adjusting. I pull out my jeans from the hamper and toss on a t-shirt. After getting ready I notice I don’t have enough time to eat breakfast, so I grab my bag and run out the door. On my way to campus, I stop by the local corner stop for coffee.
They like me because I’m a regular but it didn’t always used to be this way. I order a double double, double cupped. I always feel like I’m inconveniencing them. Sometimes they roll their eyes, as if I’m an uptight woman demanding too much. I’m always extra polite as an implicit apology.
As I walk toward the door to leave, there is a man coming inside; I feel obligated to step aside and allow him to enter first. It’s funny; had I gone through the door first with the same entitlement, I would feel like an asshole, so I accommodate.
I’m running late for class, and I’m walking with purpose in hopes no one will stop me, bother me, or hassle me. It helps to walk as though you have somewhere important to be. Each time a man approaches in my direction, there is always that short negotiation of who will step aside for the other. The man shows no intention of moving, so I step aside so not to interrupt his own path. As if he has more right to the sidewalk than I do. They expect you to move. Sometimes I wonder what it would feel like to just walk straight without stumbling. I assume the man would be taken by such surprise when we crashed into each other.
As I walk through a red light intersection, a loud car blasting music full of men honk and whistle at me. I tell them to go to hell. They call me a fat slut. Great start to my morning.
Once I get to class, I realize today is the day we will be talking about gender. I sit quietly, legs crossed, to mostly men who need to have their ideas shared with the class. When a woman raises her hand, a guy’s hand shoots up almost in counter-strike. They take up space in a discussion that has no relevance to them, and they interrupt and silence us. When a woman speaks she often starts with, “Sorry, just a quick question,” or “Just thinking out loud here but,” as a disclaimer or apology for speaking. Sometimes the men will reiterate her point and the professor gives them credit for her idea.
After class I go out for a cigarette and within moments of sitting down a stranger approaches me and asks me for a smoke. I want to say no, but I don’t because women are expected to comply and I’m not down for the wave of guilt that will rush over me if I say no. Shortly after, another man approaches me and asks me for a cigarette. This time I say no but feel the need to quickly explain myself so I don’t come off as a bitch for not sharing what is mine with him. I’m still learning to say no without an explanation; it’s harder than it seems.
I sit at the smoker’s pit; where the scum of campus congregate. I overhear them ripping women apart and judging each woman’s ass as they walk by. I hear them making foul comments about us and it makes me want to walk away from my own skin. Still, I bear it because I’m trying to hold my own in this space.
If I leave, they win.
I get lunch, a salad, because I started going to the gym because I’ve started to gain some weight and everyone feels the need to comment on it. I can’t stand it anymore.
An acquaintance of mine greets me at my table, and we start discussing politics. I hate talking about politics. He brings up this “crazy feminist” he got into an argument with today. Realizing I also identify as a feminist, he kindly reassures me that I’m not “one of those extreme radical ones” and that I’m “okay because I’m quiet about it.” Okay good, for a second there I was worried. After all, I do alter my entire political identity to your ideals of what a good woman is.
I’m ready to go home. I wait for the bus and overhear a group of girls making fun of a “gay kid” in their class and what he wore to lecture today. I shoot them a harsh glare because i’ve had enough. I hear them whispering about my disapproving look and one of them calls me a bitch. The bus finally comes and despite the fact that I was the first one at the bus stop, everyone pushes in front of me, a group of men in particular. Once I finally got on the bus there are hardly any open seats. I set my eyes on one, but there is a man in the next seat spreading his legs so wide that every other woman on the bus has surpassed it and resumed their place in the back, standing. I slide my bag off my shoulder and say “sorry” before taking the seat. His legs don’t move; they are brushed against mine, and he seems so incredibly insulted that I would think to infringe upon his space by existing.
I am incredibly uncomfortable.
I get off the bus, and I still have a little while to go before I reach home. I notice there is a man walking behind me and each turn I make, he makes the same. I begin to get nervous I’m being followed, and then I realize I must be crazy. Of course he’s not following me. Still, I stop, and allow him to pass me just to make sure.
I finally get to my apartment and lock the door. Too exhausted to do anything, I spend the rest of the day engaging in self-care and getting ready to do it all over again the next day.
That’s one day in the life of a 24-year-old female student.