Because I’m A Woman

  • I should smile at you when I’m walking down the street minding my own business because you believe my face is here to please you
  • I should accept your car horn honks, whistles, and catcalls as a proper form of communicating to me that you appreciate my outfit/my body/my anything
  • I should accept a ride in your car because we’re going the same way, even though I’ve never met you before (and that’s not the least bit sketchy)
  • I should pay meticulous attention to the way I dress, lest I attract any unwanted attention
  • I should be modest in every sense of the word
  • I should cater to any of your wants and whims, regardless of how much (or how very little) I know about you
  • I should tell you what I’m working on/reading/listening to on any mode of public transportation
  • I should not expose certain parts of my anatomy because they might tempt you to do something you wouldn’t normally do to a woman
  • I should carry a small arsenal in my purse so I can be safe in any public or private space
  • I should not be suggestive in your presence
  • I should let you dictate what should happen to my body, even though you have no idea of the intricacies of its workings
  • I should let you monopolize my time
  • I should make you a plate of food at a family function even though you’re not a quadriplegic and have fully functional hands and legs.
  • I should not drink excessively in mixed company
  • I should not drink mildly in mixed company
  • I should get paid less than you because I lack the male anatomical parts necessary to handle a conference call or board meeting

*This list is entirely satirical if you can’t detect the snark. It is addressed to hypothetical men and a good portion of it is drawn from personal experience. Although the subtitle of this blog declares it a space of fiction and creative nonfiction, I have decided to include an encounter that happened to me when I lived on the West Bank to illustrate how the situation would likely not have happened if I possessed a penis.

It was early morning. I had missed the early bus by a few minutes so I’d be a little late to my 8:00 a.m. German class but I had reconciled myself to this because a little extra sleep was worth it. I had walked the four blocks to the bus stop without incident, had crossed the the six lanes of traffic under the West Bank Expressway, and was sitting patiently on the bus stop bench. I may or may not have been reading something for school, I don’t remember. Behind the bus stop bench was a large parking lot that was mostly vacant, except for a building that was a good distance away, certainly outside of shouting distance especially with my normally quiet voice. A black man a little older than myself pulled up in a car behind me. He endeavored to get my attention by waving me over and eventually I complied. He rolled down his window and began asking me questions, such as “What are you doing?”, “Where are you going?”, “Are you in school? Where do you go?”, and “What are you majoring in?”. I told him I was going to Uptown where I went to college at Loyola. I lied about my major. He then began offering me a ride to Downtown and telling me that the bus would be late and that I’d be late for school. I declined, nicely (as I’d been taught) and repeatedly. Eventually he left and I went back to waiting for the bus feeling slightly disturbed that this stranger had suddenly taken such an interest in me getting to school. Thinking back on what I had worn that day, I’m pretty sure I wore something similar to that exact bus stop every day. Usually, if I dressed nicely, car horns would honk and men would leer from the safety of their cars. That day I felt a little shaken up by the encounter but didn’t know what to do with it. Today I know: I can talk about this. I can tell others that I know how it feels to be creeped on and how weird it makes me feel. Would this situation have happened to me if I were a decently dressed young male? I don’t know. If I had grown up as a boy, I would still have been taught not to accept rides from strangers but would I also have been told to be nice to people who are asking you personal questions despite your inhibitions to the situation?

This post was inspired by:

along with several other articles from


2 responses to “Because I’m A Woman

  1. I really like what you wrote and was surprised when you mentioned the West Bank–I’m from NO, too. I just have one question, though, which is something I roll around in my head a lot particularly when I’m in NO: would you have been as shaken up if he had been a white man who looked like he was going to work (or insert another man description)? I don’t know your race or how much it matters, but it the “black” adjective just stuck out to me.
    I wish it wasn’t this way especially because I don’t believe my fear is justified, but I feel more uncomfortable when a non-white and/or lower class man makes catcalls or inappropriate advances than a privileged white man.

  2. I believe I would have been equally weirded out if he had been a white man, if not more so. I happen to be of Germanic and French descent, so I’m white, but I was also raised not to take rides from strangers because when I’m in someone else’s vehicle, they have control over the situation. If he had been white, he could have easily been a heterosexual John Wayne Gacy for all I knew and I wasn’t about to take that kind of chance with my life.
    I almost didn’t include the description of his race since it doesn’t matter to me much.
    Thanks for your comment and insight though!

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