It was my second year living in NYC, I was 20 and still trying to figure out who I was beyond my ramen smelling, freakishly tiny studio apartment. Since I was a struggling dancer/college student I spent free moments hanging out in Central Park, you know 0 dollars for hours of people watching. A frantic looking man walked right up to me as I was leaving the park and asked me for directions to the nearest subway. I gave him a few options and then proceeded to tell him where each subway line would take him, because at the time I thought I could save the world one human at a time. After a few minutes of me pointing out the various directions he needed to walk in, this man completely switched his story and proceeded to discuss in great detail what he wanted to do with my body parts in private. I won’t go into detail on here, but my heart started to beat faster and I thought I was going to throw up from what was happening. I started to quickly walk away and get away from him as fast as I could.
After 2 minutes of walking, I got angry. I was angry that I took time out my life to help someone who was going to sexually harass me. I turned around and watched him walk towards the subway. Should I tell someone? Should I go get a cop? I felt a rush of energy and adrenaline and found myself running towards the pervert. I tapped him on his shoulder and yelled, “How dare you?! How dare you talk to me that way. Who do you think you are? I just helped you find the subway. Who do you think you are? You can’t talk to me that way and then just walk away. You can’t talk to me that way.” Okay. I didn’t really plan my approach very well, but I did startle this guy into silence and deep confusion.
While I don’t think my comeback was completely articulate, nor do I know if it was even effective in stopping that man from verbally harassing other women later on, it was an important moment in my life where I felt like my voice needed to be heard. I am not at all advocating that women should be their safety at risk if they are being harassed, sometimes fleeing the scene is the best choice to make in the moment. However, I am proposing that women think about ways in which they can stand up and be heard in the moment, so that we can be more active and proactive in the moment, in order to further decrease this ongoing sexual objectification of women.
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