Is nothing new, but I’m glad to see the New York Times writing about it, and the NYPD taking it more seriously.
The article is especially interesting in its detailing of the defense mechanisms that female subway riders use:
Most of the women who reported recent incidents were in their 20’s and younger. But the experience, women said, is so universal, and so scarring, that they continue to feel paranoid and to put on their body armor — the big bag, the bad face — no matter how old they get.
Women know the drill. Just as some men reflexively check to see if they have their wallets on a crowded train, women check their bodies.
Pull in your backside and your front. Wedge a large bag for protection between yourself and the nearest anonymous male rider, who might, just might, be planning something. Put on your fiercest face, and brace yourself for contact that seems too deliberate to be accidental, too prolonged to be random.
Yes, we do know the drill.
Jenna Caccaro, 22, a fashion student who lives in Brooklyn, said she was first flashed on the subway when she was 15. She thought it might have been because she was wearing her Catholic school uniform. “I thought that maybe I’d done something to attract him,” she said, “but my family reassured me he was just a sleaze.”
And this is the problem with encouraging these sorts of defense mechanisms in women. Obviously everyone needs to do what they need to do to survive and get through their day, and we should all try and take necessary safety precautions. But suggesting that if only women would dress a certain way / wouldn’t go to certain places / wouldn’t engage in certain activities, sexual assault wouldn’t occur is victim-blaming at its worst, and only succeeds in making individual women feel guilty for events which they had no part in causing.
In some ways, groping seems almost an accepted part of subway culture. Stephanie Vullo, 43, said she had dealt many times with men rubbing up against her or trying to touch her on crowded No. 4 or 5 trains in the morning when she takes her daughter to school. “It’s worse in the summer months when everyone is wearing less clothing,” she said. “The first time I turned around and yelled at the guy, but with my daughter, I don’t want to get her upset.”
Many women said they were not so much frightened by the subway encounters as they were appalled that men would do something so pathetic.
Like Ms. Fairley, the actress. “All of a sudden,” she said, “this man moved into my frame of reference, and I was staring at a penis. I couldn’t believe it.”
Ms. Fairley said she was embarrassed, but felt even worse, in a way, for the man. “They need help, bless their hearts,” she said.
It is pathetic and disgusting. But excuse me if I don’t feel particularly sorry for these guys, and if I think it’s outrageous that groping is “an accepted part of subway culture.” I don’t accept it.
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