by Hafizah Geter at VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts
Because it’s afternoon. Because the sun is setting. Because I’m followed home at night and to work some mornings. Because I looked upset. Because it was Monday. Or because it wasn’t. Because I smiled across the train, he stuck his hands down his pants.
Even though I’m not listening to music, I’ve learned not go outside without headphones in my ears. My headphones are my best defense against sexual or racial street harassment. My best defense against being aggressively harassed or followed for being the “bitch” who thinks she’s “too good” or the “nigger bitch” who “doesn’t know her place.” With my headphones in I can disengage from the harassment while remaining hyper aware of my safety. I can be disregarded, at times “forgiven,” simply because men think I can’t hear them.
I call this troubleshooting oppression. Instead of “cunt,” I get the tempered down (though more menacing), “I’ll see you soon baby.”
As an African-American woman with degrees in Poetry, English, and Economics, I’ve spent a large portion of my life examining and trying to come to terms with language. I’ve learned that language is currency, trust, and betrayal. It is one of the many things doled out in unequal parts and one of the few that doesn’t require walls to incarcerate you. Continued . . .