Nebraska – Days 1-2.5: Street Harassment is a Thing…Check Yourself

I’m not going to lie, I really did not do a whole lot in Nebraska. When I was in college I went to the Omaha Zoo and I brought animal crackers and posed them next to their live counterparts. No trip to the Omaha Zoo could top that one so I decided not to go again, even though it’s a pretty nice zoo.

Upon arriving in Omaha I tried to go to the site of the birth home of Malcolm X, which was, of course, closed. It was a beautiful day, so I decided to go hang out at a park for a bit instead. I had passed one on my way to Malcolm X’s house, so I turned around and headed back there. It was a little sketchy, like this-was-the-only-other-car-in-the-parking-lot kind of sketchy:

The only other car at this park was this hearse...not creepy at all...Omaha, NE.

The only other car at this park was this hearse…not creepy at all…Omaha, NE.

Needless to say I decided not to stay at that park… Instead I found one called the Heartland of America Park, which was awesome! I walked around the little lake/pond, which was really nice. Along the way this random guy asked me why I was walking alone. I didn’t even realize he was talking to me at first. Then I noticed there weren’t any other people around aside from these two guys. I figured the guy wasn’t talking to the guy he was walking with. By the time I realized he was talking to me it had been like ten seconds and I decided it was too late to respond. Then he said, “Lost in thought?” I’d already decided not to respond so I didn’t say anything. He then said something I didn’t quite catch, but was something along the lines of, “Fine, just keep walking and don’t say anything.”

After this encounter I was really distraught. He hadn’t said anything super vulgar or offensive but I was really bothered by the fact that I hadn’t responded in a way that let that guy know he had made me uncomfortable and needed to check himself. So let me just set the record straight with a few things I would’ve liked to say:

  1. “I’m walking by myself because I’m a sociopath just deciding who to kill next. Are you volunteering?” – I feel like this one would have garnered a hilarious response.
  2. “When you accost me on the street it makes me hate you, because I don’t know you. You invade my space and make me feel like I owe you something, but I don’t.” – It is my right as a human to talk to or not talk to whomever I chose; men have no right to be offended when I chose not to talk to them, especially when they choose to insert themselves into my life in such an abrasive way.

I’ve had this idea about making business cards that have some sort of quip on them and handing them to people who harass me on the street, so here are a few of those ideas (and yes I realize some of this is a bit much to fit on a business card):

  1. I won’t apologize for not responding if you won’t apologize for making me feel unsafe.
  2. We live in a world where it’s ok for men to accost women on the street. I’m NOT ok with it and you shouldn’t be either.
  3. When a man I don’t know calls out to me from across the street I instantly switch into fight or flight mode: Why is he talking to me? Is it because I’m pretty? Because I’m alone? Is he thinking he can take advantage of me in some way? If I respond and he doesn’t like my answer what will he do? Will he follow me? Can I outrun him? Do I have pepper spray or a whistle on me? Are there other people around? Are they close enough to help? Better to just not make eye contact, say nothing, and keep walking. He won’t like that and will probably keep saying things to me, but maybe, if I’m lucky, he’ll just keep walking in the other direction and leave me alone. These are my thoughts. Every. Single. Time. Stop making me feel unsafe.
  4. Check yourself. And then on the back:
    Every year x (statistic to be looked up) women are harassed on streets across America.
    Every year x (statistic to be looked up) women are assaulted, abused, or raped in America.
    Every year men like you harass women like me and no one does anything…until now.
    No, I won’t tell you my name and you can’t buy me a coffee, but you can donate to a cause I believe in:
    Oh, you weren’t asking for my name, or to buy me a drink?
    Donate anyway and ask yourself why you felt compelled to make me feel uncomfortable today.

Again, I realize most of those won’t fit on a business card, but you get the idea. It seems like a good passive way to get my point across which gives me enough time to distance myself from the situation while they read it. I’m pretty convinced at some point I will make this a thing, so look out for it.

Heartland of America Park, Omaha, NE.

Heartland of America Park, Omaha, NE.

After continuing my trek around the lake brainstorming the aforementioned ideas I found comfy spot to sit. I laid down and fell asleep. When I woke up I worked on a few postcards and then I met up with my friend Abbie, from college. I had dinner with her and her family and we spent the evening catching up. It was wonderful!

The following day I worked on my blog and then drove to Lincoln. I made a few stops in search of postcards on the way and somehow the day just got away from me. I spent a couple hours at the Sunken Gardens and then met up with my hosts before they left for a dinner.

Sunken Gardens, Lincoln, NE.

Sunken Gardens, Lincoln, NE.

I took a nap at my hosts’ house and worked on some things and ended up calling it an early night because I was exhausted. I drove around a little in the morning but nothing that I found to do really appealed to me so I just left. Like I said, I didn’t do a whole lot in Nebraska…

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