It happened today, for the first time.
On the train,
I don’t know when he arrived,
I didn’t even notice him until halfway through the ride.
It wasn’t until he asked me if my homework was art,
From across the aisle and three rows down,
That I realised he was watching me.
Suddenly my world changed.
My life became centred
Around getting him to stop staring at me.
I turned away, willing him to stop,
But in the reflection I could still see him,
Eyes trained on the back of my head.
He must have been 70,
I am 17.
I desperately wondered,
What did he want with me?
Why did he choose me to stare at, to terrify, to violate?
I did nothing to him,
Except perhaps give him a faint smile when he boarded.
Of course, that’s the problem.
I have fallen victim to the terrible circumstance
Of misunderstood politeness.
I understand now.
Never smile, or they’ll think you’re flirting.
It could be taken the wrong way,
It could be seen as an invitation.
Because god forbid I exercise basic human decency without expecting to pay for it.
That's what society tells me,
That I shouldn't smile at someone for fear that it sends the wrong message.
That if he objectifies me, it's my own fault.
That I, as a young woman independently going about my own life, am here in this world for the entertainment and pleasure of adult men.
I never understood how terrible this message could be,
Until it was me worrying that I had done something wrong,
Me self consciously checking my reflection to see if I looked too “appealing,”
Me wondering if I had been asking for it.
Women should not be told that they are here for someone else’s pleasure.
How common it has become for a woman to be taken advantage of.
I have the right to my own body, my own comfort, my own being, and it is not yours, or a man’s on a train, or anyone else’s right to take that away from me.
Do not objectify me. I will no longer stand for it.