I have been harassed in public transportation three times now.
The first time happened when I was in high school. I missed my ride to school and I had to take the train to get there. I was in second year, was still inexperienced in commuting, and was running late, so the first chance I got, I boarded the train, not minding the fact that I wasn’t in the ladies’ area yet. Everything was going smoothly until a man, whose face I unfortunately didn’t get to see, grabbed my behind and rubbed his manhood against me. I immediately got off at the next station.
I felt sad; I wasn’t able to do anything about it. A friend told me it was my fault for not staying in the ladies’ section.
The second time, I was already in college. I was on the way home alone because my friends decided to stay a bit longer at school for a project. I was sitting about 3 feet away from the tail of the jeepney, and I let myself drift off to shallow sleep because the ride only lasts for about 15 minutes anyway. I suddenly woke up to a hand inside my blouse, on my chest. I looked at the face of the culprit. He was sporting a clean crewcut and was wearing a polo shirt. He had a “di ko akalain” face, and he looked at me like I was the person who was caught with a hand in a place where it was not supposed to be. I alighted the jeepney and called my mom so she could pick me up.
I felt frightened; despite being surrounded by people, a man was able to grope me and I was unable to stop him. Yet another friend told me it was my fault—falling asleep in public was apparently an invitation.
Today, I was once again groped. This time, I was on the way to school to take an exam. It happened in broad daylight, once again in a jeepney, done by a man who was wearing a red jersey and seemed like his hands just innocently landed on my body. When I shoved him away, he just went down the vehicle. We were at the destination anyway. I saw him ride another jeepney, this time, back to where we were from. A lady asked me if I was okay. I was not.
But I did not feel sad. I did not feel frightened either. I felt angry. I feel angry.
I am angry because a 13 year old was not safe in a train that would take her to school, just because she was in the “wrong section.”
I am angry because a tired first year college student fell asleep for 5 minutes and woke up with an uninvited hand on her body.
I am angry because in broad daylight, at an uncrowded place and while fully awake, I was still harassed.
“You were probably wearing skimpy clothes.” I was in my school uniform all three times.
“You probably gave him attention first.” “He must’ve thought you were interested.” WHO THE HELL WOULD BE INTERESTED IN THIS?
And my personal favorite, “Men will be men.” I cannot even with this.
I am angry because when a man enters a room full of women, he is empowered, but when a woman enters a room full of men, she is scared.
I am angry because when a man leaves his home, he should look out for thieves who might take his things, but when a woman leaves her home, she looks out for thieves of her things and her body.
I am angry with all people who harass others, and I am more angry with people who provide excuses and explanations for why this happens.
And if this, along with many other injustices that come with being a woman in public, angers you too, then I challenge you. Give them hell.
As soon as something foreign lands on you(or someone you know)—catcalls, stares, hands—GIVE THEM HELL. Do whatever you can—shout, punch, kick. Do not be like me, do not be passive.
Give them hell until the sentences
“You were probably wearing skimpy clothes,”
“You probably gave him attention first,”
“He must’ve thought you were interested,” and
“Men will be men,”
“Well, you shouldn’t have been harassing anybody in the first place.”