Monday, November 20, 2006

 

A Uniform Story: Guest Blogger Karrie Myers

So, let me preface this post by saying that I stand at 5'10. I'm a black woman. I'm a size 18. And yes, I thought all three of these things would keep me from being harassed on the street. Obviously, I was wrong. It took a lot of de-programming and just being present to realize that men of all ages, heights, races and classes harass me. But I will point out - because I haven't seen this posted yet and I would love to discuss it - that firemen and policemen seem to harass me most of all.

I find being harassed by men in uniform especially confusing and violating. Afterall, we're taught as children that these guys are our "pals", there to protect us when real perverts bother us. What do you do when the authority figure is the antagonist? My first experience with being harassed by a policeman happened around age 12. Up until then, I was sort of used to harassment from regular men. I grew up with one of those statuesque, preternaturally pretty mothers...the kind that people stop their conversations to look at on the street. too young to know better, I linked the street harassment my mother received from men with the attention she received from everybody, and just assumed that was why men were always bothering us. Well, one day my mom and I are riding home from the grocery store, and we hear a speakerphone blaring out of nowhere. Behind us, a police car is ordering my mother to pull over. Frazzled, my mother obides. We're sitting there, scared off our asses, when this cop sidles up to my mother's window and blatantly tells her that nothing is actually wrong...he just noticed her in the grocery store and wanted to know if she had a boyfriend. So, why not ask her in the grocery store? Why make some big spectacle? Why scare the hell out of us? Well, I wouldn't know the answer to that until years later; because normal guys ask you out. Harassers want to assert their power by making a spectacle out of the whole thing.

Back in the car, my mother winced, something she's known to do when she's angry beyond words but can't let out a bloodcurdling scream just then. She told the cop that she was in fact married, and the mother of a 17 year old and a 12 year old. The cop could've cared less. He sad, "your husband...black guy?". Um, no actually, says my mother. She doesn't offer anything else. For the record, my StepDad is white. And so was this cop. But what the hell did that have to do with anything? After his big spectacle, the cop had been rejected by my Mom and he was looking for some way to exercise his power over her...why not ask her a bunch of inappropriate questions while he's got her captive? The cop went on to ask her if her husband "treated her right" and "took care of business". Again, I'm 12, I'm in the passenger seat. My mother asked him if he needed anything else, to which the cop just snorted and just walked back to his car. We proceeded on home, with my mother spewing every expletive on the planet out the window. I wrestled with the confusing feeling of being violated by someone I was told was my "pal".

I wish I could say that was the last time we got pulled over by a cop...for a date with my Mom.

Anybody got any other "uniform stories" stories?

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