It was the first warm Saturday in April after a viciously long winter season. My friend and I were at a bar, enjoying the weather and a tropical drink. The vibrations in the packed restaurant were high, everyone having the same idea to get out of the house and enjoy a delicious dinner. We had to stand at the crowded bar because the wait for service was over an hour and the bar seats were taken. Engulfed in my friend’s story, I was shaking my head in agreement with her as she spoke. Then I heard an “Excuse Me” and I was shifted out of my place by the bar and moved to the side. It was a man, trying to get the attention of the bartender. I do not know what was worst, the fact that he said excuse me while shifting me to the side or that he physically shifted me. All that I know is that I was livid. I questioned if I was PMS’ing because I got so mad. I’m usually pretty calm and understanding about these situations, especially considering how packed the restaurant was, but I was angry.
I could not continue the conversation with my friend. I just stared at him. My friend catching the cue stared at him too. He must’ve felt our ice-cold eyes on him because he ordered his drinks and then proceeded to tell the bartender, “Whatever they are having put it on my tab because clearly, they stopped talking when I came around.” With a straight face, I said, “You touched me. You literally shifted me.” He replied, “I was only trying to order, I’m sorry sweetheart.” I rolled my eyes and he called me mean. He said my friend clearly was the nice one. If you know me and my friend, then you know the irony of this statement (hehe). I am usually nice but I was angry at that moment and I didn’t know why. He offered to buy us dinner but we declined. It was a girl’s night and we were enjoying each other’s company. Later on, when he was done with his dinner, not only did we finally get a seat at the bar, but he approached us again. I was able to explain to him how offensive yet inoffensive his gesture was. I tapped him on his side, since I couldn’t physically shift him, because he was bigger than me, to illustrate how invasive he was to my space and my body. He finally agreed that I was right and moving forward he would be more aware of it. It was a happy ending to a complex history of objectification and patriarchy. The next day, I questioned if I overreacted. Then I heard Tracee Ellis Ross’ April 2018 TED Talk and I realized the root to my anger. In it, she refers to a similar situation that happened to her friend at a post office:
“This fury was not my friend’s alone. Her fury was ignited by lifetimes of men helping themselves to women’s bodies without consent…There’s a culture of men helping themselves to women, and in this case, in a seemingly innocuous way, where a woman’s body is like a saltshaker: ‘Get out of the way so I can get to the fries.’” –Tracee Ellis Ross
It’s sad that it took Tracee Ellis Ross’ speech to give me permission to feel comfortable with my reaction. She gave me permission to not only be angry but furious and to revel in that fury because it’s generational and it’s a compilation of the fury of my ancestors. The fury of the women before me who had no agency over their bodies…their bodies! Yes, my personal anecdote may seem innocuous and I probably would have never written about it had I not seen this TED Talk, but #TIMESUP