Something a little off track from our project this time. I promise this won’t happen often.
I forgot how different Arizona is as a community than California. Soroya touched on it a bit in her first blog.
For the most part, people are lovely. All of the businesses we visit are staffed by wonderfully sweet and helpful people (Cafe Boa gets a special shout-out for the off-menu hot toddy they made me). We feel like we make friends with staff at all of the places we go into.
The school staff is beyond wonderful. Everyone greets us with kindness and is more than willing to solve any ol' problem we encounter. They cannot give us any more attention or support. The students in our class and part of our project are some of the sweetest, most enthusiastic young people I have ever met. I'm thrilled with our weekly encounters, and I love the work we get to do. This is an artistic dreamland.
The *only* thing that's off about working in Arizona is the aggressively large amount of in-your-face attention we get when we walk around the surrounding neighborhoods of the school.
The best way I can describe what I mean is to detail the events of Soroya and my afternoon walk that we just returned from. So here you go:
Sweet Soroya and I slept in this morning and decided to relax and be a bit lazy. So around 3pm we ventured out for a walk around Mill Ave since it's the local shop/restaurant/ frozen yogurt gatekeeper.
The journey takes us from our dorm apartment through part of the ASU campus right onto Mill Ave. It's a nice walk. Especially on such a beautiful day as today. It's warm and there's a little cloud cover. The second I stepped out of our room my mood lifted, I felt good to be alive.
Then, seemingly as soon as we stepped onto Mill a crew of boys in a truck honked and yelled something derogatory at us.
Soroya and I laughed and brushed it off. She said:
"Do you think that was for me, or for you? Or for us?"
I didn't care. We agreed this happened a lot. Seemingly whenever we walk on Mill since we've been here different groups shout things at us. Things like:
Ok, that last one made me laugh. Apparently being two women with short hair walking on Mill means being two mega dyke slut bitches. Ok. Why do you need to shout it at me? What does that do for your ego? For your friends? Does it make you horny? Does it make you feel powerful?
When Soroya and I went into the CVS on the block she saw a group of guys come into the store too. She immediately got scared. She thought it was the group of guys that shouted at us from the truck.
"Is that them? Did you see them?"
"Who cares" I said.
When we walked out she told me it made her nervous, she was scared they followed us in there. I just...what kind of bullshit is that? I refuse to be intimidated by a group of horny pre-pubescent motherfuckers.
And I realize that it might be unprofessional of me to use that language on this public blog...but I don't care. I'm mad. I'm a big scary mad fucking short-haired shrew that lives in the corner apartment of an all-boys dorm hall while working on an artist residency. And while the work, the school, and the opportunity is the best thing ever- I'm also experiencing a culture I haven't experienced in a while and I don't understand why I can't walk down the street in this college town without a group of assholes yelling something degrading at me.
It isn't just cars driving by, it's people walking past us while we try to get to our destinations.
Today a young man looked me in the eyes as I walked past and said:
"You are so, so beautiful."
Ok? Great. I'm beautiful. I respond:
"Thanks." We keep walking and he replies:
"Not you, the other one- your friend." His friends laugh. I try to think of something perfect to say in my head. Something to emasculate him. Something I can feel proud of later. Something that makes him feel like a fucking loser for being so rude, so....fuck. The moment passed. I looked back and his friend says:
"No, no, you are too."
I shake my head.
I walk on. There is nothing I can say. I get to take it. And it makes me mad.
Who gives a fuck what you think about how I look? I don't know you! I am just WALKING ON A STREET WITH MY FRIEND! What gives you the power to insult me? What gives you the gumption to harass a woman as she walks by? Why? Do you become better because you take me down a notch in front of all of your friends?
I exhale. Soroya feels bad for me, but she doesn't know what to say. What is there to say? A group of 6+ men criticized me in public. Because they could. Because they weren't afraid of me. Because I was a woman. Because I am a woman. Because something is fundamentally wrong with something. Because I had the audacity to walk down a street with my head held high.
"My value would never come from that person Soroya."
We walk back to our place quietly. Minutes onto Mill another truck of men honks and yells at us. We jump, shake our heads, and agree I should blog about it.
I don't know exactly what to say about any of this. But I do know something about myself.
I'm awesome. And am in incredible positions, and worked very hard to make this wonderful and magical life for myself entirely surrounded in art. I have the best partner on earth. I have friends sent from heaven. I appreciate the environment around me. I laugh constantly, I love ferociously. I am more complex and fascinating, and wild and free than most. I am brave. I am beautiful, but that means very little in the grand scale of my weight as a human. I am a force.
So fuck you street bullies. Fuck you.