Saturday, May 01, 2010
The car was a beat-up sedan crammed with college kids--guys--who had clearly started their Saturday night partying on Saturday afternoon. My husband and I were out for a short three-mile bike ride. I heard the guys yelling and carrying on from a block away, and I knew they would yell something at me. And they did.
"You're so fat!"
As I pulled up alongside my husband, he asked, "What did they say?" When I told him, his jaw dropped.
"I can't believe they would say something like that!" he fumed.
I could. And as I told him, it didn't bother me all that much. I'm used to it. Guys have been yelling things at me since I was 15. Like any woman, I've learned to tune it out. It's a power trip, a form of misogyny, a reminder that women are vulnerable to men in a variety of ways.
Still, I thought about it all the way home. It reminded me of the way boys at my junior high school used to drop pennies on the ground, and yell "Kike!" at anyone who picked one up. And with that recollection, I realized viscerally, profoundly, and in a deeply emotional way that what those guys in the car were doing has a name: hate speech.
And although I've been thinking and writing and talking about this subject for years, I think this was the first time I truly got it in a fundamental way. And that is something I'll be thinking about for weeks to come.