Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Mean Streets" of Austin

Back when I rented my little house from 2000 to 2007 on the East Side of Austin, I had a front porch that I could never sit on. Why? Because, though the house was in a neighborhood that was rapidly being gentrified, the only people usually walking around were homeless guys. And whenever they spotted a female -- any female -- out in the open, they felt it obligatory to come over and chat. Not just a friendly "hey," but an approach up the walk and onto the stairs of my porch, and a not-leaving. That happened to me about 3 times before I just gave up on the porch.

Same with bus-stops, both then and now: Lower-class men in Austin see a woman alone at a bus-stop, and they seem to automatically assume that she's lonely and in need of their heavy come-on "companionship." Or worse: At one time in the early 2000s, I tried taking a bus from my neighborhood to the downtown clubs -- a big, fucked-up, black homeless guy at the stop where I was quietly waiting got in my face: "You scared of me? You scared of me? You scared?" What the fuck. (No, I wasn't scared of big black homeless guys in general until YOU loomed in my face for no reason, you drug-addled dick.)

And when you're a female walking in Austin, guys also seem to feel obligated to either honk or yell at you out of the windows of their cars. In the past couple of months I've gotten a couple of "Woooooooo"s, plus one "fuck you, bitch" -- have no idea what that latter meant; I haven't been back home long enough to offend. Oh yeah, and then there was the one shout-out from a white passenger car while I was doing my then-daily walk -- turned out to be my brother on his way to work! :) THAT one was funny. The rest are just stupid and tiresome.

It really is draining. Yes, I've been comparing the Austin, Texas, stupidity to being in Jersey/NYC: "Up there," if someone's sitting outside on their porch or stoop or curb or stair, you nod or ignore them if they're a stranger, or nod or say "Hey" if they're your neighbor and you're on your way up to your place. If you're at a bus or subway-stop, or on the bus or subway, you ignore the people around you and give them their space. When walking... there's no issue at all. Everyone walks everywhere in NYC and in the urban areas of Jersey; it's nothing unusual and the sight of a female on the sidewalk or at a bus-stop certainly doesn't create any utterly rube-like need to hoot and holler.

In NYC, women are protected by the mundane: Women out everywhere walking around are no great big deal. In Texas, a woman out by herself -- porch, bus-stop, sidewalk -- is somehow seen as "fair game," to be generally accosted by creeps and assholes.

I miss just being able to walk and/or sit around in public, saying "hey" on occasion and not getting hassled any further.

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