As I grew older I learned to feign ignorance and put on my “bus face.” This is something women know how to do. When on the Metro I see women of all ages doing the same thing - trying to be invisible. Eyes forward, no smiling, and no conversations with strangers. Try to sit next to another woman, bring a book, or an iPod, or a phone to focus your attention on. This is your “bus face”, depending on geography also known as “BART face”.
These are tricks that any woman who has dealt with public transportation masters. Women are taught how to avoid unwanted attention. Apparently this is our responsibility for having the audacity to develop breasts and hips at any age. If we then choose to show these breasts and hips to the public by walking in the open we must learn to draw as little attention as possible.
Street Harassment is one obvious way women are punished for participating in the public sphere. It doesn’t matter what you may be wearing or where you may be going. Anthropologist Marcaela di Leonardo describes street harassment:
Street Harassment occurs when one or more strange men accosts one or more women … in a public place which is not the woman’s/women’s work site. Thorough looks words, or gesture the man asserts his right to intrude on the woman’s attention, defining her as a sexual object, and forcing her to interact with him.For me street harassment has become common, it’s something I honestly expect to happen. It’s something I am prepared for and am never surprised by. Although it is commonplace it is by no means trivial. Because I walk in public I should not have to accept sexual harassment from strangers. Street harassers are not arrested or charged with crimes if they are caught. I have never once even thought of calling the police to report an incident of my own street harassment. I have never had a bystander interfere and ask a them to stop.
Street harassment should not be an "inconvenience" that women just have to learn to deal with. When strange men catcall a woman in public, they reinforce their ability to insert themselves in that woman’s sexuality. For that woman it reinforces a fear of rape and her responsibility to make herself smaller so as not to attract that kind of attention.
The first time a man yelled out “baby” to me I was only twelve. The first thing I did when I went home was look myself in the mirror and check what I was wearing. Then I thought about how I was walking. Then I learned not to walk by that bus stop again.