People Watching

mfjQlv6They say airports are good for people watching.

Unfortunately, sometimes, when you watch people, you watch them mistreat others.

Case in point. At the San Jose, Costa Rica airport the other day, I was watching an airport employee doing his job. He was a baggage handler, and his job was to lug suitcases onto the conveyer built to begin their journeys into some aircraft’s underbelly.

So I was watching him and, all of a sudden, his eyes locked onto something. Or, more precisely, to someone. Because passing in front of this guy was a woman, another airline employee. She was walking from one station to the other, but she was not doing so unnoticed.

Because baggage guy’s eyes had a radar lock on her. As she was walking toward him, he was examining her chest. And, when she passed by, he took a good, long look at her rear. And it seemed like she had no idea.

I wish this was an isolated event, but of course it’s not. Sadly, my personal experience tells me it isn’t. And, in a vivid and eloquent way, so does the writer of this post over at Katie and the Real House. Here’s an excerpt from her post:

As I walked to my car after work, I was on edge.  My heart was racing just a little bit and I felt agitated.  I love my work and I’m usually happy and peaceful when I leave, so these feelings were baffling.  Then I realized.  PBR McStinkyshirt had done this to me.

Even though I was working, even though I was clearly about 40 years younger than him, even though I was certainly not displaying any feelings toward him other than employee-like hospitality, this man decided that none of those things mattered.  He decided that his interest in me entitled him to interrupt my work and aim his creepiness at me, whether I wanted it or not.

I am still shaken and annoyed (mostly annoyed because ewww, you nasty man, you really messed up what was supposed to be a fun morning at work) when I think about this day. I am very, very (very!) tired of men and their ogling.  I am tired of stares that last way longer than they need to.  I am tired of words that make my stomach knot up, of men standing closer than they should, of having to keep my eyes straight ahead so I don’t appear to be inviting attention.

There are some charming humans who will say that the attention from these men is harmless (he was just looking!) or that it’s because of the way I was dressed (maybe I was asking for it) or that it’s because of the way that I look (you have to get used to that, Katie, it’s just because you’re pretty) but all of that is, as the French say, le bullshit.  The implication is that it’s not a man’s fault when he does oglethings, that his hormones or a little pointy-eared devil on his shoulder or Rambo make him incapable of behaving in a civilized manner.  Women are supposed to be cool with all kinds of unwanted attention because the men just can’t help themselves.  They’re only men and besides, it’s all in good fun.

Guess what, guys.  It’s not fun and it’s not good.  Every time your eyes rest on a woman for more than a few seconds, you’ve gone too far.  You’ve made her uncomfortable because you’ve barged your way into her life uninvited.  Every time you hoot and holler on the street because you like the way she walks, or speed up in your car to get a better look, or do the sleazy “Goooood morning,” as you pass her in the hallway and stare at her chest, you’re forcing a little bit of yourself onto her without her permission and when it’s over, you take a little bit of her away with you.

Looking back to that experience in the airport, I wish I had gotten that guy’s attention and given him a shake of the head or maybe a finger wag. Because who else is going to stop him from doing that?

Only those people watching in the airport.


Want to read some edifying reflections on our time in Costa Rica? Go here to experience the trip along with us!

2 responses to “People Watching”

  1. fikalo says :

    I can’t thank you enough for this blog. I’m a Christian woman with a secular feminist education, and I often struggle with the feeling that I’m very much on the outskirts of my church in trying to bridge those two parts of my life (I’m in Australia, where the misogyny isn’t too hideous in general, but the Christians here, sadly, seem expert at wielding patriarchy in their congregations). Your writings here have been a great encouragement to me.

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