I was wearing jeans, a black t-shirt, a black blazer, and flat shoes. It was the first afternoon with a glimpse of spring in the air. Children were walking home from school, baseball games were in progress at the park down the street, and lines were beginning to form at the ice cream store down the street. As I drove home with the windows open, I had a craving for my favorite soft vanilla ice cream. I parked at my apartment, grabbed my purse, and started walking to the ice cream shop.
It was supposed to be an easy walk, a block away, a mere 450 feet.
My fitness tracker counts more steps while I get ready for work in the morning than it would that walk to the store. As I began to walk towards my ice cream paradise, I was jolted at the sound of someone honking a car horn. I looked up, and saw the driver blow a kiss. Uncomfortable. I continued walking, already one third of the way there, and beep, another honk.
I kept my head facing forward, and before I knew it, a third honk. I had arrived at the ice cream shop. I ordered my soft serve vanilla with caramel and rainbow sprinkles, and walked home as quickly as I could. It wasn’t dark out. The sun was shining, the roads were busy, and I needed to get inside of my apartment. I didn’t feel that I was in physical danger, but the pit in my stomach ruined the prospect of ice cream.
I sent a text message to a male friend explaining what happened. This friend, who happens to be a police officer, replied that he didn’t blame the drivers for honking at me. “You have a sweet ass,” he said. I told him I was uncomfortable with the attention and with his response to me. His text messages continued, expressing that I was eye candy for the drivers going home after their long days and he would have done the same thing.
In the week since this happened, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about why I couldn’t walk 450 feet to get an afternoon snack without being objectified. I was dressed completely modestly, but should have been able to walk to the store in a bikini and not worry about that. We are living in a society today of much greater problems, I realize that. We are in the midst of a national election, a drug epidemic, and a state in which most people fear the police rather than look to them for protection. That said, I just wanted ice cream. I would hope that any man who would honk, whistle, catcall, or motion at a woman on the street would act instead with respect. I would hope that any driver would look at pedestrians only to see if they are crossing the street.
When the signs say, “look out for pedestrians,” they are not telling drivers to make pedestrians feel unsafe 450 feet from home or 450 miles from home.
I just wanted ice cream.