13 September 2012

The Silent Third Guy

Three white guys, late 20s, privilege written all over their hair, clothes, musculature, bearing, walking across the street as I waited at a traffic light on my bike.

Guy #1: "Nice hat."
Guy #2: "Nice bag, wonder what's in it?"  Reaches for the bag clipped to the front of my bike.
Guy #3: Follows his pals across the street.

I don't react at all.  Just stand there, stunned really, at the stupidity of it.

And then they move on.  And I'm left, sick with fury and, yes, fear.  Just for the hell of it, they've made me feel vulnerable, shown me that they can target me if they choose.

Because I'm female? Female and middle aged?  Could they tell, under streetlights at 10 at night?

Not the first incident, and unfortunately, it won't be the last.

And I'm left wondering.  What would they have done, had I reacted? cringed, spoken, otherwise responded to the taunts?  Laughed uproariously?  Physically attacked me, in view of dozens of other people?  If they'd attacked, would anyone else have come to my aid?

Did the silent third guy maybe tell his buddies afterward that they were jerks?  Have you ever been the silent third guy?

At The Offspring's school, they're teaching the kids that the bystanders have the responsibility to intervene to stop the bullying.  I wonder: does such education have the power actually to change a culture?  And could it possibly have any effect on the gender dynamics of this kind of harrassment?