How do you deal with unwanted male attention?

I was the unfortunate recipient of unwanted male attention today, while I was volunteering this afternoon. While I despise having to do this, I am mindful of what I wear when I go volunteer every week. Today, I was wearing a loose navy shirt and shorts. The shorts I was wearing were a pair I have worn to service before and since I did not get any creepy comments or unwanted attention then, I assumed I would be safe wearing them again. I wore no makeup and kept my hair in a messy braid, so no one can touch it. I realize now that none of those things really help deter this type of attention, but more on that later.

My position involves direct interaction with individuals experiencing homelessness. While I understand many (if not all) of these individuals are some of the most vulnerable people in my community, I don’t think that excuses them from engaging in any form of creepy behavior towards women. I don’t even want to go into detail with the specifics of what happened today, but I know my mind won’t rest until I attempt to write about it.

I feel ashamed for not being vocal enough and for not letting the other volunteers know that this man was making me uncomfortable when all of this was happening. (Note: I did let them know after he left.)

I’m mad that I didn’t put him in place, telling him that he was a creep and that the objectification of women is wrong and not tolerated in this space. I felt unsafe, knowing that he was intoxicated and grew increasingly uncomfortable with his stares that lasted too long.

At one point, he started following me around, to try to grab my hand and who knows what else? He didn’t speak any English, but other people around him translated. I flinched when I heard the words, “pretty” and “beautiful.” In that moment, I didn’t want to be pretty or beautiful; I wanted to be left alone. I found myself wondering why he couldn’t “pick” someone else; there were other women around. Why me?

Most of all, I hate how all of this still on my mind; hours after the incident. I’m safe in my room, but still feel deeply unsettled. For some reason, it feels worse than being cat-called.

I’m learning that my clothes won’t deter this type of attention, nor my attempt of looking stuck-up helps much either. Even if I wore my most comfiest, ugliest pair of sweats and a baggy sweatshirt, to these creepy men, I am still a young Asian woman.

The truth is, society still teaches men that it’s okay to objectify women. The fetishization of Asian women is real, but it’s not talked about enough.

Anyway, I really hope he’s not there when I volunteer next week. But if he is, thankfully he’s on everyone’s radar now.

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