An Incident on the Train

September 22, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

I was on the train a couple of nights ago when a woman in scrubs gets on and sits down next to me. She looks very tired and puts her hands on her forehead. After a couple of seconds, a man approaches her, puts his head very close to hers and demands that they talk. She says no and politely asks him to stop talking to her and that she doesn't want to do this right now. It is clear to me that these two people know each other. This man kept insisting that she talk to him and she kept saying no, that that was not going to happen, and asked him to stop.

After the third time of him saying that she had to talk to him, I interjected very loudly so that others on the train could hear me. I yelled, "She has asked you to stop bothering her. She has clearly told you that she doesn't want to talk to you and you keep bothering her and hovering over her! That's called sexual harassment and assault. You need to back off and leave her alone! Your time is up!" The man looks at me, cracks his knuckles, looks as if he is about to punch me, snidely laughs, and retorts, "Who the fuck are you to tell me who I can talk to?! You're fucking harassing me! Shut the fuck up, bitch!"

The train comes to the next stop and as people are getting on and off, a handful of women come up to us and tell the man that he just needs to stop, that when a woman says stop he needs to respect that and stop harrassing her, and that he needs to leave this woman alone and get off the train. His response to each of these other women's remarks was, "I'm not doing anything wrong! You're harassing me!" At every point he continued to deny that he has instigated a situation in which every woman on the train felt threatened and fearful of what he would do not only to this woman he knew but to everyone.

As the seat on the other side of the woman then opens up, he quickly sits down on the other side of her and continues leaning his body into hers and demanding that she speak to him. I loudly say again so that everyone can hear me, "This man will not leave this woman alone after she has asked him now several times to stop. This is sexual harrassment! Sexual assault is a form of patriarchy!"

Meanwhile, this man is continuing to demand a conversation with this woman and to lean his body into hers. She is getting louder in her refusal to speak to him saying, "Just stop. I asked you very politely to stop and you won't stop. What do I have to do?" We arrive at the next stop. The woman, exasperated, says, "That's it. I've had enough. I am just going to get off." As she walks off the train, the man follows her. The train doors close again and we are off to the next stop.

I wanted to share this with readers because this is not an isolated incident or anomaly but part and parcel of how this system operates. These conditions are intolerable, and under the social relations of this system, no woman can escape this horror no matter where she comes from or how hard she has worked. It is critical that the women on this train came forward to stand up for this woman and demand that this not continue.

As violence against women continues to become more virulent with the rise of rape pornography, the buying and selling of young girls into conditions of sexual slavery, and other concentrations of women being treated as expendable pieces of property, more people around the world need to refuse to put up with this for even one more minute. However, as people stand up in refusing to tolerate this, much more will be needed to lead people to act on their principles to see an end to the oppression of women.

Everyone in society needs to know that there is a way out of this horror and that, no, we don't just have to "swallow it" and go along with this, thinking that it can't be any different. Not only is this thinking not true and causes a lot of harm, but it also prevents people from engaging with and developing a scientific understanding of the basis for overcoming the oppression of women through communist revolution and the importance of going for all-out revolution that doesn't stop until this degradation is wholly done away with.

A conversation breaks out on the train with a woman who begins by saying that the woman could have gone and told the train conductor and "the problem could have been taken care of." Another woman responded that even if she had gone and told the train conductor, this woman would still be afraid that this man would retaliate and harm her. A young woman said that she is worried about where this woman could go so she wouldn't have to face this again. Another woman commented that this man was scary and that more people should have stepped forward and demanded that he get off the train.

I brought up that this was not the "human nature" of men—men are not born thinking that they have the right to treat women this way—but is indicative of how men are trained to view women in society at large. This is a society based on the system of capitalism-imperialism where patriarchal views of women are rampant and color every interaction between people. This is a system in which women are rountinely harrassed, degraded, demeaned, and told in a myriad of ways that this is the best of all possible worlds, that we are never going to see an end to rape and other forms of sexual violence that happen multiple times a day, and that all we can do is "lean in" and try to get as much as we can for ourselves.

This particular man's view that this woman is his property and that she better answer to him is indicative of the relations under this system—a system in which women only exist and are given value in relationship to men. This is why we need a revolution and nothing less to do away with this and to get to a whole different world where women are treated as full human beings.

As I was speaking, several women were nodding their heads and silently saying yes. After I said this, the train went silent. An older woman at the edge of the train car approached, thanked me for what I said, and asked me if I could explain for everyone what the BA on my shirt means. I was wearing the "BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less!" T-shirt. I shared that my shirt refers to BA, Bob Avakian, the chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who has for decades advanced the science of communism—why the world doesn't have to be this way and why there is a basis to make revolution in this country so that people can get beyond the oppressive relations marked by this system. BA has been fighting for the full emancipation and liberation of people all around the world over the last several decades, leading a movement for revolution in this country, and is a best friend to the masses of people.

I then reached into my bag and got out palm cards for the world historic November 15 dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on "Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion." I shared that people could come hear BA in dialogue with Cornel West on November 15—that this is a lifetime opportunity to grapple with the work that BA has done over decades and the role that it can and must have in the world today if we want to see an end to these horrors that are happening not only against women but to all of humanity. Several people took palm cards as they left the train and thanked me for speaking out.

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