Great piece. Thank you for taking the time to give a great example and to clarify the complicated underpinnings.
Leaving the subway the other day, I saw a woman I recognized from a community dance years ago. It looked like she recognized me, but I must have been wrong. We had favorable interactions only.
She was limping on the escalator leaving the subway stop.
She made eye contact we me as we reached the top of two escalators running in parallel. Again, I thought she recognized me.
I asked: “How are you doing?”
“Fine,” she said, immediately ending eye contact and sprinting for the door.
Since she and I, about a year ago, had run into each other and had a pleasant chat, one which did not end in anything awkward, I can only imagine that she didn’t recognize me with my much, much longer hair now.
I want to echo your comments on the trauma she must have encountered or at least feared: that background noise of threat which I, myself, as a cishet white dude do not feel.
Secondarily, and far secondarily, I want to add something implicit in ridding our culture of that threat for women [and other targets of harassment/assault]. Those of us who are not harassing or assaulting get the benefit of feeling trusted, not ashamed, and of not feeling like people are afraid of us.
You and I both felt compassion for the woman in our situations.
We also felt crushed at how a commonplace cordial interaction went wrong. The abusers and the harassers are primarily hurting the targets of their abuse and harassment. But they are also hurting people who just want normal, cordial interactions to be normal and cordial, not fraught with fear and guardedness.