In New York I spend a lot of time walking. I never take the train if I can help it, especially if it’s twenty blocks or less. Sometimes I’ll even leave at midnight and walk into the wee hours of the morning (well, not that wee). This may seem reckless or unsafe, but I’ve honestly never felt any real threat or fear being out at night. Unless you walk down some really obscure deserted part of town, there are usually other people out too. I love interacting with the city and having constant visual stimulus and things to think about. In this way, I really connect to Breton being inspired by the street, as well as the concept of the flaneur, someone who can dissolve into the woodwork of the city and witness it unfold. I was looking forward to discovering Paris in the same way.
When I got here I was enchanted by the immediate beauty of Paris, its pristine and genteel façade, but I was eager to scratch beneath the beautiful surface. My first walk alone in Paris was a terrible experience, to put it bluntly. After a long day of flan-ing, in a rare move, I decided to take the train home. As I boarded, immediately I felt oppressive gaze of a leering old man sitting across from me. When the person next to me disembarked he moved next to me and started whispering things in my ear. It was vile and demeaning. I got up and tried to explain to an older woman who has holding onto the rail, but she ignored me and scoffed. I made an unnecessary transfer to try to escape him, but he followed me and even touched my waist. Eventually I escaped his pursuit but it took a while, and was traumatic nonetheless.
Of course I had had experiences in New York with men who have given me negative, unwarranted sexual attention, but never so aggressive as this. My space was never violated. I always knew that if it were, I could turn to someone in solidarity to help me out of the situation. The inability to communicate verbally made me the experience all the more overwhelming. I felt powerless and threatened. Unfortunately, I found these experiences to be the norm in Paris, while female and walking. Some even more violent and aggressive than this. As time passed, I learned better how to navigate my diminished status. Still, the joy of the street in Paris did not equal my experiences in New York. Instead of disappearing into the landscape the Metropolis, I felt painfully visible.

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