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The Goddess Diana Pursued by Bacchus and Pan

pen and ink drawing of the Goddess Diana pursued by Bacchus and Pan

This is a drawing I did in the '70s, when I was living in Chicago. It was inspired in part by classical artworks depicting the abduction and rape of a woman by a god or demi-god. Here's an example: The Rape of Daphne by Apollo. In these depictions, the rapist is a young, handsome, buff god or godlike guy. The "pursuit" is a graceful, ballet-like thing. My drawing shows a pursuit in the classical tradition, but updated to a more modern and realistic picture of street harassers.

The harassment I experienced in the workplace was, fortunately, minimal, but it was an everyday, inescapable occurrence on the street. I couldn't so much as walk to the corner drugstore to buy a tube of toothpaste without assorted creeps, pimps, gangbangers, dirtbags, and lowlifes verbally (and ocassionally physically) assaulting me. There were some who hung out in groups of 3 or 4 and made hissing, sucking noises at me. They put me in mind of squirrels having a collective epileptic seizure. Then there were those who followed me by themselves, asking me to come with them. “I'm married,” I'd say, even though I wasn't really. “I don't mind,” they'd respond. In order to be certain I wasn't dressed “provocatively,” I bought myself an Army surplus fatigue jacket several sizes too big and wore it whenever weather permitted. It didn't help.

So this version of the gods Bacchus and Pan are my perception of men who followed me on the street. The snake is there to evoke in the viewer the same sensation of creepy, skin-crawling distaste I felt on hearing myself described in the third person by guys I should have crossed the street to avoid. (Although I knew they would have just crossed over too, in most cases.) Not everyone followed me; some were content to simply emit the random whistle, remark, catcall, or obscenity when I passed them.

And I have never forgotten an incident from a trip to New Orleans in the 70s: I was walking around and gawking in some interesting neighborhood, being a tourist, and I looked ahead to see I was perilously close to a group of men conversing in little knots on both sides of the sidewalk I was approaching. I wanted to get to the place on the other side of them, so I gritted my teeth, murmured “Excuse me,” and passed between them. A couple of them stepped back briefly to give me space, and wonder of wonders, did NOT stop talking, did NOT make remarks to or about me, did NOT whistle, catcall, etc. As I walked away I was so amazed and grateful I briefly considered going back and thanking them. A moment's reflection convinced me that would be too awkward for everyone, so I didn't do it. But I am still amazed and grateful to those gentlemen for just LEAVING ME THE HELL ALONE.

That incident proves again, as if it was ever in doubt, that harassers are choosing to be obnoxious. They're choosing to catcall, curse, whistle, follow, whatever. They don't have to be as ugly as my version of Bacchus and Pan, but they choose to be.

If you would like to print out or download the drawing, feel free. But if you use it in an app, blog post, Web page or wherever I'd appreciate it if you'd give me credit for it.