I used to live in downtown Minneanapolis, right near Loring Park. I worked at a great store at the Mall of America. Many times I would take the cheap light rail instead of driving my car. Driving was it's own ordeal that caused me a lot of grief - mainly in finding a parking spot by my house that was 1. in an ok part of town and 2. closer to my place than the light rail. Here is a summary of how getting home went for me.
At work we were encoruaged to dress cute and so I often wore skirts and low heels. While at the store I was often hit on by guys who used lines like "Man, I have to tell you, redheads really get it going for me," while they have me pick out earrings for their girlfriends. I had more than one man follow me out of the store on my break as I went and grabbed lunch. And I just bit my toungue and moved on with my day.
When the store closed I would enjoy the empty time while I straightened, blasting Mika and dancing as I put products back and then rush to the bathroom to change from my skirt and heels to a pair of jeans and my sneaks. I would shove my fancy clothes into a bag and walk out of the backdoor into the back alleys of the Mall with my fellow coworker (who was almost always a lady as we only had one male employee).
After saying goodbye I would race to the basement to catch the light rail. Once inside I would try my best not to look anyone in the eye yet still look like I was aware of my surroundings and usually would try to read a little. Before I got off at my stop I would make sure my red hair was back in a tight bun and shoved into a baseball hat. My mother had me carrying one everywhere, especially when I was driving alone at night.
I had a long walk down a pretty empty street. I pasted Mary Tyler Moore's Statue hoping that the other people getting off of the light rail would branch off and not walk close to me. If there were too many (and frankly sometimes one could be too many) people near me I would cross the street. My keys sticking out from my fist and a permanet snarl on my face I stomped home as fast as I could.
Closer to my apartment, I had to decide whether to go down the well lit street that was home to cheap pawn shops that were chained up and super sketchy, or the not well lit street that was home to more upscale apartments. I never figured out which street felt safer because neither did.
At my building, I rushed into my apartment and locked and deadbolted the door. I checked to make sure the locks were on the windows that overlooked a very popular dumpster that homeless men frequented. I usually went straight bed and curled up hoping that the customer who had been bothering me about how my skirt made my shape look good would not be back anytime soon.
My mom came up once and wanted me to get a gun or pepper spray, but I never have had either.
This post was inspired by this article from Rookie: First Encounters with the Male Gaze
This article on rape culture is also worth a read: Rape Culture 101
Also, MN people, please, please think about taking part in this weekend's Twin Cities SlutWalk.