I have been uncomfortable a lot in my life: Leering glances from strangers, sexually assaulted at concerts, and catcalled so many times I can’t even count anymore. This past weekend I was at a hardware Buying Show in Minneapolis. To give the demographics, there tend to be older people who own hardware stores. There are men, women, and children who tend to be mostly white, but there are more and more POC as I’ve gone over the years. I dress rather outlandishly by all of these peoples standards, and I’m completely fine with sticking out. This is the time of year I get to bust out some of my favorite looks because I make a memorable impression on vendors that can result in freebies.
People tend to stare at me, less as years go on, because they recognize me and honestly enjoy seeing me and chatting with me because we’ve become friends. Regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation, these people are my friends, and that’s what made this so much worse. I get some lecherous stares, but I don’t mind because I’m young and dressed the complete opposite of old men involved in the hardware business. But as I sat at a table with my friend Kalia, who had come to visit me, I got a rude awakening.
Two of my other coworkers came towards the table to join us and one of them mouthed to me “He’s taking a picture of you.” That’s not that odd to me, I mean there are event photographers who take pictures, and sometimes people snap pictures of me in public, that’s nothing too odd. I mean I was at Pitchfork Music Festival and was photographed every single day for three days. I basically said, “It’s okay, that happens.” Then the other woman came and sat down and she said, “No, he’s taking a video of you.” Okay, little creepy, so I kind of look in his direction and glare, and he just sort of smiles. He’s an older gentlemen, nothing significant about him, he has a grey comb-over (always the perverts hairstyle of choice) and a dark blue winter coat. He finishes up whatever creepy fucking recording he decided to take and gets up and leaves.
I had goosebumps lining my arms. Not a photo, but an entire video had been taken of me without my knowledge by a stranger. We all know what perverted reasons he has for taking it, let’s not disillusion ourselves. My coworker, and friend said when she’d seen him that she asked him if he “Always took pictures of princesses.” His response was, “I like princesses.” Thank god I was in a convention center and not alone with this guy on the street. I became more and more upset as I heard more and dwelled on the whole situation. Later it was revealed that my friend had seen him earlier on in the day look at me, stop, and look like he was going to stop and talk to me but had walked away. So apparently this man had seen me earlier, and sought me out, not to talk to me, but to take video and photos of me without my permission.
To those who think I may be overreacting to this, go fuck yourself. I am a blogger, I post videos, photos, and personal stories online all the time, but I AM IN COMPLETE CONTROL. This was a violation of my privacy and my rights as a woman and a human being. This was a group of people who I feel comfortable with, and it felt like someone came inside my safe bubble and popped it. I never felt that I needed to be on guard with these people, and now I do. This occurred on Saturday and I had to go back Sunday. I was on edge the entire time, and kept looking at every old man who passed by hoping it wasn’t him.
The worst part of all of this? It was completely legal. There is no law that says you can’t go around and take photos and videos of a stranger without their permission. Only if it somehow violates their privacy. So some pervert gets to take a video of me while I’m unaware, and keep it and it’s fine. He can post it online and as long as he removes the audio, it’s legal. Don’t believe me? I researched it for about 30 minutes while writing this. Since I was A) In a public space and not my home and B) Not saying something that could be considered “private” this bastard is legally allowed to do what he did. Who cares if it’s uncomfortable for me, right?
So this is a PSA when it comes to your privacy in public. I let my guard down and became too comfortable in my location. As a woman, I honestly feel like blaming myself and thinking it’s my fault. But it’s not, I have been telling myself this over and over again. It’s his fault. I would rather he had come up to me and talked to me. I could have politely told him to leave me alone. Taking a video of a “pretty girl” is wrong. You’re lucky I’m a goddamn adult and didn’t hunt you down and kick your ass. I swear to Satan, if I find the video of myself online, I will find you, and I will end you.
I don’t give a shit if you’re Snapchatting a hot guy to your friend, or taking a picture of some guys ridiculous haircut, don’t do it. Stop taking photos and videos of strangers without their permission. I don’t care if it’s legal, it’s creepy and you should have the common decency to ask permission beforehand. Put yourself in the strangers position and how you would feel if your photo was being sent to strangers by strangers. It’s not okay, so knock it off and don’t act like children.