Padua Day Trip gone wrong
As a young woman in Vancouver, I feel very fortunate for the (general) respect I experience on a day to day basis in the streets, in bars, in work, and in everyday life. I am lucky to feel confident in walking the streets alone, engaging in conversation with strangers on the street, and in navigating the world around me on my own. For me, I very rarely feel as though my gender has put me at a higher risk than those who are male presenting. This all changed, however, when I travelled to Padua.
My Italy dress in its pink, figure flattering glory.
When I was travelling Europe last spring/summer, I took a day trip from Venice to the small Byzantine city of Padua, or known to English Majors as the setting of the Taming of the Shrew. I woke up that morning feeling excited and confident in how incredible my day was going to be. I donned my “Italy dress”, a cardigan, and my sunnies and was off. I felt beautiful and radiant, my dress flowing in the breeze, my hair gold in the sun. My sister and I explored the city and visited the basilicas.
Being in Italy, we had to ensure our shoulders and knees were covered as a respect to the more modest culture. I thought I was modest enough, but in hindsight I can’t stop myself from thinking my dress was a little too low-cut, or a tad too sheer. There has never been a day in my life where I’ve felt more self-conscious than that day.
After exploring with fruitful delight, my sister and I decided to sit in a park before visiting the Giotto Scrovegni Chapel. We sat on a bench in front of a fountain, a man sat across from us listening to music. At first I didn’t think much of the young man in front of me, but after a few minutes I felt the burn of his stare across my chest. My sister and I decided to get up and walk around the park before heading to the chapel, but the music followed us.
After determining that in fact, we were being followed, my sister and I left the park. Again, the violating burn of his stare bore into my back. We sped up at this point, and lost him at the exit of the park. We crossed the street and rushed into a hotel to use their washroom. We figured there was no way he would have cared enough to follow us out of the park so we left the hotel feeling positive.
Walking the heritage streets of Padua.
Low and behold, the man reappeared from the opposite direction than before. He had followed us, passed the hotel, and had turned back to keep looking. His timing was perfect, however, and he caught us on the way out of the hotel. His penetrative stare was disturbing, and I’ll never forget how small he made me feel.
My sister and I didn’t get a change to visit the chapel that day…instead we chose to catch an early train back to Venice. His dominance got the best of us. I felt weak, insufficient, and worthless. Regardless of how strong and confident I felt starting that day off, my entire personhood was taken control of by a sick man seeking an affirmation of dominance.
I was surprised at how deeply this experience affected me. I was never one to let others change my view of myself, but after that day I couldn’t help but think that it was my fault I was stalked. It was my fault because my dress was too tight to my figure. It was my fault because I didn’t stand up for myself. It was my fault.
In hindsight I know that this man was nothing more than a sick, power-hungry sadist. I know that it was not my fault, and that it could have happened to anyone. I will not let one person’s false dominance overpower my strength and confidence again.