Yesterday afternoon as I had just left Ohio State’s campus to drive home for fall break, I was pulled over by a cop. I’m not sure you can actually even say I was “pulled over” because the officer just walked up to my car. I was approaching a road closed sign and pulled into the lot directly before the signs to turn around and find a different way to get on the highway. I am not too familiar with Columbus roads nor do I drive on them much. As I was getting ready to turn out of the lot, I noticed an officer approaching my car. I thought it was pretty obvious I was lost and figured he wanted to give me directions. Boy, was I wrong.
The officer, a male probably in his mid-40s, immediately asked me, “Can you read?” in an extremely condescending tone. He continued to ask me that same question several times implying I wasn’t intelligent enough to read the signs stating the upcoming road was closed. I very politely answered saying, “Yes sir, I can read. I just don’t know another way to get to the highway.” I’ve never gone any other way, and I told him I was planning to turn around. He then questioned my competence again asking me if “I was really planning to turn around,” while he stared at my car facing the other direction. He questioned what I would do if I ran over someone, as we both scanned the area for pedestrians. I must note here there wasn’t a single person on foot. He then asked for my license which just so happened to be in my backpack in my trunk. This was my mistake due to my last minute packing. I now realize that I probably shouldn’t have gotten out of my car to retrieve my license, but I was too busy profusely apologizing for my mistake to think straight.
When I handed him my license, he asked about the address on my ID, my permanent home address in which I was trying to get. He then asked if he should take my license back to the BMV and make me retake my driver’s test. I pride myself on the fact that I have never once been pulled over and was quite shocked that he was threatening to take my license away for something as insignificant as this mistake.
At this point, a man on a bicycle rode up to him and asked he could go through the road closed signs. The cop, to my dismay, made another comment about how I couldn’t read, but he was glad that man could. He proceeded to ask me about my current address which is when he realized I’m an Ohio State student and can, in fact, read. He wrote down my information on a crumpled piece of paper but had no way of actually processing it.
After I told him I was an Ohio State student, something in that officer’s mind changed. He decided to find the smallest ounce of kindness he had left in his heart to give me directions. I was so shocked at this point I couldn’t even focus on what he was saying. My entire body was shaking and my feet felt like they were going to collapse under me. All I could focus on was trying not to break into tears.
I’ve never had anything against cops. I’ve always believed that they are here to protect us, but after this situation, I’m not so sure.
Unfortunately, I don’t think what happened to me is uncommon, especially for females. I truly believe that if I was a man, that officer would not have questioned my ability to read or drive. The sad truth is that we live in a society and political climate where it is ok to abuse women for even the slightest mistake. I know I was mistreated by that cop, and I also know that I didn’t do anything wrong. It’s disgusting to think that just because of my female anatomy my intelligence and abilities will always be questioned by power-hungry men. At the time I felt lucky to be let off without a ticket but now I am questioning the credibility of this man claiming to be a cop.
I don’t know the man’s name but I am in the works of trying to figure it out and file a complaint. The way I was treated is not something I will stand for no matter my gender, age, or anything else. This world cannot continue to be a place where people are questioned about their intelligence simply because of their gender. We deserve better! I am proud to be a strong, smart woman and I refuse to be treated as anything less, especially by a man.