I am a street performer in downtown Asheville — one of the statues/mimes. I love doing it, but it is not without its challenges. Mostly, I am fortunate enough to not have people disturb me, but I have been groped, fondled, screamed at and had objects thrown at me by adults.
On Friday, Sept. 17, I had an encounter with a gentleman and his young daughter. I have seen them before, and every time they pass, the father encourages his daughter to “touch me” to make me come alive. Children often prod, poke, punch, or pinch me, and I let it slide because they often do not know better. But since this girl has repeatedly touched me at the encouragement of her father, I decided to ask him to please not tell her to do that any more.
I expected an apology and for the incident to blow over. Instead we ended up in a yelling match that involved another bystander (not good conduct for a mime, I admit). The man insisted that if was going to stand on the street, that anyone should be able to touch me however they like. He added that if I didn’t want to be touched inappropriately, I should get “a real job.” The whole incident disturbed me as a woman, because the message these men were giving their children is that it’s OK to do whatever they like to others, and especially to entertainers or people in costume because they aren’t “real.” I was called a fraud and a scam artist, and accused of destroying the magic that his child believed in.
I would like to respond that no one has a right to my body, and it is not my responsibility to create a fantasy world for anybody at the risk of my own safety and comfort. I know that I take a risk posing as an inanimate object, because people will treat objects like objects. But I am not an object. I am a human being.
Women are not dolls that can be touched, and when you harass me in public, it sets a bad example for everyone else around us, especially the children. I am referring to the adult males that repeatedly think it’s OK to make physical contact with me. Even small gestures can be very unsettling. I’m not asking for a miracle, but it would be nice if we all worked together to make our streets safe for everyone, especially women and children.
Please parents, teach your children respect for others, even if they don’t look “normal.” And for the sake of all of the street performers in Asheville, keep in mind that we are very aware of our surroundings and will not tolerate behavior that infringes on our rights as human beings. For the rest of you lovely people, thank you so much for making my life a brighter, more magical place.
— Bullet Miller