just got in the door from an evening out with some new friends from school. on the way from the streetcar stop to my corner, all of a two minute walk, I experienced some street harassment. guy crossed the street and followed me in the opposite direction to where he was going to do it. fell in step behind me, started calling out to me, “hey, slow down, I’m not going to do anything to you, I just wanna talk to you, you’re so beautiful, hey baby” bullshit. I try to ignore him, but he was persistent. Lucky for me, on my corner is an all-night pizza place. so I walk in there. no way am I going to allow this idiot to see where I live. mama didn’t raise no fool. once I’m in there, of course he follows me in. I decide, no. no more street harassment for this girl.
so I turn on the guy. I tore him a new one for harassing me in the street like some piece of meat, threatening me and following me. he tells me he jsut wanted to compliment me, can’t I take a compliment, why am I so uptight? I tell him no I can’t take a compliment from a strange man calling out to me in the street at 1:30 in the morning when I’m walking by myself, I don’t give a shit what he thinks, why does he think he has to right to harass me in the street, I’m not public property, and fuck off. a nice couple from my streetcar asked me did I need help, offered to walk me home, which they did, making sure he was gone by then, and that was the end of that. she was much more understanding of my predicament than he was, no surprise there, he was like, you only live two doors down? and she was like, well, she didn’t want him following her to her door, did she? (with ‘you twit’ just dripping from her voice.)
this reminds me of an argument my friend and I had recently with a friend of her boyfriend. we told him that many women view men as potential rapists in certain contexts, that women were raised with the fear of rape burnt into our brains from an early age as simply the worst thing that could ever happen to you as a woman (not that it is or isn’t, just that this is what women are taught). He was completely offended and pissed off by this statement, and of course took it personally to mean that we both thought he was, as a person, capable of raping someone. He got so mad that he packed up his toys and went home, actually. there was no seeing reason for him that night, that the stats simply add up for women to view men this way, particularly in situations of vulnerability. and of course, no way for him to drop his male privilege for even a second to try to understand where we were coming from.
well, there you go. combine the culture of the fear of rape with general street sexual harassment by men, and this is what you get. was I actually afraid of this guy? well, I was nervous enough to walk into that pizza place rather than walk the twenty more feet to my door.
and I hate that. I hate that I couldn’t walk the literally three and a half minutes to my door from the streetcar stop without being harassed. I hate that I felt afraid of a guy who I probably had 20 pounds and 5 inches on. I hate that I had a couple walk me to my door. I hate that if I had been dressed differently, it probably wouldn’t have happened. I hate that I actually felt bad about using the pizza place as a refuge and bringing that confrontation into their place of business. I hate being viewed as public property by some random asshat in the street. and I hate that this happens every day to billions of women all over the world, to varying degrees of severity. I HATE IT.
when that couple offered to help me, I had my cell phone in my hand to call the police. what would they have told me? would they have done anything to make me feel safer, or would they have laughed at me? if that couple hadn’t been there, would someone else have offered to help me? would I have had to wait until that guy left? would I have had to ask someone to intervene, throw the guy out?
so, what can we do about street harassment? I don’t want to have to make sure that I never go anywhere by myself. I want to have the freedom to walk down the street, by myself, dressed however I want, at any time of day or night, without being harassed. and I want every other woman to be able to have that too. it’s simple really.
how can we make this happen? I think street harassment is just as important a topic to deal with as sexual harassment in the workplace. it’s like blue-collar vs. white-collar crime, you know? so what can be done about it?
[by the way, I remember a discussion about street harassment somewhere not too long ago (someone remind me where and I’ll provide a link) that intimated that more men of colour were street harassers than were white men. This guy was white. the real question is, would I have rounded on him in the same way if he wasn’t? would I have felt more less threatened by a harasser of another shade?]
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