Spring is an awesome time of year (vitamin D, open toed shoes, margaritas at outdoor cafes!), but with it comes an uptick in street harassment that already has me grinding my teeth. It’s been a while since something has ticked me off enough to weigh in on it. I have been suffering from sexism fatigue for the better part of the past decade; there are so many sexist tropes that are widely viewed as acceptable: rape apologism, victim blaming, insane beauty standards, the pay gap, etc.. When I read some dumb shit Bill O’Reilly says about the downside of women holding office or get called 20 different versions of “sweetheart” by the barista in Financier at Grand Central in a 3 minute conversation my eyes start to glaze over and I often just lie back and think about England.
I can barely muster up the energy to flip the bird to the men who make sucking and kissing noises at me while I’m out for a run. That, and I don’t feel like dealing with the aftermath of flipping them off (“Bitch. Dyke. I’ll rape you. Fucking skank. I was just being nice, fucking bitch.”) Or dealing with the equally exhausting conversation later when I vent to the wrong person. “What were you wearing? Maybe you shouldn’t have given him the finger? That didn’t really happen.”
It happened. It happens all the time and it happens all over the world. Yes all of those things have been said to me. I’m sorry to report that this happens so frequently that any feelings of incredulity you may possess do not erase its prevalence. Also, what does my outfit have to do with the fact that a grown ass man has so little self control or respect for himself that he can’t keep his pervy thoughts inside his own damn head so that I can go about my workout without looking over my shoulder? His desire to comment on my body does not my trump my right to walk through the world without my shoulders up around my ears. It’s so laughable to think of the situation in reverse that recently several parodies of women harassing men on the street have been floating around the internet. They are equal parts cringe-worthy and absurd. Mostly the men are just puzzled because they’re not used to being talked to like that.
For women, street harassment is a part of daily life. The funny/not funny thing is at this point street harassment is almost like white noise to me. As is the cultural attitude surrounding it that puts the onus on women to not be harassed, as if possessing a vagina magically makes us capable of keeping another human being from doing the dumb shit they’re intent on doing. (Seriously, if this is true, please point me in the direction of the on-switch. I’d like to get a move on world peace.) This attitude insists that women are responsible for street harassment if they are attractive, if they wear a certain type of clothing, do not extricate themselves from a situation immediately, don’t reply to the harassment “correctly”, or that it’s not really a problem at all.
I’m all for personal safety and for safety precautions, but that’s been the prevailing dialogue of this age-old issue from the start and it obviously doesn’t solve the problem or get to the root of it. And the root of it is the “boys will be boys” attitude towards the men who don’t have any respect for women’s boundaries. And I call bullshit on that because most men manage to get through life without saying “nice ass” to a jogger when they pass her in their car. Most men have enough common sense and curtesy to know that not every thought in your head should pop out of your mouth, and that it’s not cool to say things that make other people feel uncomfortable or unsafe.
This is why Hollaback has become a global force for or change. And Hollaback is the tits, by the way. They do such good work in combatting street harassment and have so many resources. Back in their early days, I submitted a post on behalf of a friend, and was quoted in AMNY about it as well. It’s since been archived, which just goes to show that this issue isn’t going anywhere and there’s plenty more progress to be made. If you’re already feeling the cat-calling fatigue, or you’re just interested in learning more about street harassment, get on over to Hollaback and check them out. Or add your experiences to the comments below if you just feel like venting.
Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on Creepy Guy Syndrome.
Note: If you’re about to talk any of that MRA noise, your comment will be deleted. Ain’t nobody got time for that.