Friday, April 25, 2008

Let me preface this by saying, I am in no way trying to talk about the experience of all women. Many women experience completely different and, some might argue, more hurtful/dangerous forms of street harassment then I do. Street harassment often involves a head-on collision of class, race, able-ness, gender expression, and sexual orientation, not only for the person being harassed, but also for the person harassing.

This morning as I was walking to work, some guy in a truck did a cat-call whistle. As I stood there waiting to cross the intersection, flicking the guy off while he turned the corner, I realized that to everyone in the cars all around me, who hadn't heard the whistle must think I was completely insane. And maybe some people who heard the whistle thought I was crazy too.

Street harassment really bothers me. I like to think the best of people, so I believe that the people (men?) who harass others (women?) on the street don't understand what they are doing.

When people harass me on the street, the first thing I feel is scared. I have no way of distinguishing between the random dude that is going to tell me I have nice legs and then walk away and the random dude who is going to tell me I have nice legs and then follow me for several blocks with follow-up comments (or the random dude who is going to tell me I have nice legs and then try to touch me).

The second thing I feel is angry. Being out in public should not be the equivalent of posting a picture of yourself on a hot or not website. Most times when I am out in public by myself, I am trying to get from point A to point B and it pisses me off that in between those points, people think I am inviting a referendum on my body, my clothes, my walk.

I hear many men say that they are just trying to compliment someone and how is someone supposed to know what's a compliment and what isn't. Here's the thing: if you're not in a situation where you can walk up to someone, introduce yourself, and then say whatever it is you want to say, then you're probably not about to deliver a compliment (and if you wouldn't say it if the person wasn't alone, you're also probably not about to deliver a compliment).

What is being deliver is a message of intimidation. Whenever someone shouts at me from a car or mutters something as I pass by, they are saying "get off the streets" to me. They are saying, "I am a person and you are something I like to look at." That attitude scares me and it makes it much more difficult for me to ride the trolley, take a walk, or really do anything by myself.

Oh and Guy, fuck you. You might enjoy looking at women, but it's articles like this that legitimize treating women like objects for men to enjoy rather than like real people. Via feministing.


Gerbera said...

I completely agree with you. I walk to and from work and get completely sketched out when men yell or whistle at me. When I had to explain why it was creepy to some male friends, I realized that they don't have that fear of being confronted or taken advantage of that we feel when we are walking alone.

Catherine said...

Hey, great post! One other rule of thumb for men: if you wouldn't like someone saying it to your mother or your sister, it isn't a compliment.

I love your line about walking down the street not being a referendum on your appearance. To quote a friend of mine, "you are not a commodity."

Patience_Crabstick said...

Well said.
Not to make light of what happened to you, but I'm reminded of the Jerry Seinfeld bit where he talks about men who do this--more or less calling them idiots.

Anonymous said...

I so feel you on this. Kudos for expressing it both succinctly and well.
-Andrea (Bee Girl if you'd rather)

Helen said...

Good post, thank you.
As a trans woman who doesn't 'pass' very well, your comments about the intimidation and fear really resonate.
I have had so much crap from random passers by that I will now no longer go out in the evening because I am genuinely afraid to use public transport at night.
Better a live dog than a dead lion? Yes indeedy.

(Here via feministing, btw)

Shell said...

oh gosh, thank you for the post- our voyeuristic culture has left the bedroom and entered public life and it pisses me off. My pet peeve is at the gym when I am trying to do something good for my body and people can't stop staring, watching me...I try to ignore the glances and judgmental looks people make about my body, but it's near impossible. Great post.