#FeministFriday No. 24

I powered through because sleep is for the weak, and the whole post was still rattling around in my head. 

As the temperature on the thermometer rises, so does the chances of strange men yelling unwarranted comments at women and girls everywhere.

Street harassment is not a compliment; it is harassment. 

Street harassment includes cat calls

“Damn, girl! You’re looking fine!”

Unwarranted sexual advances

“You got some sexy legs! I’d tap that.”

Invading personal space

“Hey girl, where you going?”

Rude gestures, whistling, honking…you get the idea.

Every single woman reading this has experienced being harassed by a stranger on the street. What’s worse, is most of the women reading this post have probably experienced it so much, all the incidents kind of blend together into a perpetually uncomfortable outdoor experience.

my-name-is-not-hey-baby

For the men reading this, you probably have a few questions, if not several indignant objections. Let me take a swing at some of the general ones that typically come up:

“I’m just trying to pay a nice compliment!”

Based on most of the comments I’ve received in the last ten or so years of my life, I feel the need to ask where the hell you learned how to compliment people. A good general rule is if you wouldn’t say it to your grandmother, kindly refrain from saying it to a complete stranger on the street. Unfortunately, this rule does still leave a bit of gray area for more innocent comments like, “You have such a pretty smile!”

While that particular comment isn’t rude or uncalled for per se, you still probably won’t get a positive response. From a woman’s perspective, 9 out of 10 strange men are probably completely innocuous, if not nice and polite. However, since we also have virtually no way of discerning if you’re #10 or not during whatever brief social interaction you’re trying to force with us on the bus, we’re probably going to come across as cold because aloofness tends to be an excellent defense.

This may seem unfair, but if I handed you a bowl of M&Ms and told you 10% were poisoned, how eager would you be to eat a handful?

I never cat call.”

If you also raised the previous objection, I don’t believe you.

However, if you actually never ever throw unsolicited comments (no matter how well-intentioned) at women you’ve never met, that doesn’t mean that other men aren’t. Additionally, you don’t get brownie points for being a decent human being.

“You probably love the attention.”

Oh yes, I love it. I love not being comfortable enough to run outside at certain times of day, and feeling the need to have an app on my phone that allows me to immediately alert police if I’m in trouble, and that I’ve Googled the most effective way to punch someone with keys between my fingers.

Love it.

“The way you dress probably invites it.”

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no.

Also, get your victim blaming ideologies off my blog.

I have been objectified at high volumes in business casual attire on my way to work, in remnants of a cosplay after spending all day at a convention, and in grubby work-out gear with no makeup while loading groceries into my car and desperately needing a shower.

My friend has been harassed on the street in layers of over-sized sweat pants and sweat shirts, shapeless jackets, and scarves. Another friend was inside a car at a gas station, with the doors closed and windows rolled up, while a man tried to hit on her from another pump.

This woman was cat called while wearing an ankle-length puffy winter coat.

I’ve also received comments while wearing shorts and tank tops in the summer or little dresses when going out with friends, but don’t for one second tell me that those situations were any more my fault than any of those previous examples. It’s my body, and my wardrobe, and my choice to avoid heat stroke or rock a sexy party dress, and nowhere is an open invitation warranted for anyone else to comment on those choices, particularly if I have never seen you before in my life.

You can tell me that “men are visual creatures” or “men are more sexual and can’t naturally control themselves” or any other rape apologia bullshit you want to promote, but if you have issues with what I’m wearing, that is your problem, not mine.

Furthermore, if women wearing shorts on the street are so distracting that men can’t help but make lewd comments, why on earth are men allowed behind the wheel? There are women in form-fitting yoga pants in full view of male drivers everywhere that could very easily cause them to crash! Why hasn’t Lulu Lemon been sued for promoting reckless driving???

car crash

It is not the responsibility of women to sacrifice our comfort or choices to avoid the arousal of men. Our bodies are not inherently sexual, nor are they a public commodity, so stop treating them as such.

The overwhelming majority of my male readers will never experience what women do walking down the street, so let me tell firsthand that it isn’t fun. In some cases it can be downright terrifying.

The best way I can think to explain it is those kiosks at the mall. You know the ones I’m talking about, not the tacky phone cases being sold by bored college students, but the overzealous living infomercial trying to convince you that the lotion he’s selling will change your life.

Those guys are super annoying, right? You’re probably at the mall for a specific reason, and on your way to the Apple Store or Anthropologie, there’s that guy obnoxiously doing everything he can to get your attention and insert himself into your path.

Now imagine that the things he’s saying make you uncomfortable, and he’s several inches taller than you and outweighs you by at least fifty pounds. Imagine that as you avoid eye contact and keep walking, you know in the back of you mind there’s about a one in five chance he’s going to just keep following you. Imagine that as you consider telling him you already bought lotion just to see if he’ll leave you alone, you know he might not like that and may just decide to stab you.

Now imagine that’s what happens every single time you walk outside in any area populated by humans.

It’s frustrating that many men have to actually project themselves into a situation before realizing that they shouldn’t put women in the same position, rather than accepting that women are human beings and deserve respect. At the same time, if it gets men to stop cat calling it’s at least a step in the right direction.

Just about everyone was taught, “Don’t talk to strangers!” at some point. This clearly isn’t working on the street harassment front, so I’m going to drop some wisdom that my mom imparts on her kindergarten class every year. This should be especially helpful for the “more visual” men in the audience:

“Keep it in your thinking bubble.” 

If five-year-olds get it, hopefully the general male population can figure it out.

Leave any questions or comments below, and see you next week!

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