On Street Harrassment

This was on everything I owned as a young woman and is still a favorite picture.
Kathleen Hanna circa 1992 (I was ten).
I have a memory in my late teens of eating at a local pizza place in Reno with my Mom when two men sat down next to us and started staring, leering and uttering that oh-so-charming "pssssttt" at us. As a feminist (riot grrl identified, thankyouverymuch) it made every sense in the world to me to look them directly in the eye and tell them to FUCK OFF, Kathleen Hanna style. My Mom was equal parts impressed but also worried; what if they retaliated? What if they got physical? My thoughts: let them try. Hell, bring it on, assholes; I will be happy to take you on or get you arrested for assaulting two women just trying to have a mother daughter lunch together.

Many years and one move to one of the country's most progressive cities and I am steal dealing with the same shit, and I am still as pissed off as ever. Actually, I am even more pissed because I have to wonder if I am going to be out to lunch with my own daughter in fifteen years and have to have the same scenario played out.

Today I had to make a run from my office over to one of the sites that I manage. I like to cut through an area by the local news station and as I was doing so I saw a local anchor, over whom my husband and I have an inside joke (he did the same tri as Matty and Matty beat his running time so we like to call him out on it). As I pulled out my phone to text Matty a young guy (definitely younger than me) walked by me and said "yo, whassup", which I just ignored because I was trying to text my husband. He got a little farther past me and stopped, turned around and yelled, "hey, girl, whassup?". This time I stopped, turned to face him and said in a very neutral tone "please stop. I do not like being harassed.". His response: "harassed? Bitch, please".

Right, because I am the bitch for making someone feel uncomfortable, threatened and overall bummed out.

I was livid. I still am livid. And as I walked back to my office next the the police station that is also right there, I almost lost my shit when another man, this time much older, yelled at me, did the "pssst" and then waved when I finally looked up. He got the middle finger wave right back, as I was too shocked to have this happen AGAIN in just a fifteen minute span.

I am a prime target for street harassment. I am tall, noticeably tattooed and a runner, which is like wearing a sign that says "please, honk at me and scare me and make me fear that I am going to be raped in the pre-dawn hours because I choose to train for marathons while my toddler is still asleep in her bed". My tattoos give people an excuse to talk about my body and assume that I had these put on to welcome unwelcome stares and comments. Being a tall woman means my long legs are visible when I wear dresses and skirts, which obviously makes me a slut for showing so much skin. THIS ENRAGES ME.

I try and be active against this behavior; I am quick to respond to men who behave like this with a middle finger or a shout to "please don't harass me". Sometimes I even let them know that I don't like to feel like a rape target in my own neighborhood, or that I am hurrying down the street because I am excited to get home to my husband and toddler and do they have a daughter or a wife?
I have yet to have anyone apologize and am usually just called a bitch for advocating for myself, but I will keep doing it. I will tell men over and over and over that just by virtue of me being outside of the house I am not a willing participant in their bullshit. I will SCREAM it from the rooftop that my running in a tank top down a busy street is not for their enjoyment but because I do not want to sweat to death as I knock off as many miles as I can before going to work, taking care of my kiddo, or spending time with my husband.

This is two thousand fucking fourteen and it was time to stop this shit A LONG TIME AGO.

Please, men and women alike, if you see someone being street harassed, do something. There is a wonderful organization out there called Hollaback that has these awesome tips for bystanders, as well as tips for when you are being harassed yourself (men or women, as I am very aware both genders are victims).

This is a very real problem that affects every woman you know, whether you think it does or not.

Please, please put this into your conscious and help.


Popular Posts