You’d better not be following me!

I was shopping in Wal-Mart the other day, minding my own business. I noticed a man staring at me and watching me as I shopped. A self-defense manual I read states clearly that women in particular are wise to be aware of and know who is watching them. So, I looked back at him, without comment, made a mental note of this person and went about my business shopping. This encounter was at the front of the store, near the entrance.

I made my way to the back of the store. A short time later, I see the same man turn the corner and walk down the aisle I was in. He approached me and said, “How are you doing, baby?” I looked him in the eye and said, “Are you following me? You’d better not be following me.” He got really rattled at that and said, “Oh no, no…” and walked away quickly. As he left I said, “Maybe I need to call security!”

I never saw that guy’s face again.

Most of you who shop at Wal-Mart know they are pretty huge. It’s not like a tiny little family market where you are likely to keep running into the same person. I don’t know if he had been watching me to see what aisle I turned down, but his appearance once again was deliberate to me. All I know is I felt trouble when I saw him again, especially after experiencing those initial uncomfortable stares.

Like so many other women who post here, I am tired of being forced to deal with these intrusive, immature, entitled males who think they have the right to follow a total stranger, who is a woman because they feel like it. Too often, we are forced to confront second-rate masculine energy, a far cry from a truly empowered male energy that considers carefully his actions toward women and how he may come across. Daily, we are dealing with men who only think about themselves and their base desires, not whether they are making their female “target” feel unsafe. I have a lot of anger at how men have contributed to my feelings of a lack of safety in public. I’m always watching my back-I carry mace and whistle at all times.

One last thing: I’m tired of being expected to follow some sort of conservative dress code as a way of avoiding unwanted attention from men. It plain does not work. And it’s making me and other women responsible for how men behave. I have experienced catcalling by men in public wearing full winter gear: gloves, hat, coat, boots-no skin showing whatsoever except for my face. So don’t tell me to watch what signals I’m sending. If women’s dress could change men’s behavior, no woman wearing a burqa would ever be raped or assaulted-but we all know that they are, no matter what they do. Its time men started asking themselves what signals they are sending. I’ve had it with being held responsible for the undisciplined behavior of men. I will not take responsibility for their reactions to me.

The vast majority of men can walk around without a shirt on without fear of female violence acted out towards them. But if I have the audacity to wear a low-cut shirt or a tube-top, I’m the bad girl who deserves to be raped and harassed? This is crap. Men are responsible for their nasty, threatening, hateful behavior towards women, not me and my outfit that I have every right to wear.

I have one question for harassing men: What is it about women’s breasts and bodies that make you incapable of acting like a decent human being?

– LS

Location: Denver, CO

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

6 Responses to You’d better not be following me!

  1. Jen says:

    LS, thank you for such an intelligent and eloquent post. Like you, it makes me so angry that every day I’m worried about unwanted attention, to the extent that I now consider how I’m dressing in the morning in light of whether I’ll get harassed (simultaneously knowing that it matters not a bit what I’m wearing anyway). I have started to distrust men generally because of this idiotic minority and that’s really sad to me.

    I notice there seem to be more frequent posts on this blog lately – maybe a sign that more and more women are seeking to voice their opposition? I just hope people finally sit up and take notice and realise this is not, and never will be, ‘harmless’ fun. I am sick of being threatened on a daily basis.

  2. Golden Silence says:

    I notice there seem to be more frequent posts on this blog lately – maybe a sign that more and more women are seeking to voice their opposition?

    Not only that, but summer is approaching and it seems like these fools come out of hiding to start their season of harassment around this time. Warm weather tends to bring these trolls out and the harassment levels are higher than ever.

  3. LS says:

    Thank you Jen and Golden Silence. I truly value your comments. It is important to me to contribute to this discussion on street harassment. I am your ally and I support your work with my whole heart. I will be buying your book and continue to participate on this blog.

    We as women are often ridiculed for speaking up about our negative public experiences with men who are strangers to us. We are often expected to do all the work: change how we dress, don’t walk here, don’t go there, take self-defense classes…on and on impinging on our freedom. I take responsibility for my well-being and do the best I can to keep myself safe in a world hostile towards women. It’s time men took responsibility as well for how they treat women. It’s about treating others with dignity and respect. Truly evolved men know this.

    We as women cannot allow ourselves to be shamed into silence. It is empowering to speak up to these men (of course depending on the situation and if the woman feels safe enough to do so). But even if we don’t speak up to the men harassing us for whatever reason, we can speak up here. And anyone who doesn’t like it or doesn’t want to hear it-too bad. This website is a healing place for us. We need it. We need to know we aren’t alone in experiencing harassment. And we need to know it’s not our fault. Thank you so much.

  4. @LS thank you for your eloquence, for speaking out against street harassment, and for your kind words about this blog. They mean the world to me!

  5. Golden Silence says:

    And LS, thank YOU for your well-spoken take on this. I look forward in seeing more of your commentary on things in the future!

  6. Daphné says:

    “The vast majority of men can walk around without a shirt on without fear of female violence acted out towards them. But if I have the audacity to wear a low-cut shirt or a tube-top, I’m the bad girl who deserves to be raped and harassed? This is crap. Men are responsible for their nasty, threatening, hateful behavior towards women, not me and my outfit that I have every right to wear.”

    Thank you for writing this! It’s hard enough to explain this to my male friends (who don’t even realise how privliged they are to be male and don’t have to go trough this crap!), but also some of my female friends don’t seem to understand this.
    I just want to get treated equaly and with respect. Why is that so hard to understand? Doesn’t everyone wants that?

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