Sometimes I feel like I can’t escape from street harassment! Not the actual act of harassment, which, thankfully I am experiencing less than I ever have since my pre-puberty years, but rather, I can’t seem to escape thinking, hearing, and reading about it. But overall, that’s a good thing because it means more people are writing and speaking out about it (as twitter, facebook, hollaback sites, and google feeds show me daily).
I often can’t even escape street harassment during day-to-day conversations because I’m now so associated with street harassment that when people see me, many share their stories! It’s almost comical when people start off by saying, “Holly, I experienced street harassment yesterday and it made me think of you”!
Often at my talks, we eventually get kicked out of rooms because so many people are talking, sharing stories, and thinking aloud about street harassment. After all, it’s not very often we have the time and place to talk about it. And that is great! When I speak at conferences or conventions, the conversations often carry on longer than that.
For example, earlier this week, I had a killer travel schedule as I gave talks about street harassment in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania in the space of five days. For major stress relief and to try to briefly sight see, I went running outside each day, except one day when I opted to use a hotel’s gym to ride a bicycle. I had given a talk about street harassment to around 100 women the afternoon before and this was my one day in five that I was not giving a talk. Someone who had been to my talk was also at the gym at 6:30 a.m. on a Sunday and confessed to being a chatty morning person and immediately jumped into telling me her street harassment stories and musings on the topic. Repeat, at 6:30 a.m. when I wanted some stress relief! But of course I talked to her. I can’t turn down an opportunity that comes up.
But, sometimes I need a break and actively pursue one.
Upon my (brief) return home this past Wednesday, I was happy to see that a copy of Tina Fey‘s new book Bossypants had arrived. I’d been saving onto an Amazon gift card since January and I was glad I had waited to use it for this purchase. I love Fey and 30 Rock is one of the few shows I watch each week with my partner. He and I decided to read it together and prepared for some good chuckles (and yes, there are plenty!).
When we first started it, he sped read ahead a bit and then loudly announced, “Look at the next page — street harassment!”
Sigh. Of course, street harassment.
In her chapter titled Growing Up and Liking It, there’s the subheading When Did You First Know You Were a Woman? Fey describes how when she was writing the movie Mean Girls, she attended a workshop taught by Rosalind Wiseman as part of her research (Wisemand wrote Queen Bees and Wannabees, the book Mean Girls was based on).
I’m going to let Fey describe what happened next (see pages 14-15 of her book):
“[Rosalind] did this particular exercise in a hotel ballroom in Washington, DC, with about two hundred grown women, asking them to write down the moment they first “knew they were a woman.” Meaning, “When did you first feel like a grown woman and not a girl?” We wrote down our answers and shared them, first in pairs, and then in larger groups. The groups of women was racially and economically diverse, but the answers had a very similar theme. Almost everyone first realized they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them. ‘I was walking home from ballet and a guy in a car yelled, ‘Lick me!’ ‘I was babysitting my younger cousins when a guy drove by and yelled, ‘Nice ass.’ There were pretty much zero examples like ‘I first knew I was a woman when my mother and father took me out to dinner to celebrate my success on the debate team.’ It was mostly men yelling shit from cars. Are they a patrol sent out to let girls know they’ve crossed into puberty? If so, it’s working.
I experienced car creepery at thirteen….I was walking home alone from school and I was wearing a dress. A dude drove by and yelled, ‘Nice tits.’ Embarassed and enraged, I screamed after him, ‘Suck my dick.’ Sure, it didn’t make any sense, but at least I didn’t hold in my anger.”
And so here I am, all fired up again over street harassment instead of being able to just laugh and find stress relief from reading Fey’s funny book.
As usual, I’m outraged. Why are we okay with a culture where grown men yelling sexually explicit things to teenage girls and overall treating them with disrespect is how we learn we are women?! I’m not okay with that and I know you are not either. So we’ve got to keep taking action and keep speaking out. It’s our right and it makes us powerful.