Street Harassment Snapshot, abbreviated Dec. 28, 2010

December 28, 2010

Because of the holidays, I didn’t do my normal Street Harassment Snapshot post on Sunday. This is an abbreviated one to highlight interesting street harassment news stories & blog posts from the past week or so.

Image from The Good Men Project

If there are any I missed, please add them to the comments.

Cat-Calling and Rape Culture Go Hand-in-Hand

November 1, 2010

Cross-posted from Tales of the Pack

The other night I got into a debate with a well-meaning straight guy about why cat-calling sucks.  He seemed to agree that cat-calling isn’t nice, but he also suggested that it wasn’t a problem that had anything to do with men and power.

I disagree.  Catcalling is a way men inflict their will on women.  In this way, it goes hand in hand with rape culture.

Catcalling is a daily occurrence for me.  It doesn’t matter what I’m wearing (most often I leave the house in baggy jeans and a t-shirt), if I’ve got makeup on, if I’m sick or whatever.  I can tell you, every single time, it’s unwanted attention.  Days that I go without getting elevator eyes with smooching sounds, or a ‘hey baby, hey baby’ are really awesome days in my book.

As Ndidi Oriji at the always-splendid Racialicious wrote:

I didn’t need you to turn my morning into one long defense of my humanity. I didn’t need you to add to the “gauntlet” that I already had to walk to get to the train station.

There are men who insist that catcalls are “flattering.”  No doubt there are women who are complicit in this too.  Men often use this as an excuse that because some women enjoy it, that I, a completely different woman with a different set of tastes and standards, should appreciate it too.  This is, of course, a warped and idiotic logic that is based on the understanding that I, in my possession of XX chromosomes, must be a part of the hivemind of womanhood that kowtows to male standards of behavior.   Because. . .

Rape culture demands that women are sexually subservient. We must behave in a pre-programmed way to any and all attention we get on the street from greasy strangers.  Hence the perennial street-harasser’s favorite: “Smile, honey!  You have such a pretty smile.”

There are variations on the catcalls, too.  Sometimes they do try to express genuine interest, as when I was leaving my office at the Gay & Lesbian Center and a particularly filthy man, along with two friends who were sitting on the curb drinking 40s out of paper bags, suggested that “Girl, you are the kind of woman I go for.”  When I retorted that “That’s a problem, cause I don’t go for men at all,” all three men got angry and one snarked something about an ex-girlfriend.  Unfortunately, I had walked too far by that point to hear what, exactly, she and I had in common.  From the outset, it was a relative innocuous statement.  The problem is that when I dared open my mouth in response, he and his buddies got defensive.

Catcalling is a way of removing a woman’s voice.  How many times have you witnessed/experienced/heard about a woman responding to a catcall with a loud “fuck off” which only encouraged the man to follow/harass/chase her?   In my world “fuck off” means “no.”  But in the world of cat-calling, “fuck off” means intimidate, harass, or yell louder.

As Starling wrote in the now-internet-famous essay Schrodinger’s Rapist:

A man who ignores a woman’s NO in a non-sexual setting is more likely to ignore NO in a sexual setting, as well.

If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.

Catcalling is part of rape culture.  It declares that the catcaller has more rights than recipient of said harassment.  It tells her that her voice is irrelevant and that she should just grin and bear it.  It tells her that she should take it as a compliment and if she doesn’t, it’s her that’s broken.  Pardon me, well-meaning straight guy who doesn’t see catcalling as part of rape culture, but doesn’t this sound familiar?

Allison Moon

“Treating me as their property”

August 30, 2010

When I was walking home from work, I saw these men hanging out on the street from afar, and I knew, JUST KNEW that they were going to try to “holla” at me. They made it obvious that they were going to catcall because they stopped their inane conversation to stare at me. Yuck. I was already planning what I was going to do to handle them. Do I cross the street or keep on walking? I opted to keep on walking because crossing the street would’ve been an inconvenience to me.

They had started talking again, but now I was close enough for them to make verbal contact with. They once again stop talking to check me out. Ew. And I knew it, they opened their raggedy mouths:

“Heyyyyyyyyy, gurrrrrrrrrrrrrrl!” they said, as if we were longtime friends. I didn’t know these fools, nor did I want to. And I know they were looking at my ass as I passed them…nasty!

Do I respond or ignore them? At first I chose to ignore them. Instead of their dumb behinds catching the hint, they continued to speak to me, but louder.

“How ya doin’, cutie?” they said. I still ignore them.

Now when the one on the right in the photo said, “Boo, did your man hurt you?”, enough with ignoring them. I had to turn around and say something. “One, I AM NOT HIS “BOO”, and two, the assumption that my ignoring them and trying to go about my day meant I was angry and had “man trouble” pissed me off.

“I do not know you,” I said. “You are strangers to me. Don’t talk to black women you don’t know as if you know them. I am not your ‘boo’!”

“You say ‘Hello, Miss’ or ‘Hello, Ma’am,” I continued.

“We said ‘Hello’,” the guy on the right in the photo said.

“But you called me ‘Boo’, and I don’t like being called that, or ‘Shorty’, or ‘Cutie’, or ‘Slim’…learn to respect women!”

I pulled out my phone and snapped a photo of them. I continued chastising them, emphasizing that they were strangers to me and they needed to leave women they didn’t know alone. The reason I emphasized not knowing them is because of the passers-by. People rarely (if ever) help me when I’m dealing with harassers, but I wanted to make the nonexistent relationship between myself and these men regardless.

“Go ahead, take my picture!” the one on the right in the photo said. “There’s a PO-leeeeeeeeeece station down the street. Take dat picture to the PO-leeeeeeeeeeeeeeece!”

I got the photo, put my phone back in my bag, and don’t remember my closing words to them as I continued walking towards home, but I remember the guy on the right went from wanting me to pay him attention to dismissing me with a curt “BYE! BYEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I’ve had so much experience with harassers that I should’ve known that was coming too. Just a few seconds prior these pitiful excuses for men were trying hard to get my attention, and when I gave them the type of attention they didn’t want they dismissed me. They continued yelling stuff to my back but I was tired of dealing with them and wanted to get home.

It pisses me off that they singled me out on the street and assumed they could talk to me in any way because we’re the same race. I’m sure they said not a thing to the couples that walked ahead of me, or the girls jogging ahead of me, or the woman who was dressed for a fancy night out who was ahead of me, nor did they say anything to the older couple behind me or the two boys who were headed in their direction. Nope, they had to single me out being the only black woman passing by them, treating me as their property.

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for a year, and I tend to see the same faces more or less and have a feel of who lives here. I have seen the guy leaning on the car before bumming for change. I remember him pretty much ignoring people who walked by him, but he banged on the window of a woman in her car who was about to drive off. She locked the doors and drove off—good for her! I noticed he surely didn’t bug a big, burly guy I saw walking past him that day. I have never seen the other guy until today. Regardless of where they’re from, they need to get lives that don’t involve hanging out on the street corner not doing shit with themselves. They need to leave women alone.

(And no, the irony is not lost on me that these guys were standing near a neighborhood watch sign when I took the photo.)

– Tired of Being Harassed

: Wilson Blvd. & N. Troy Street, Arlington, VA

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.

Schedule me to speak about street harassment!

July 7, 2010

My book Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe & Welcoming for Women is out in a mere seven weeks (on Aug. 30). Read about the media attention it’s already generated.

As street harassment is a global problem, I hope I can visit many places this fall and next spring to speak about street harassment and what we can do about it. Do you want me to talk about street harassment to your community group, on your campus, or at your bookstore or library? I can design a workshop or talk tailored for your specific audience – for campus events I can also speak about sexual assault due to my work at AAUW and with RAINN – and my fee is negotiable. While I’m located in the Washington, DC, area, I love to travel and will go anywhere to speak about this issue 🙂

Please contact me (stopstreetharassment AT yahoo Dot com) if you’re interested in scheduling me or if you have recommendations for venues I should pursue.

“Two wrongs don’t make a right”

July 1, 2010

I was crossing the Key Bridge a week or so ago, and a guy was jogging in the opposite direction, shirtless and sweaty. I walked past two women who were behind this guy and I noticed them look this guy up and down and then say, “Cute body, nice ass.”

Are you kidding me?

I gave these women a dirty look and shook my head at them, but they were too into their vapid conversation amongst each other to care.

Ladies, it’s bad enough that men do it to us, but we don’t need to stoop to that level. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

– anonymous

Location: Key Bridge, Arlington, VA

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.

“Yet again. It never f***ing stops.”

April 5, 2010

I was walking in the early evening in the east village of Manhattan, on an upscale, populated street. In my usual defensive street manner, I was walking quickly, I was not smiling, and I was not making eye contact with anyone on the street.

I passed a man who I didn’t look at and then heard from behind me, “Hey, you got a nice ass.” I stopped and turned around, I had  enough that day. This happens everyday, sometimes twice or three times a day. This comment was particularly rude and blatantly disrespectful, and I didn’t want to ignore it anymore.

I yelled at him and told him to shut up and that he was being disrespectful, he yelled at me and called me a bitch, saying “I got a right to like a big fat ass.”

I took the high road on the fat ass comment, and said, “Some women may have been sexually assaulted or raped, and they don’t like being talked to like that.” (I have been sexually assaulted).

He said, “All you gotta do is tell me that.”

Oh, so my preemptive opener for any man should be, “I’ve been assaulted, do not talk to me.”

Yes, I was upset and yelling at him, but I was trying to explain something too, that he could have learned something from. Clearly I had no effect on him whatsoever, since when I turned around and walked away, he said, “You still got a nice ass though.”

He had to have the last word, didn’t he. One more time to assert his power, knowing that I was visibly upset and could not turn around again.

Evey day [I am harassed]. Every single day without fail. I’m so tired of it. I don’t know what I can do. I feel totally helpless and unable to enjoy being outside. I am afraid when I see men coming toward me on the street. I am afraid they are going to touch me or speak to me. When they’re walking toward me I am saying to myself “please don’t look at me, please don’t say anything.” This is no way to live! I am worried about how this is really affecting me. Any advice on how to deal with this or what I can do would be appreciated.

– Amie B.

Location: East Village, NYC

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.

Three London Harassment Recollections

March 30, 2010

#1: Bus stop on Tottenham Court Road near The Astoria, approx 3 a.m.: I was standing waiting for the bus with my friend when a couple of guys came over and shouted at us, “I’ve never seen a white girl before, I want you to sit on my face!” and did gross hand actions related to oral sex. So disgusting and offensive!

#2: Elephant & castle, approx 9 p.m. : I was walking from the bus stop to my house and it was dark and i had to walk through this deserted area as the only way to get home. A man followed me off the bus into this area and was harassing me for my number, which i refused to give so I kept walking. He followed me but i didn’t feel i could go home because then he would see where i lived, so i walked this really roundabout route until i eventually lost him and could run home. When i got home i kept looking out the window to see if he was there 😦

#3: Topshop, Oxford Circus, middle of day: I was shopping on the main floor in Topshop on my own, looking at the jewelry when i felt this man sort of thrust into me from behind. Because it was so busy i thought he must just have been jostled and bumped into me by mistake, so i overlooked the fact he had also put his hands on my hips when he did it. So i walked away to another area and a few minutes later it happened again. So I decided to walk around topshop in the most erratic pattern ever to see if he was really following me and sure enough everywhere i went he was there lurking a few feet away. He must have ‘bumped’ me about 3 times at which point i just left. I didn’t feel I could even tell the security guard because i didn’t think they would believe me so i just left feeling really gross and somewhat confused. At the time i was still quite young & immature and didn’t know how to react – just sort of felt embarrassed and thought perhaps i was mistaken. If it happened now, I would turn around and start screaming in his face.

– anonymous

Location: London, UK

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.