Today’s Taboo Tuesday Topic, is something I’m super passionate about. I would most certainly consider myself a feminist. I think that women are more often than not, treated unequally. I believe that it is our job as women to fight back, but also to work with men in order to eliminate the inequality, to end rape culture (because it sure does exist) and to put a stop to sexism across the board. Its not any easy feat, but it takes some really strong, vocal women, some really dedicated and motivated men to really get the change happening. It wont happen over night, it wont happen in a few years…it will take a really long time, but we have to start with the next generation…make them know that its not ok to be treated that way, or to treat others that way, regardless of their sex.
Street harassment is something that happens EVERY SINGLE DAY. And so many have experienced it. Me personally, it happens almost every single day. No matter what I’m wearing, whether I’m alone, with friends, walking my dogs, getting coffee, changing out quarters, covered in paint, lugging bags of groceries down the street or riding the bus to work. It doesn’t matter what I’m doing, where I am, what I’m wearing or whether or not I have a bitch face going on (which most times I do, just to avoid being harassed…but that evokes harassment in itself), I get harassed. And I’m not saying that I’m so hot that it happens every day. I’m not the only one. It happens to tons of women, every day.
According to the Hollaback Organization a non-profit and movement that is fighting back against street harassment against women, 70-99% of women GLOBALLY, have experienced street harassment. 70-99%! Worldwide! They’ve conducted research in the USA, the UK, Poland, Canada, Croatia, and Istanbul. Those numbers are way too high.
Sexual harassment can have a negative affect on a woman’s physical and mental health. It can lead to depression, anxiety, weight loss/gain, headaches and lack of sleep. And you may say, the cat calls on the street don’t bother me that way, or I don’t get affected by it like that….but it doesn’t mean other women don’t. We as women, need to help our friends, our sisters, our mothers, aunts, cousins, that stranger on the street, because who knows how she feels when she gets home after being called a bitch on the street, or told that someone wants to do explicit things to her. Both men and women need to support those girls, those women who are taking those comments home with them, letting them affect their daily life.
Share your stories through Hollaback, or with the hashtag #thatswhathesaid @huffpostwomen, to get the word out there that street harassment isn’t ok.
When you respond to street harassment you have to do whats comfortable for you. Sometimes you feel confident to respond (sometimes I do, most times I ignore) other times you have to put your safety first. Do what you’re comfortable with. Carry pepper spray, keys in your hand and invest in some self defense classes. Share your story, help others. If you see someone else getting harassed, ask if they’re ok!
Here are a few of my experiences:
I was in Vegas with my friends for a convention, I was wearing a black long sleeve dress, with a bright blue blazer, tights and my hair in a bun. I could have easily come from a seminar. Meeting my girlfriends at one of the casino bars, I was walking around trying to find them. Not once, but TWICE men came up to me and asked me if I was working. I looked at one slightly confused until it clicked what he meant. I quickly spat out, No I’m not fucking working. A second came up and whispered in my ear and asked how much. I told him to fuck off.
I felt confident enough with my safety being in a crowded space to say something back. But it doesn’t always happen that way.
Two weekends ago, I was working on some craft projects in my apartment. I had to move outside to the alley way (pretty wide open next to an auto repair shop with an open parking lot) to do some spray painting. Typically there’s no one around, the occasional car will pass or people walking in the street in front of my building, which I can see through the parking lot. I had my items all spread out and was painting away (in workout gear and pretty covered up). As I was cleaning up, a man came walking through the alleyway with a rolling suitcase. (this happens on occasion as I live above a thrift shop so people are often sorting through the dumpsters behind the shop). I had moved my items to the stairs so they could be propped up to dry a little before I took them in. The man, sat on the stairs, basically blocking my way to the door and started to talk to me. In any other situation I would have ignored him, or in a more public setting, would have said thanks but I’m busy. But today, I was out alone, it was in the early evening and he was blocking the door. I felt I had no choice but to talk to him, or risk my safety. I made idle chit chat for a few moments while my items dried a little, he questioned me as to why I kept looking at my phone, tried to impress me with very clearly made up stories and smelled of stale booze, but after a few minutes I told him I was going inside. I carried a few things in and as I walked up the stairs he softly grabbed my leg. Although I regret not saying something, if he had enough courage to grab my leg, who knows what else he would have done. I stayed in my apartment for a good 10 minutes before I went down to retrieve the rest of my things…knowing that if he was still there I would have to call the police.
Even though I consider myself a pretty strong person, this scared me. I didn’t want to come back out of my apartment for the fear that he was still there waiting for me. Its not the first time I’ve been accosted either. I’ve been grabbed by a homeless man while with my then boyfriend. That time I did have to call the police.
When you are fearful of your safety, thats when you have to make the difficult choices. Knowing that he had a way of blocking me from going into my home, had the balls to grab my leg…he had positioned himself in a place of power. He had some of the control. I was in a corner, with no way out but past him. It was either talk to him, or spray him in the face with my frosted glass spray paint…but I didn’t want to take the chance.
If you go to the Hollaback Site, they give you some ways to respond to street harassment. Take it seriously…because if we dont, it wont stop.
And if you ask me, I don’t want anyone to think that its ok to touch me without my permission.