I’m the kind of person who does a lot of thinking, writing, talking things over, reading, and thinking and writing some more, before I know my stance on important issues. With this in mind, I plan to revisit a couple of my past posts.
1. Street harassment.
This video on street harassment really clicked with me, but when I read the comments on YouTube, I realized it’s not as simple as I first thought. Not everyone looks at this video and sees the same thing. I understand, and I certainly don’t think the video makers are trying to say street harassment is the only problem women/people of color/other unprivileged groups face, or the biggest, or that straight white women have that hardest time ever (I definitely don’t believe any of that), but street harassment is still a problem. Just because there are other problems out there, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address this one.
Some of the comments by men in this video seem innocuous, but I think the video does a good job of showing how exhausting it can be to be on the receiving end of an endless stream of comments, day after day– especially when some of the men in the video have a much more threatening presence. It’s the scary comments/actions that make all comments/actions suspect/worrying. Not to mention, all those little “compliments” are uncalled-for, and many of the men got upset when the woman ignored them, as if they felt she owed them a response. Maybe passing someone in the street isn’t the place for getting to know someone?
This video says everything I’ve been thinking about street harassment this week. Last weekend, I took public transit on my own to a part of the city I’m less familiar with (but a very central part of the city, the theatre district) to visit a friend. Most of the day was a positive experience– but street harassment rattled me. It made me feel unsafe doing normal things like walking down the street with a friend.
The woman in this video didn’t just receive micro-aggressions and other comments; she was followed, for no other reason than that she was a woman. I’ve been followed too, and it’s not just aggravating, it’s deeply unsettling.
I hate that I feel I have to say this, but we were dressed in jeans and tee shirts, and preoccupied in our own conversation– not inviting outside comment. But there is one thing: Both of us were walking down the street while female. One older man followed us for two and a half blocks, talking, yelling, and singing at us, until we ducked into a bookstore to shake him when ignoring him didn’t work. Another man came up behind us when we left the bookstore and started talking to us about how “pretty” we were, and trying to talk to us until we sped up and walked far enough away from him.
I was very shaken by this. After that, taking public transit back to my neighborhood alone and in the approaching darkness was alarming rather than routine. I was hyper-alert about my surroundings and my safety. The whole thing made me not want to venture outside my usual places– and that’s just sad.
I won’t let a couple of instances of street harassment get to me. I’m going to keep seeking adventure in small and large ways. I’m going to try out new places and face discomfort head on. And I’m going to continue looking out for my own safety, recognizing that I only have control over my actions, and not others’. By that I mean, I will of course don my Assertive Woman Face as I walk down the street, and stay in well-lit areas, and do all those things that have been ingrained into me for my own safety– but I can’t control when/how others choose to harass me on the street, and I refuse to let fear of that harassment stop me from walking down the sidewalk to get from a restaurant to a bookstore in the afternoon.