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Apr 12 2013

End Street Harassment

SWEndSH

I learned on the Twitters that today is the end of Anti-Street Harassment Week, a awareness campaign organized by a group called Stop Street Harassment. Stop Street Harassment has a heady goal of ending gender-based street harassment worldwide. Their front page shows a message that says “More than 80% of girls and women worldwide face street harassment: catcalls, groping, sexual comments and public masturbation.”

I number myself among that 80%. Here are a few of my stories. I invite you to share/unload/rage your own experiences in the comments below. And if you feel comfortable and/or want to share your stories on Twitter, you can do so under the #EndSH and #Ithink hashtags.

Street Harassment Haiku

#1

Unsolicited
I feel your eyes on my ass.
You weren’t invited.

#2

He hoots and slobbers;
They say it’s a compliment.
I feel small and used.

Years ago I was on a bus and I caught the gaze of a man who was sitting across the aisle. He saw me look over and gave me that…that look…that “you know you want it” sneer…and he slowly moved his hand under his coat to his crotch. He stroked himself while he stared holes through me. Much later I wished that I had caused a scene, that I had been like one of those YouTube heroines who calls out the asshole, that I had stood up, pointed and loudly exclaimed “Dude, are you masturbating!?” and shamed him off of the bus. Instead I scowled, moved as far toward the front as I could, took the next stop (making sure he didn’t follow me), and waited 15 minutes for the next bus on the route.

But back then I hadn’t heard of other women standing up to street harassment. I didn’t even know what street harassment was.

Next time I won’t be the one leaving the bus early.

14 comments

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  1. 1
    PZ Myers

    Sometimes us guys get a little bit of it, too. My high school years had their moments of misery when I was singled out by both the local girl gang and a few of the gays for mocking hoots and hollers. I guess I was a bit of a twink in appearance.

    But then I got older, heavier, and homelier, and joined the dominant subculture, and now nobody wolf-whistles at me any more. I really, really don’t miss it at all. The message I always got was that I was a target and potential victim, and that it wasn’t so much that I was attractive (I wasn’t), but that I was weak, so anybody could say anything to me with impunity.

    I recommend wrapping yourself up in the default assumption of being a privileged authority, it stops all that shit cold. All you need is the right genes, the right hormones, the right skin color, and enough money to costume yourself as at least middle class. Easy. For some of us, anyway.

  2. 2
    Nicole Introvert (@nicoleintrovert)

    PZ – Being a part of the running community my male running buddies get it constantly. Whereas it does hit women and LGBTQ folks more, I am all about eliminating it totally. It’s really shitty to get as a runner. Pretty sure it happens with cyclists and aggressive drivers too.

  3. 3
    Onamission5

    I was about, what, I think twelve when I started getting whoops and innuendo dripping leers while walking down the street? My own daughter turned twelve just last month and has already had to deal with two instances of grown damn men grossly misplacing their manners at her. My mom gave up running some thirty years ago because of obscene comments from passing vehicles; she’d come back home so shamed and angry that it wasn’t worth trading her peace of mind for health. Let’s stop it. Do.

  4. 4
    other dave

    “Unsolicited
    I feel your eyes on my ass.
    You weren’t invited.”

    As described, this is not street harassment.

    This is you having agoraphobia and paranoid delusions.

  5. 5
    Itchy Ike

    “More than 80% of girls and women worldwide face street harassment: catcalls, groping, sexual comments and public masturbation.”

    This is NOT what the website states. It actually states “Most women (more than 80% worldwide) and LGBQT folks will face gender-based street harassment at some point in their life.” Your misquote implies that this harassment is ongoing and continuous. The website states that folks will encounter it at least once. Your misquote is an intentionally emotional incitement.

    Also, what happened to people being adults? You know, the world is an imperfect place. Asshattery abounds. I encounter it every day in one form or another. I don’t, however, engage in a campaign of thought and behavior control, trying to force the world to conform to my wishes. I suck it up and deal with it.

    “But we shouldn’t have to deal with it,” you’re probably saying. Why not? Why should you get a pass when no one else does? What makes you so special?

    I realize you see this kind of asshole behavior as a threat, but why? Because the feminist mindset is that all men are potential rapists. A jerk who yells “Hey baby, looking good!” out his car window is seen as a potential attacker, not the douchebag he really is. A truly mature, self-actualized person would be able to respond to such behavior WITHOUT feeling threatened.

    An ex-girlfriend of mine told me about the time a guy pulled his car in front of her while she was walking down the street. He threw the door open and started masturbating in front of her. She cried out, “EWW!” and ran away. I was appalled that someone would act that way. We talked about it for a minute and had a good laugh. You know what was absent from the whole conversation? Any mention of her feeling threatened. To her the guy was a pervert to be avoided, but she didn’t start crying “rape culture” or “misogyny.” Because she knew how to handle herself. She wasn’t a perpetual victim, which was one of the biggest reasons we were dating in the first place.

    Let’s end mind control and thought policing. Let’s teach people how to deal with the world instead of trying futilely to change human behavior. Let’s accept the full gamut of human behavior, condemn the asshats, praise the good guys, and learn to tell the difference. Life actually gets easier once you are strong enough to take the bad with the good. Reactively spewing emotional garbage all over everyone and demanding they conform to your personal standards of behavior only makes everything worse.

  6. 6
    left0ver1under

    May I contribute one off the top of my head? To be directed at men:

    You aren’t doing it?
    That doesn’t mean do nothing.
    Silence is consent.

  7. 7
    frankb

    This is you having agoraphobia and paranoid delusions

    This is you in denial and being an ass.

    For several years in the early 70′s I lived in Peoria IL. For some of that time I had long hair more than shoulder length. I went to the barber shop and had it cut off and when walking back home the difference was amazing. I had gotten so used to heads turning and now I was invisible. I could escape the attention by getting a hair cut. There is no practical way for a woman to escape it.

  8. 8
    Blueaussi

    I think I was about 12 or 13 he first time I was harassed. A friend and I were walking down the street in our small neighborhood. A new house was being built, and two of the workers started whistling and shouting. They made vulgar comments about our legs and bottoms, and about my breasts and hair. It was awful, we had no idea what was happening and why they were treating us like that. We weren’t afraid of being raped or angry at the patriarchy; we were little girls who were embarrassed, humiliated, and completely bewildered .

    I told my parents, and my father had words with the contractor. The hooting and whistling stopped, but some of the men would come out and stare if my friend or I tried to walk to each others’ houses. We started taking a round about way through the woods, better to deal with scratches from blackberry vines then those men.

    Ya know, even after all these years, I still don’t understand why those men found it fun to sexualize two young girls who were so clearly distressed by their attention.

  9. 9
    hoary puccoon

    Well, actually, there is a way to end street harassment. Just get old. I know I’ve had a lot fewer problems with it since I got on Medicare.

    That was a joke, by the way. But really, I can’t imagine who the 20% of women who never get harassed could be. Nuns in cloistered orders? I’ve gotten whistles and comments repeatedly. Offers to pay for my services– repeatedly. Men exposing themselves to me– repeatedly. And I have hemiplegic cerebral palsy and walk with a limp, so don’t imagine I’m some Miss Universe clone.

    Some of the incidents were harmless and funny, when the guys just paid some normal compliment. (“Looking good” or the like.) But a man once came within about three feet of me and started unzipping his fly, and another one followed me for blocks harassing me while I tried to get away or make him stop. Then, when he saw a cop on the next street corner, he screamed “what’s the matter with you? You’re crazy!” and stomped off, leaving everyone on the street thinking I’d been fighting in public. That was first frightening, when I couldn’t get away from him, and then humiliating. Not fun times.

  10. 10
    fantysq (a Radical Feminist and a Militant Atheist)

    But really, I can’t imagine who the 20% of women who never get harassed could be.

    Street harassment doesn’t really happen in my part of the world, so I suppose the women who live around here are a part of that 20%.

    I’ve spent years thinking about how I’d like to move to the west, but after reading all the stories of street harassment, I’m thinking that maybe this corrupt, undemocratic and bigoted country that I live in isn’t too bad, at least there next to no chance anyone will ever harass me on the the street!

  11. 11
    Anthony K

    Let’s teach people how to deal with the world instead of trying futilely to change human behavior.

    Teaching is trying to change human behaviour.

  12. 12
    something

    Itchy Ike’s platform: “why bother? let’s do nothing.” Fuck it, I’m not voting for him.

    “Professional victims” and “misogyny? ha” and “stop trying to change human nature” and “stop telling assholes how to behave” and…The slyme is overflowing.

  13. 13
    kevinkirkpatrick

    Other Dave gives me a great opportunity to practice my civility.

    Other Dave,

    What you quoted from Brianne’s article was a Haiku. If you scroll up, you’ll even see that right above what you quoted, in teensie tiny letters only slightly bolder than all the other words in her post, Brianne even labeled it a “Haiku”.

    It’s possible that you may not have missed it, per se, but perhaps you didn’t know what “Haiku” meant and wrote it off as some foreign Asian term not worth looking up. In that case, allow me to educate: a Haiku is a kind of poem traditionally having 3 lines with 5, 7, and 5 syllables, respectively. And a poem is “a composition designed to convey experiences, ideas, or emotions in a vivid and imaginative way”.

    So basically, you just responded to a 17-syllable poem as if it was a fully contextualized description of an event (wherein any details not given might rightfully be assumed to be absent). WHOOPS! Don’t worry, to err is human; last week I mistakenly tried to put a dollar bill into a vending machine with a “Not in Service” sign up (D’oh!).

    That said, it is a shame that that poem was the only thing you had to go on! If only Brianne had posted something more than a 17-syllable poem; something a little more worthy of the psycho-analytic genius you clearly possess. It’s really too bad that in the very next paragraph (the one immediately following the two Haikus) she didn’t provide something like a concrete description of circumstances she deems as “harassment”. Why, if she’d done that, then you would have had an opportunity to make your astute diagnosis of “agoraphobia” and “delusional paranoia” based on her laughable condemnation of such innocent behavior as this:

    Years ago I was on a bus and I caught the gaze of a man who was sitting across the aisle. He saw me look over and gave me that…that look…that “you know you want it” sneer…and he slowly moved his hand under his coat to his crotch. He stroked himself while he stared holes through me.

    I mean, what kind of fucked up personal standards must Brianne have to complain about something as simple as boys-will-be-boys interactions like that? Is “paranoid delusion” perhaps not going far enough?

    Hey, this civility thing is great! I can just feel that deep rift drifting away.

    moving on through the slime…

    Itchy Ike wrote

    I don’t, however, engage in a campaign of thought and behavior control, trying to force the world to conform to my wishes. I suck it up and deal with it.

    Unless it’s bloggers writing about stuff you don’t think is important. People creepily masturbating at other people in confined spaces; I mean, that’s just life. But when bloggers like Brianne refuse to conform to writing about the things that Ike finds important, well, you can’t just suck THAT up and deal with it. Hell, who WOULDNT go on a 400+ word campaign to shame such an immature, non-self-actualized loser? Who wouldn’t do so, even if it yields nothing more than the smug hope that writers like Brianne will feel just a little less like writing about those annoying so-called “obstacles” that women face in our society.

    And let’s not lose perspective. Let’s not forget what Brianne was actually doing here: speaking up about harassment, writing a description of harassment she was subjected to, and encouraging others to do the same? In her own blog? Well, you nailed it. That kind of crap is exactly the same as

    Reactively spewing emotional garbage all over everyone and demanding they conform to your personal standards of behavior”.

    It’s exactly the same, just – there’s just no difference between what she did and your summary thereof. And if it weren’t for brave anonymous commenters such as you, I’m loathe to think of all the innocent lurkers who might not have made the connection. I don’t use the word hero often, but you, Itchy Ike, are the greatest hero in all history.

  14. 14
    JustaTech

    One of my friends has repeatedly said that the best thing about living on Capitol Hill in Seattle (a hip gay neighborhood) is that she can go for a run without a single catcall, even if she isn’t wearing very much. And it is nice to feel safe and uncommented upon.

    Once on a run I had a 12-13 year old boy stare at me, somewhere between lewd and agressive. I wasn’t afraid of him (I was in motion and outweighed him), but I really wanted to say “You are half my age, why are you even looking?”

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