If I had a nickel…
Street harassment is an everyday reality for damn near all women. It doesn’t let up when you get older. You just get more creative and confident in defending yourself against it. You know this already. You have your own clever tools to disarm folks so that things don’t escalate, or manage aggression from those men who feel slighted. Men who feel Men have trained men to do this. This is essentialized as a definition of manhood in our culture. In communities of color, it feels more pronounced. Some BS machismo: you’re a man defined by the numbers of honeys you holler at, you’re wanted, valued, desired.
And let’s be honest, men know it’s annoying. They know. We’ve told them so. When we’re exasperated by the umpteenth time some clever dude says, “Smile. It ain’t so bad.” The presumption that, when we’re keeping company with our own thoughts, you dude walking bad should suggest (often bark/command) me to “smile” and somehow I feel better. There is a lesson passed generationally that this is how one should approach a woman. The coaching perhaps includes the idea that you’ll get told no, you’ll get no response, but there’s always that one. Again, a numbers game, the thrill of the chase. In communities of color (and beyond), there are countless tales of street harassment–from a whistle, a holler, to a follow, to worse.
And delightfully, there are boys who become men who are unlearning this culture of casual misogyny. Postbourgie’s Joel Anderson offers us a reflection on his early introduction to effects of repeated street harassment on young women:
Either we could be complicit in a culture that permitted the mistreatment and harassment of women, or we could hold ourselves, our friends and our family members accountable for the misogyny. We had a responsibility to unlearn.
As boys, we had to learn that all women and girls deserved better than our crude war-room banter, whether it came at camp or from our favorite musicians. We would need to, from that point forward, respect more than “mines.” And as men, we have to pass these lessons on to our boys.
The work of undoing a culture of street harassment, and the work of eliminating rape culture more broadly, requires more male voices like Anderson and Young to engage other men and hold them accountable for their actions. We’re vigilant as we always are with our bodies and our space. We need men in our communities to stand up.
[Read the rest: feministing]
- Stop street harassment with your cell phone? The latest City 2.0 award winner shows how (ted.com)
- Why women are #Shoutingback… (hollypeacock.com)
- Shouting back: how women are fighting street harassment (guardian.co.uk)
- Plain-clothed police officers, warning signboards, cancellation of permits, helplines: SC directs States to take serious steps to curb Street Sexual Harassment. (indianhomemaker.wordpress.com)
- Vigilantes In Egypt Are Capturing And Spray Painting Sexual Harassers In The Streets (thegloss.com)
- Ode to Street Harassers (feministactivism.com)
- Shouting back: how women are fighting street harassment | Life and style | The Guardian (womensphilanthropy.typepad.com)
- Street Harassment (confessionsofacurvygirl.wordpress.com)