I was probably 16, I remember because I was living in Long Island at the time.
Whenever I would go out, the Mexicans in their vans full of grass clippings would honk and holler at me. I remember not really understanding why. I told a friend about it – she said it happened to her too and I was shocked because she didn’t seem the type guys would cat-call over. Though, of course, neither was I.
For years, I ignored it because I had no idea what was going on or why. I assumed mindless things – like the fact that I’m black or walking down the street – induced the honking.
Though it continued to happen and perplex me, I had no words to really describe what I was experiencing. Until I was perusing on twitter and discovered it: street harassment. Where women are sexually harassed on a near daily basis but as I started hearing about other women’s stories, I realized that it was much worse than just honking.
Women on twitter talked endlessly about their dangerous situations. Many women commented on being followed by men, cornered (even in public spaces), or being touched. Some of these men – if not most of them – continued to make lewd comments at the women as they walked down the street. It’s difficult for me to really paint a picture of what these women experienced because I have never had those types of encounters. Perhaps it’s pure luck that no one ever threatened me with violence for rejecting them. Threatened to kill, rape or maim me because I said no.
Unfortunately, I can’t really expand much on the discussion – I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable about street harassment as other women, nor have I experienced it outside of leering and rude comments made to me as men walked by. It’s a product of patriarchy, where even in public spaces women have no rights. Where we’re objectified and told that we need to do specific things to curtail this behavior, that it’s our responsibility to control men. It’s part of sexism that says that men are wild beasts who lack impulse control, and it’s other women who reinforce this mentality.
If you’re a woman, have you ever experienced street (sexual) harassment? If you’re a guy, have you ever told someone to leave that woman alone? Why or why not?
Stopping street harassment requires the participation of both men and women. Find out what you can do.