Street harassment is probably something that most women have dealt with. For some it starts as young as 9, and others experienced their first cat-call a bit later, but it feels the same every time.
When it happens to me, I feel utterly uncomfortable and all of my insecurities come rushing to the forefront. Is my skirt too short? I should have worn less form fitting clothing. Maybe if I walk faster or cross the street that group of men in the distance won’t notice me.
I live in a very liberal, very safe small city in Western MA, yet my friends and I have all experienced some form of street harassment. I have had my picture taken without permission by some dude. My friend has had cars stop and honk at her while she was trying to get to work. People on the street will ask me to smile. These are all forms of street harassment.
The worst that I can remember was last April when I started running. I have never run outside for exercise before and am not a natural runner to put it nicely, but I wanted to start getting healthy. I would go on runs around my neighborhood, and wear leggings and baggy sweatshirts. This one time a car full of men slowed down and hollered at me as they drove by. It was awful. I was already doing an activity I was uncomfortable with, and was now threatened and made to feel like less of a person. It is always scary being approached by a group of strange men, let alone a group who are in a vehicle that can be used to easily transport you elsewhere. I was so taken aback that I called my parents to let them know what happened. When I explained the situation over the phone, they told me I was being too sensitive. (See gaslighting)
Despite these few incidents, it doesn’t happen too much here, but when I was living and interning in NYC, there was one block that I tried to avoid entirely. The first week of my internship I was harassed going to, and coming home from the gallery where I worked for the summer. Men on the street would tell me to smile, or say that they liked the dress I was wearing. I would walk 2 blocks out of the way in order to avoid that one street.
These statements are not compliments. These people are clearly looking at me, and judging me. I don’t understand why they think it’s acceptable to speak to women in that manner.
It happens to people globally. Street harassment is not isolated to just America, or highly populated urban areas. This is a woman’s issue that needs to be heard, because it is in actuality a man’s problem. Men have to understand that this type of behavior is not ok.
I shouldn’t feel the need to wear this t-shirt:
I am not outside for you to comment on. Let me get to where I am going in peace, plz & thx.
If you feel strongly about this issue, check out #shoutingback. It’s a part of the Everyday Sexism project, which is helping to give a voice to those who have experienced street harassment.