So, my earlier post brought out an unexpected response from a close friend. Basically, that I should feel lucky that strange men are yelling at me on the street based on my appearance. That it’s a compliment. And then there was mild chastisement for large sunglass wearing, texting “zombie” behavior. Apparently, I should thank my lucky stars for having won the genetic lottery and smile big and purdy whenever some random dude on the street feels like he just can’t contain himself and has to make a comment to me about my body.
Here’s the thing, and let there be no ambiguity in this, it is NOT OK for strange men to comment on a woman’s body or appearance while she’s going about her life. It is NOT A COMPLIMENT. It is HARASSMENT. Plan and simple. “Hey Baby!” is not a way to make a connection to another human being. It’s INSULTING.
Great Gallant This mostly verbal harassment involves excessive compliments and personal comments that focus on appearance and gender, and are out of place or embarrassing to the recipient. Such comments are sometimes accompanied by leering looks. The “wolf whistles” of a street harasser are one example of this.
Even the “you’re so pretty,” “you’ve got pretty eyes,” and “I like your hair” variety is still offensive. Why? Because IT IS objectifying. They don’t like me. They’re not interested in me. They’re interested in my body, my eyes, and my hair, which are parts of the whole, but not the whole of the person. Also, these are usually just ins to continue with some other line or to get more foul. Heaven forbid you ENGAGE, because then they could start FOLLOWING you.
On a personal level, I am NOT OBLIGATED to look you in the eye nor smile at you if you are a strange (unknown to me) man. It’ll be a cold day in HELL when I start smiling at random strange men. Why? Because I have a strong Self-Preservation Instinct. I’ve been told since I was a very young girl NOT TO TALK TO STRANGERS.
You may feel like I’m over-reacting, but I’d say that that’s because you haven’t experienced much of this. It is a real problem. And these interactions can be very dangerous. For instance, this last May, 18 year old Mildred Beaubrun was shot and later died in Orlando after refusing to give a stranger her phone number.
The first time it ever happened to me, I hadn’t even begun puberty. I was eleven years old, and a grown man yelled something at me as I walked down the street. Two men on a public bus also looked me up and down, and one turned to another and said, “you can tell when they wear shorts like that that they want it.” You can’t tell me that that was a compliment. It was gross intimidation, clear and simple, not to mention pedophilia, except that I just did. And as a child, it was scary, because how was I to know how far that man would take it.
And the thing is, it’s exactly the same today as it was then. The men are still using the same words, sounds, and looks. So, why shouldn’t I still feel like it’s wrong? Why is it supposed to be different just because I’m an adult?
So, yeah, I do the iPod thing. Anywhere I’m walking, unless it’s after dark, I have my headphones in, so that I don’t hear this crap. I stare at my phone when I walk down the street, hoping that if I’m occupied, they’ll leave me alone. And I wear my sunglasses on BART, even when it’s dark, because I don’t want anyone thinking I’m making eye contact and taking that as encouragement.
And apparently I’m not alone – Elizabeth’s Story
And I got a whole lot of linkage:
So, sorry Uncle Samurai, but you really got my blood boiling. I still consider you a good friend, but I hope you’ll think a little more carefully about my perspective.