Street harassment is the unwelcomed words and actions of strangers that can be everything from sexually explicit comments and groping to public masturbation and assault.
The other night there was this interesting dialogue about street harassment and pedophilia that young women have to deal with. It’s a normal occurrence to walk down the street and have a car drive by screaming out “hey baby” and honk. As if I would run over and reply sweetly “yes daddy?” but I don’t want to be the “baby” of any man who couldn’t approach me in a respectful manner. I don’t respond to catcalls and obscenity as a way to get my attention.
I remember going to south beach one year for memorial weekend in Miami and hating to walk down the sidewalks. It’s known that if you’re going to walk the strip you are going to get harassed and it doesn’t even matter what you have on or how you look. The men were brutal. My friends and I paused as we came up on a group of men standing on both sides of the sidewalk. Other than walking in the middle of the street, we had to walk through them to reach our destination. Walking through the crowd of men someone touched me and my instant reflex kicked in. I swung my hand back to defend myself. I looked back to realize I hit the wrong person and as the group of men started getting loud and closer my friends and I literally and quickly ran down the street. That was just too much unnecessary excitement for me. And for the rest of our time on the strip we had to deal with men grabbing us and shouting out names to get our attention. “Hey, lil yummy.” “Come here brown skin.” I saw women get approached and after turning the man down he curses her out and calls her all types of vulgar names. I even saw some women get things thrown at them for not wanting to give a man their number. It was a prime example of the male ego and feeling the need to put a woman in her place. Needless to say that was our last time on south beach for memorial weekend.
Too many friends and relatives shared the same kinds of stories. And sadly enough it all seemed so normal. The street harassment happens often and comes from young and old men. Whether it was the teenage boy who said I wasn’t shit because I said no to him or the man old enough to be my father that told me that he wanted to marry me and whispered dirty things in my ear, this mentality tells us that boys will be boys and have no self-control. More often its women who say we just need to accept it as a part of life. Men and women alike need to challenge the sexism and patriarchy that allows for men to act this way and for women to accept it.
There needs to be the mentoring of men and of boys who will eventually become men. They need to know the respectful and right way to compliment and talk to women. Men also need to relate and become allies in stopping street harassment. Men, show some respect when you see this being done to women, please tell your friends to stop it.
There is a simple rule: do unto others as you would want them to do to you. So simply: if you don’t want it said to your mother or daughters don’t say it to someone else’s daughter. Street harassment that women go thru by men can be compared to the harassment men go thru by the police. Seriously think about it. No one wants to walk down the street in fear of being hassled and violated.
Please remember 15-year-old Sakia Gunn. She was killed after being stabbed her in the chest in Newark, NJ after stating she was a lesbian and turning down the advances of two men.
Women have a right to walk through their communities and feel safe without being objectified. Street harassment is a real issue. Hollaback- http://www.ihollaback.org/ – encourages the movement dedicated to ending street harassment.
Have you ever been hesitant or afraid to walk down the street because there were a group of men you would have to pass? Have you ever experienced street harassment?
Have you ever told someone to stop the harassment of another person? Why or why not?