Wednesday, 30 November 2011

In conclusion: street harrasment is not ok.

Since blogging yesterday about my experience of what I was slightly embarrassed to label as street harassment, it's fair to say the reaction from women and men alike has been one of "oh, yes! This bothers / happens to me too".

It takes someone else to speak out about it and say "it's not ok" for the many other stories - some an awful lot worse than my own - to come to light. 

Clearly, this kind of street intimidation is happening to girls every day in a whole host of different ways - and no one thinks they have the right to complain about it. As I said yesterday, that's "just how it is".

Take this morning's journey to work. Within seconds of walking past two men digging up the road, there was a cat-call in my direction.

With it being daylight, I decided to confront the men. I stopped, turned around and went up to the orange barriers where they were working.

"Tell me - how would you feel if it was your daughter being whistled at like that on the street?"
"What would you think if it was your daughter getting treated like that as she walked along the road?"

One of the men thought for a minute before replying: "I'd feel privileged if it was my daughter" 
"Yeah right. Of course you would." and with that, I walked off. I'll leave you to decide on the honesty of his response.

Minutes later, fuming from the last encounter, I waited at a pedestrian crossing. A van with two men in it leered out of the window and beeped their horn. 

I'd never normally even think of mentioning these little things, because it would be seen as bragging - right? I can see your thinking. I should be flattered. They mean no harm - what's a whistle? A beep? 

Except this is precisely the sort of thing that makes a lot of women feel uncomfortable. This is why tomorrow I might wear jeans, and my hair up instead of down. It's why I'll leave the house feeling slightly anxious, hoping the workmen are finished, or alter my journey so I don't have to walk past them.

These are the precautions put in place when it's daylight and we're going to work. Imagine this anxiety, but multiplied by the anonymity of dark.

So that's at one end of the scale. And the other?

From Ellen on Spurious Anecdotes and Other Tall Stories and her brilliant yet scary post, "I'm being followed home"

“Please leave me alone,” I say.
“Tell me where you’re getting off,” he replies, “or I won’t let you go.” His breath is hot on the back of my neck.
We pull into the station and as soon as the doors open, I fling myself through them, sprint up the stairs and through the barriers, knocking into people as I go. 
 From Rockalily 

"He walked back towards me at the bus stop, and came close. I really thought he was about to snatch my phone, and my heart was racing. He whispered loudly 'I like your pussy'. But walked away. I was actually more relieved that i had my phone, but I was shaking"

From @Gl0ria

"a man once grabbed my arm as I walked past. When I told him to let go he got very angry with me. No it's not ok."

There's also this site where people have been busy sharing their stories of gropings, flashings and a helluva lot more. A jamboree of harassment, if you will.

It's my personal opinion that we should share this stuff more often, because only when every level of unacceptable behaviour is laid out, will someone realise that it's not ok. 

And no doubt I'm preaching to the converted here, but in case there is any doubt: it's really, really not ok.

edit: Yesterday I found this blog by Vicky Simister too:
"At this point he got angry and followed me down the street, pushing me and shouting at me that I was a slut – “Look at you and your short skirt, you look like a prostitute. I could get someone like you for £20 a night you whore” – I kept shouting at him to fuck off and yelling “This man is sexually harassing me”, to which no one did anything – despite the fact that there were hundreds of people on the street. Finally, a girl stepped in and he left me alone."

The stories keep coming...


LyleD4D said...

The link for the "Spurious Anecdotes" post is broken.

It's this :

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Fixed! Thanks :)

fwengebola said...

Oh jesus christ. This has depressed the hell out of me. I forget there's a percentage of men out there who are absolute fucking idiots - like one of our drivers at work, who'll literally slow down to gawp at women walking past, or hoot at them.
He's in his 40s. I've told him he's being a moron, but it falls on deaf ears.
And my Mum, on her first day in London when she moved here in the 60s, was grabbed by a workman or delivery guy of some description, who then tried to drag her into a house.
She screamed her fucking lungs out.
Ugh. Bloody hell.

Anonymous said...

This is such an important post. I had a flasher-stalker at age 14 and was petrified to tell anyone about it, even my mum. It was just awful and went on for a few weeks,and there was no other alternative route to school.

I rue to this day not telling anyone in case that person went onto do worse crimes.

Now I have 2 very young daughters, I will be talking to them about safety and how to speak up if anything were to happen.

Even anything like being beeped at or a crude comment should not be swept under the carpet as 'harmless'.

Anonymous said...

As you said in your last post, people view these encounters as mere minor annoyances, but for all the women who get home feeling violated mentally, there is one who is sexually assaulted, or worse (excuse my ball park statistics, I have no idea of the exact figures to be honest).

A girl was raped on my university campus last week, and no doubt that incident began with the same following and verbal abuse that you are describing. Men (some men) need to realise that it's not right, even if you have no intention of hurting or raping a woman, to behave in an intimidating way. Of course here I am not talking about a mere wolf-whistling, but tailgating and making crude comments.

I hate that these nasty men have the threat of rape as a weapon, that they can use to make us feel uncomfortable. I think they get a kick out of it, it's sick.

Paper-Rock-Scissors said...

YES!!! I totally agree, I actually blogged about this too early this year. It makes me seethe with anger and regret any sartorial choices I have made as soon as I walk to the tube. Confronting is a great thing to do but sometimes I am too intimidated. Sometimes I get so filled with rage that I swear, snarl and shout back then walk away feeling that I left my dignity there on the street. This is my post which has some groups det up to help stop it.

Daniel Levesque said...

As a male, albeit a queer male- which may be the difference here- I wish I could apologize on behalf of all men. But they're stupid. Most Heterosexual Men are STUPID. There, I said quout a sign I saw at OccupyOakland General Strike: "DISARM COPS! ARM FEMINISTS!"

Daniel Levesque said...

sorry, I was seething and typing fast...

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Fwenge - It's such a stereotype that white van drivers and builders toot and whistle and leer, but unfortunately they are the worst offenders! Thank god for considerate contractors if you ask me...

Anon - But it's hard to tell what you need to report and what you don't. Like you say, no "beep" is harmless and it makes girls insecure, or avoid the area, or change their route to work, but you often feel silly for making a deal out of what a lot of people think is "nothing" (especially in the law's eyes).

rencake - How awful about the girl at your uni. It's such a grey area, but there are so many girls who feel harassed on a daily basis and don't speak out.

Rock Paper - Re: the fashion choices you make when leaving the house, a main reason that I'll think twice before wearing a skirt / bare legs - even in the summer - is down to not wanting to draw attention to myself. I often shout back or confront them, but sometimes you feel like an idiot afterwards.

Daniel - The comments on my last post were reassuring in that so many blokes admitted to feeling nervous abuot walking behind girls at night, meaning them no harm, but scared of being perceived as potential rapists or whatever. There is a percentage of men who ruin a safe society for the rest of us...


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