Cate YoungFeminism

Feminism: Guys, I Need You to Get This //OR// Why Street Harassment Is Such A Big Deal

Cate YoungFeminism

Today, in less than a minute, I was harassed on the street by two different men.

I wasn't calling attention to myself, I wasn't dressed provocatively, and it wasn't the middle of the night.

And yet it happened. It happened, and it made me feel unsafe, insecure, and unable to simply walk back to my office without being reduced to a piece of meat by men that I didn't know.

I almost get why people think catcalling is no big deal. After all, the intention is usually just to flatter. It's not threatening, right? You're just trying to tell a complete stranger how sexy you think she is, how much you'd like to "tap dat ass", how good you could put it on her if she let you...

Oh wait...

Street Harassment is HARASSMENT. It infuriates me that so many men don't understand why it's such a serious issue. Being a woman in this world is literally a hazard. It means that you are at increased risk for assault  rape, depression, PTSD, eating disorders and a whole host of other things that I can't think of right now. Simply by being born with a vagina, there is a growing list of dangers that you will very likely encounter in your life, and it makes moving through the world difficult enough without you going out of your way to make it worse.

Picture this: You think you're being cheeky by calling me "baby" from across the street, or whistling at me to get my attention, and flash me your winning smile. You think you're paying me a compliment by crossing the street and following behind me for a block or two just to tell me that you think I'm beautiful and to have a nice day. You think it's amusing to tell me that you could steal my purse if it struck you. You think I should be flattered to be the object of your attention.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking that you're a stranger, and that as a man you're likely bigger and stronger than me, and that you could overpower me if you tried. I'm taking stock of what's in my hands and which of those things I'm willing to leave behind if you turn out to be a predator and I have to drop my shit and run. I'm looking to see if anyone else is around, and if I can run to them for help. I'm thinking about how easily I can ditch my heels if I have to make a run for it. I'm trying to decide if pretending to be taking a call will be enough to make you take the hint that I'm not interested, or if it will provoke you into more aggressive tactics. I'm wondering if the people in the surrounding buildings will come to my aid if I scream for help.

All because you crossed the street.

And I can see how that may seem extreme, but being a woman means being on high alert 24/7. It means that regardless of your intentions, I have to constantly be aware of the fact that my very existence means that you are a potential threat to me. And no, this doesn't mean that all men are rapists or that you should never approach a woman. It just means that if you do approach a woman in the street because you genuinely want to get to know her, you need to be conscious that until you prove otherwise, you are a threat to her safety, and she is actively aware of that fact.

Guys, I NEED you to GET this. I need you to know that this is not okay. Street harassment violates a woman's sense of security, and everyone is entitled to feel safe when they're minding their business, walking down the street. This is all part of a larger conversation about rape culture and male entitlement which I won't touch on here in the interest of brevity, but if you take nothing away from this piece, take this: Don't catcall. Don't harass. Don't make me feel uncomfortable just because you think  you're entitled to view me as a sexual object.

You are not entitled to comment on my body. I am not available for public consumption.