Of course I have been the victim of street harrassment. I’m a girl. And I go outside. And those are the only things needed to make you eligible to being bothered on the street. It’s not how you dress or how you act. And no, we women don’t wear placards when we walk around that say “Please whistle when I pass by so I will feel attractive.” Being called “honey” or “nice tits” by a random stranger is not a compliment, it’s a violation of our space.
I often talk to men about the problem of street harrassment. The men in my life are intelligent, they are kind. And still they don’t get it. As a man you don’t feel the same fear as we do when you’re in a public space. We girls don’t walk home with our keys stuck between our fingers because we want to feel like Wolverine, it’s because we’re scared for our fucking lives. When we’re waiting for a train late at night and a man approaches us on the platform all our muscles tense up. Not because he can’t be there, but because of what’s possible. Because when that man decides to attack or assault us, there's not much we can do. So that’s why we ignore or even sometimes answer with a polite smile when a random man on the street grossly comments on how we look while we actually should speak up. We don't want to anger the possibilities.
When I tell these kind and intelligent men that I know how widespread the problem of street harrassment is - that every woman they have ever talked to has once been catcalled, that even 13-year-old girls know how it feels to be seen as a sexual object walking around in their home town - they instantly switch on their defensive mode. As if lightning struck. “But I would never do that.” Yeah, I know, that wasn’t what I was saying. “None of my friends do that.” Yes I’m sure all your buddies are very nice
What they’re telling me is actually this: “It’s not our kind of men that are harrassing you. It’s not us. It’s just a few bad ones that are bothering tons of girls.” Like if men were a factory made kind of product, once in a while a defected one rolls of the assembly line. And it are those, the ones with the error in it, that call you “hé sexy” and try to grab your ass when you’re walking to the supermarket. And they do it verociously, so it seems like a lot of men are bothering us women. But really, it’s just these defected men that have no jobs and are bothering girls 24/7 like it’s a sport.
To all the men in my life, I want you to know this: street harrassment is a crime commited by our society, not by the few bad apples in the bunch. We live in a rape culture where women are seen as sexual objects and where our worth is measured by whether or not we’re attractrive to men. Where a man who has a lot of partners is a stud and a woman who does the same is a slut. Where a woman complaining that she’s been commented on her body by somebody she didn’t ask to,is told to just take it as a compliment. Where hardly nobody intervenes when they see a girl getting grabbed against her will. Where we tell girls to dress properly and don’t walk home late at night when alone, but we never tell boys not to goddamn bother anyone. Where men exerting their power over women on the street is brushed off with “boys will be boys”. A society that sees harrassment as something innocent, while it’s not. It’s a crime.