The other day, my friends (let’s call one “C” and the other “M”) and I sat down and discussed street harassment. I thought I’d share their stories and my own.
She was wearing a low-cut dress that day. She got on a bus, which was filled with a good amount of people, but one man, perhaps middle-aged, stood out. He started staring at her, her chest, and didn’t stop the entire ride. Several stops before her last, she made a movement toward the bell, pressed it, and the man prepared himself to leave the bus at the same stop. He ended up getting off first, standing outside, watching her and waiting for her to do the same, but she never did.
She was on the Staten Island ferry. Two men approached her–one sat across from her and the other sat next to her. One man attempted conversation with M, saying “Do you know the guy [his friend] sitting in front of you?” M had her headsets in so she pretended she couldn’t hear and didn’t answer. It was obvious she did not want to be bothered, but the man persisted. He forcefully ripped the headsets out of her ears and asked, “Do you go to my school?” M promptly got up and moved to another seat. Later, she ended up being on the same train car as them. If they followed her or it was coincidence, she wasn’t sure, but she moved to another car immediately. She told me she’d never felt more scared in her life.
We had to wear uniforms in high school, so you can imagine what fantasies it’d conjure. The most street harassment I ever got was when I was wearing that uniform. My friend and I were standing at a bus stop alone, clad in our school uniforms when two men pulled up in a car and started shouting at us. When we wouldn’t engage with them, they threw condoms at us, spewed profanities, and drove away.
In a recent CNN interview, “Calling out Cat-Callers,” Emily May, c0-founder of Hollaback!, says how street harassment “infringes our [women’s] ability to walk down the street” and that there is no question that “society needs to shift.” Sharing stories and “speaking out about the times no one looked out for them [women who were street harassed], there is a hope that people will begin to notice” and streets will eventually be safer places for women. We are no longer in the Victorian Age, when women were supposed to be the “Ornaments of Society,” that is, ideal objects of splendor that were to be used as decorations, whose sole purpose was to be pleasant to look at, by patriarchal society. Apparently not much has changed since then. We deserve to walk the sidewalks just as much as anyone else without being reduced to pieces of meat.
Listen to the CNN story here:
Street harassment limits women’s peace of mind and freedom, making it a gender equality and human rights issue. No country has achieved gender equality and no country ever will until street harassment ends. (source)