My plan for the next couple days was to mainly post spooky shit in honor of my favorite holiday and then something truly horrifying came up on my social media. This video where a woman walks for ten hours and is harassed over 100 times. She’s followed by two different men, one of them harassing her the the whole time, one just silently follows. This is my life every day. This is why I wear headphones just to go to the corner store.
One of the worst parts about street harassment is people act like it’s such a little thing; a pebble in your shoe but as this video shows it adds up. It’s not just that it’s annoying when someone tells you to “Smile!” It’s the subtle message that they view you as an object to delight them. It’s also the fear of what happens next. Should you ignore him? Or will that get you stabbed in the neck. Should you call him out? Or will that make him decide to “teach you a lesson”. Is this going to be the time he follows you? The fact that we minimize these very real fears shows just how fucked up our culture is.
Perusing the comments I hear time and again men saying “What so I can’t compliment women now? I can’t just be polite and say good morning?” and the answer is no. First of all the men in this video aren’t just “being polite”, that shit may fly in a small town but every city goer knows if you tried to say good morning to everyone you pass by you’d never stop speaking.
To imply that catcalls are men being polite is to intentionally ignore the subtext. They aren’t saying good morning to be nice they’re saying it because they want a response. The idea that women owe men a response is entitled. It implies that whenever we are in the presence of men we must appease their desires. Understand how slippery a slope that kind of thinking is.
It hurts me to think about this. To think about the number of times I’ve had vile things yelled at me, been followed or straight up had to say “Do not touch me again” is longer than I can count and this is true of every single woman I know.
Here’s the thing about “being polite”, if the person you’re acting on does not like or welcome your actions it stops being polite.