Hey dudes. I have a request. If you’re going to objectify/admire ladies in public, can you please do so silently?
We’re not on display and not all of us enjoy such blatant attention. So you don’t get to whistle, or TSSSSST, or ask to see various body parts, or say whatever other crude things occur to you without consequence. You don’t get to treat us as if we’re walking on YOUR street for YOU. We are merely going about our daily lives. You know, that thing you get to do without worrying about being harrassed (generally).
Street harassment is a complex thing. At 12, I was well-developed and tall and with my new short haircut I looked quite a bit older than I was. (This isn’t to say I deserved unwanted attention. It’s a partial explanation for why grown men would be hollering at a child.) As a result of always being the chubby/ugly one and generally loserish, I had extremely low self esteem. One of my only sources of comfort was the attention of male strangers, which back then was something I never received from anyone in my school who wasn’t playing a practical joke on me. (This would later manifest in much worse ways, but that’s a different story.)
But when I was outside the world was frequently more accepting. I blushed at every whistle, walked taller and prouder with every gross comment. I was a WOMAN! I felt warm and sexy and appreciated and approved of. Part of me always felt a little sick, but it was worth the momentary bliss of pleasing someone.
You can see what’s wrong with that, right? I thought that if only I could be considered pretty, all of my problems—the depression, the mood swings, the lack of real friends—would disappear. I was tired of being smart; it was getting me nowhere. It’s difficult to convey the degree to which I wanted beauty without connecting it to vanity, but it wasn’t about that. Being pretty seemed like the ticket: the one and only way to succeed.
The super-insecure adolescent in me still likes the attention and confirmation of being all right looking, but uppity/current me feels exposed and angry because all she wants to do is eat a damn ice cream cone in peace. I’ve read The Beauty Myth. I know everything I need to know about the dangers of objectivity. But part of that girl is still inside me, quietly seeking approval for all the wrong reasons.
Street harassment is not a compliment. Street harassment is a blatant display of ownership. Street harassment says: “You are in public, so I can say whatever I want to you.” Street harassment is something that simply doesn’t happen to men (and when it does, it’s an exception). It happens to women all the time and it happens because we reward the attractiveness of women over all over qualities and teach boys that they have the right to treat us as if we’re parading around for their approval. It’s gross. Please stop. I hate thinking that every girl has to grow up trying to conform to unrealistic standards and spending her nights crying because she can’t, as if that’d be her life’s greatest accomplishment.
So if you must say something, try a nice greeting or genuine attempt at brief conversation. Even a compliment like “I really like your haircut” is a nice way to let someone know you find her attractive and see her as an actual human being. “Show us your tits,” “hey baby how much,” and “nice ass” are not appropriate. And when we tell you it’s wrong, we’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t tell us we should be flattered, or to shut up, or get fucking laid already, or call us crazy bitches. It isn’t that we’re uptight. It’s that we want respect.