Lady in the Street: New Series on Street Harassment at Feministing

Ah, summer. Ice cream cones, innovative woman-focused multimedia content, and good ol’ warm-blooded American men naturally responding to sluttily raised hemlines with unwanted sexual overtures. 

You know what they say: As the mercury rises, so does my patience totally fucking evaporate because I am done — do you hear me, internet? DONE — with constant gendered aggression in public spaces.

You guessed it! I’m talking about street harassment.

Maybe it’s just me (it’s not), or maybe all the street harassers have returned from their Super Fun Annual Street Harassers’ Convention on How to Be a Street Harasser itching to put to use 2015’s Hot New Tips For Forcing Women and Queers from Public Spaces(!)(™) — but boy have I been getting it this summer.

Like, guys, yes, you and I both have a deep and profound appreciation for my ass in those black shorts with the corset lace up on the back. This is why I purchased them for $10.99 from my local consignment store. You were not part of that decision and your feedback, though ostensibly favorable, is not currently requested.

And yes, I agree, it is a bummer for you that you cannot immediately, or likely ever, engage me in sexual intercourse, because you are correct, my pussy is indeed magical, and missing out on that experience is a grief you will bear for the rest of your life. But it is also a grief you need to deal with in the silence of your own heart. It is not a grief I can assist you with. The patriarchy does not pay me enough for that.

Okay, so I have some feelings about street harassment. Actually, I have a lot of feelings about street harassment, and they’re not all anger, and they’re not all sass. Some of them are confusion and some of them are sadness and some of them are profound ambivalence and some of them are — well, yeah, anger and sass.

I want to inquire into this constant dance of eyes and legs and comments, this thing that makes me feel outside of my body, this thing that I shrink away from and secretly long for, this thing I hate when I get and sort of miss when I don’t get — this thing that makes me shrink into myself or lash out. This strange continuum from seemingly innocuous inquiries as to whether I would be interested in a date on Friday (no) to full on subway masturbation (I saw you that time on the J train and I did NOT APPRECIATE IT), following (DITTO FOR YOU BALDING MAN DON’T TELL ME YOU REALLY HAD TO GO TO BUSHWICK THE EXACT SAME WAY I DID STARING AT ME THE WHOLE TIME AND NEVER WALKING FASTER THAN ME EVEN WHEN I PRETENDED TO DROP SOMETHING), and groping (NO THE BUS WAS NOT THAT CROWDED, YES THAT WAS YOUR DICK).

Here are my questions:

What even is street harassment anyway?

Why is it such an act of aggression?

How do we understand the nature of consent in public spaces?

Why and how exactly does street harassment hurt us — all of us?

How is street harassment culturally, racially, socioeconomically, sexually mediated? How do we experience it differently based on who we are? How is it contextual and affected by other issues pertaining to identity and public space — like police violence and gentrification?

What if we kind of like it sometimes when dudes say we’re pretty in public but also don’t like it and feel confused and maybe we’re bad feminists and Roxane Gay help me.

And what in fuck’s name do we say back?

Because feminism happens through consciousness-raising and because this is my column and I can cry if I want to, we are going to address these feelings here together in the coming weeks!

Send me an email or leave a comment with street harassment questions, comments, feelings (no, don’t actually harass me — I see you, internet, back away from the keyboard) and let’s see if we can be opinionated street-harassment explorers/adventurers/ass-kickers together.

In the meantime, maybe you’ll join me, my angsty heart, and my, as they say, “great rack,” as we check out currently available resources at places like Stop Street Harassment and Hollaback! and some previous cool stuff at Feministing.

Reads parts two and three at Feministing up now. 

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