Sunday, June 22, 2014

it's not a compliment.

as is usual on sunday nights, i'm sitting at my grandma's house eating popcorn and i wonder what i can blog about.

i was going to blog this morning before work, but that didn't happen. i crafted my man friend a special birthday present instead.


while i was driving back from my grandma's house, i got stopped at a stoplight about a block away from my house.

while i was sitting at the light, i heard an amplified voice say, "I KNOW YOU HEAR ME. THERE'S A HUMMER BEHIND YOU!"

sure enough, there was a hummer behind me. it was full of teenage boys that had a megaphone. they started yelling obscenities.

when i turned into my neighbourhood and they passed me, they yelled FUCK YOU out of their window and roared away.

this is not my first time around the block with catcalling and street harassment, and now i'm here to blog about it.

i know it's been done, especially in light of the misogynist killings from the UCSB shooter. but i'm going to do it too because it's important and it needs to be talked about until it stops.

i live in the midwest. i live in a relatively big city in the midwest, but it's still the midwest. corn. farmers. no real big cities except chicago. i don't necessarily have problems walking down the street and having guys hooting and hollering at me. that kind of thing doesn't really happen where i live.

but i have been whistled at on my college campus by men much older than me. when i was on crutches and going to my sorority house, a bunch of men, and i mean by the fact that they were at least in their forties, slowed down, rolled down their windows, and yelled at me for a good thirty seconds.

excuse you, that was very rude and it made me feel unsafe.

my biggest foray into street harassment was last summer when i was driving to my grandmother's house on a sunday night just like this one. it's family tradition that we have "snackies" at grandma's at six. she makes popcorn from her popcorn popper. we eat cheese slices, apple slices, and crackers. usually there's some sort of dessert. we sit outside on their patio and eat and chat for about three hours as the sun goes down.

it's a lovely tradition.

there's been a lot of construction around my grandparents house, and on this particular day, i had to turn right instead of going straight because the road was closed. i pulled up the red light and i sat, waiting to turn right on red. i had the window of my then fifteen year old minivan down and was listening to of monsters and men.

i pulled up next a jeep. two men were inside of it. these men were at least in their thirties.

they began to catcall at me, making hooting noises. they started yelling HEYYYY SEXY at me.

i couldn't turn right on red because there was too much traffic. i was stuck. i had nowhere to go.

i chose to ignore them. i didn't want to give them the satisfaction of rolling up the window. i knew that if i flipped them off or yelled at them for being sexist pigs, they'd just laugh at my "lady feelings".

so i stared intently at oncoming traffic, trying to figure out when i could turn and get away from them.

they jeered at me for a good minute and a half. when they saw that i wasn't responding positively to their jeering, they began to get angry.

the "hey sexy" turned into a "hey bitch" and "hey slut".

i finally got to turn right on red and i drove away as fast as i could, my stomach in knots. i wanted to cry. i was humiliated beyond belief and i was scared. i was scared because they had gotten angry and i didn't know what they could've done to me if i had sat there longer.

i felt disgusting and dirty the whole rest of the evening. when i told my mom about it and i started crying, she told me that that was something that i would have to get used to.

no. that is NOT something that i have to get used to. and i will not put up with it.

i posted about it on tumblr, talking about how humiliated i was.

i received two angry anonymous messages calling me a white privileged bitch, someone reblogged it and called me a number of derogatory slurs that i will not repeat, and twenty-two people unfollowed me.

all because i posted about being humiliated by street harassment.

this is still an issue. and the way we talk about it is still an issue.

street harassment is not a compliment. what street harassment is is harassment. it is men following women down streets and yelling at them. objectifying them. following them home. getting into cabs with them when they're not wanted. making them feel unsafe.

it is men encroaching on women and making them feel that they are not human. it is men encroaching on women and making them feel as if they are not their own. it is men encroaching on women and making them feel unsafe and as though they cannot be outside alone.

here's a question: how would you feel like someone much bigger and much stronger than you followed you down the street, yelling "HEY BABY!" at you and following you and getting closer and closer to you as you walked home? what if this person continually asked for you number? pretended to jerk off to you? (a man at target did that to me in the parking lot by the mall once.) what if this person circled around you when you tried to dodge into a building?

and when you rejected this person's advances, what if they hurt you?

there's been a lot of talk lately that when men attack women, it's an individual problem, but it's not.

if you google "men rejected by women" you will find hundreds of instances where men have stabbed, raped, run over, and shot women that have rejected their advances, whether it's asking women to marry them, to go to prom with them, or simply for their phone number while they're walking home from work.

this is not an individual problem. this is a societal problem.

you can think that street harassment is just men yelling nasty things at women, but it's not. it's a part of rape culture and our patriarchal society, which has much deeper implications than we realise. our institutionalised rape culture and patriarchal culture prevents women from being safe and prevents them from getting proper healthcare.

it prevents women from having their own bodily autonomy.

it prevents women from being people.

men might think that yelling at women is a compliment, but it's not. it's frightening. it's humiliating. it reminds us that we're not seen as human, we're seen as a piece of ass that someone wants to score.

when men catcall at us, they are not seeing us as people, and that is a major problem.

a real major problem.

the hardest part when i was harassed, besides all of the hate i received from posting about my experience on tumblr, was the fact that my mother told me this was something that i would need to get used to. i love my mother dearly. she is my rock and the light of my life. but it made me so upset that she had just decided to let this slide, to let this be commonplace. it was sad that she had decided that it was commonplace and there was nothing that could be done about it.

it is commonplace. but it should not be. we need to make sure that it is not commonplace.

women are not outside for your entertainment. we do not dress for you. we do not do anything for you.

women are human beings and deserve to be treated with respect. because we're people, goddamnit. 

women don't do anything for you. we exist for ourselves. we do everything. for. ourselves.

i'm probably going to get some form of backlash for this, just as i did on tumblr.

"there are real feminist issues other places. stop being a privileged bitch."

feminism is not a competition. the problems we face are our problems. and as i said, catcalling and street harassment are a part of a larger institutionalised problem that denies women proper healthcare and bodily autonomy.

yes, there are many, many important issues all around the world. but that does not mean that this issue is insignificant.

i'm hoping that soon, i won't hear any more stories of men killing women that reject their unwanted advances. i won't got hooted and hollered at when i walk down the street or when i sit at a stop light. i won't hear stories about girls being kicked out of proms because their dresses were too short and it made older men uncomfortable when they were the ones sexualising teenage girls.

i want a world where i feel safe when i go outside.

i want a world without street harassment.

it's not a compliment.

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