Existing while being a woman: Street harassment

my-name-is-not-hey-babyYou thought I was done my feminist-leaning rants on the struggles of the modern, average, Canadian, young woman (gee, that’s a lot of qualifiers), didn’t you? Alas, I tricked you.

My blog post today was inspired rather abruptly by a truly new experience in street harassment I fell prey to yesterday. I was speaking to the ever lovely Zineb on the phone and I saw a moving shape in my peripherals. This moving shape was none other than an inappropriately gyrating young man pretending to “hump” me from the rear. Truly delightful. I turned around and paused for a second, incredulous that he continued his pelvic thrusting after it had come to my attention. I quickly regained my senses and asked him “do you want to get kicked in the dick?” He began to snicker until I began the first motion of my kick after which he looked shocked and horrified and ran away with his friends. Sadly I did not get the chance to momentarily incapacitate him, my warning gave him a split-second advantage.

First let me remark on the fact that this young man looked generally shocked and alarmed when I nearly kicked him. Here he was making lewd sexual gestures in my direction, uncomfortably close to me, but the thought that I would retaliate was too much for his puny brain to handle. What’s up with that?

I believe his reaction is indicative of a far larger issue. The same all-encompassing issue that leads men to think it’s okay to grab women in public, to yell explicit lines from speeding cars or whisper sexual advances in an unsuspecting woman’s ear.

These actions are indicative of an undeserved but real sense of entitlement that men have towards women’s bodies. That in some screwed up way they have the “right” to make suggestive remarks or comments or physical gestures. To further elaborate, I have been cat-called in the presence of my mother but not my father. I have been cat-called when I am with female platonic friends but not male platonic friends. I have been cat-called while with my little brothers but not with my older (than me) nephew. So what can we infer from this? That men don’t cat-call in the presence of another man because they’re scared? What about the large groups of guys that pass me when I am with one single guy? What about the guys in cars when I’m walking? They have no reason to fear. No I think it’s something different. It’s the idea that when I am with an older male, I am accounted for. My presence in public is sanctioned by this male’s presence. I am “owned” already. Compare this to some cultures from the past (and today) where a woman couldn’t go out in public without a male relative or her husband. It all ties back to ownership. When I am in public alone, there is no sign of an “owner” therefore I am fair game. The rights to my integrity, my body, my identity are up in the air.

Know what all this sense of ownership and entitlement stuff sounds like? Rape culture.

So yes I am emphatically stating that cat-calling is DIRECTLY related to the culture of rape we live in.

******Closing remarks:

Men, bear in mind that sexual harassment is ILLEGAL.

And when I refer to women I’d like to specify that I mean cis, trans, non-identifying, queer, etc. etc. etc. Anybody who is outwardly identifying as female or looks like their outwardly identifying as female and therefore get harassed.

Excellent related articles/websites I’ve stumbled across:

How to talk to a lady without being a CREEP (I feel like a lot of guys should read this one)

25 acceptable responses to street harassment (hysterically funny)

This woman takes pictures of her street harassers 

Hollaback – fighting to end street harassment

Stop street harassment

Another rant about street harassment 

 

Advertisements

Existing while being a woman: Attempting (and failing) to reconcile my love for Rap music and feminism

If you have read my blog or have know me in real life you are probably aware that I consider myself a feminist.

Something i’ve always struggled with is reconciling my taste in music with my feminist awareness. If you read my previous post on my favourite songs of the last couple years, a lot of them are of the “rap” music variety. Classified further into the “trap music” and “gangster rap” varieties.

If you are not familiar with rap music (if this is the case, how are we acquainted?) then I will let you know that most rap songs aren’t usually prime examples of feminist music. They actually are better classified as some of the most misogynistic music out there. Calling women b*tches and other derogatory terminology, referring to them purely as objects of sexual desire, even the occasional blasé reference to sexual assault. Yep, Rap music is part of the culture of rape that I constantly refer to. And yes by listening to rap music and spending my money on their albums I am in fact complicit in the proliferation of rape culture through music.

403686

I constantly try to spin it in a way that eases my conscious like: “Jayceon respects women in real life and his love songs are his TRUE feelings.” or “You need to be like that to be popular in the rap industry.” But really it’s undeniable that there are no excuses for listening to and implicitly supporting this kind of music that is so clearly anti-feminist.
So I’m working on supporting more female recording artists, but there is still the whole problem of listening to misogynistic rap music. To be honest, I don’t know what I am going to do about it. Currently I can’t imagine not listening to Chief Keef and the Game. (Sidenote:  I also like rappers such as Black Milk, Slum Village, Lords of the Underground, I think I have well-rounded rap taste.) Right now I will be content on crusading against misogyny in every other area of my life while being slightly hypocritical in this area. Hopefully in the future, this hypocrisy won’t be necessary because rappers will have moved on from being misogynistic a-holes in their music.

Further more, I usually don’t pay much attention to female artists. My best friend Zineb and I were discussing how most of our favourite musical artists are male. So we both have started listening to more female artists. I have discovered my love for female rapper Angel Haze and R&B singer Elle Varner. But I am still on the search for more female artists I can fall in love with. I want to support female recording artists as much as I support their male counterparts.

Until then, the struggle continues.

Existing while being a woman: Sexual Assault

Hello people who are reading this! Continuing on my series about my experience as a young woman, I will be talking about sexual assault.

In the mall behind those colour-coded mall-maps, in buses on their overhead posters, in Facebook chain-shares, I am always made aware about the scary reality about sexual assault. The latest one I’ve noticed features balloons like the sort you give at baby showers or to people in hospitals. These balloons say something along the lines of “Congratulations it’s a girl” and “She has a 50% chance of being physically or sexually assaulted in her life time.” The ad in question is from the Canadian Women’s Foundation. Another psa-type Facebook-share pronounced that one quarter of women in the U.S. will be victims of attempted or completed rape during their lifetimes.I personally know many victims of sexual assault. I read websites like xojane where women tell their stories of survival. It’s glaring reality in my life.

As a woman, I live in a world where I have to be careful not the get sexually assaulted. I get nervous when I walk around after dark. I am incredibly distrustful at parties and I am super vigilant about the location of any drink I may be consuming at a social event (club or otherwise.) I even get anxious feelings when on my way to hang out with guy friends I know and trust. Because did know that sexual assaults are most often perpetrated by someone you know? According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) 73% of sexual assaults are committed by non-strangers, 38% of rapists are friends or acquaintances and 21% are intimates. HOW ALARMED ARE YOU RIGHT NOW? I’M ALARMED.

Even more alarming in my opinion is the whole “blame the victim” mentality that exists. Look to the recent victims of gang rape in India or the high-school-aged girls in the states repeatedly slut-shamed for being victims of sexual assault. The recent article posted by Emily Yoffe tellin college girls not to drink in order to avoid sexual assault (which received VERY mixed reviews.) Look, I understand that as a young woman I should probably be extra-cautious. I personally make the choice to watch my drink at parties, to avoid walking home late at night as much as humanly possible, to check-in with girlfriends when we go out. HOWEVER, if I do all these things or I don’t do all these things – sexual assault is not MY fault. Even if a girl gets black out drunk at a party, it is NOT her fault she got raped. She was not asking for it, she did not “get what was coming to her.” PERIOD. Honestly, it’s sad people are still unclear about this.

So not only do I have to contend with the paralyzing fear of being sexually assaulted whenever I leave my house BUT I have to worry that there is a chance I’ll be blamed, slut-shamed, and disbelieved if it ever happened.

Here are some posts from my favourite website (xojane) on sexual assault, for some perspective.

For the last time, only rapists are responsible for rape.

Why a young girl cannot consent to sex with an adult man.

A woman talking about her own rape (trigger warning: I cried while reading this.)

How to treat a rape survivor

AND AN AWESOME ARTICLE EXPLAINING WHAT RAPE CULTURE IS, IN CASE YOU HAD ANY DOUBTS (If you read any article, read this one.)