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