I don’t condone violence, but in certain instances, a woman has to defend herself.
I never got involved when the street harassment debate took over the Internet late last year. Because it’s rare that I feel threatened by a man who says “good morning” or “you’re beautiful” as I walk down New York City streets. It’s normal (albeit annoying at times – I want to get where I’m going without someone expecting me to speak to them) and par for the course, I thought. I do get a little pissed when guys say “you need to smile.” Why the hell would I walk around with a grin plastered on my face?
Let’s not get this twisted. White men never approach me, or even say hello for that matter – and I’m cool with that. This isn’t to say White men don’t catcall – I’m sure they do, but I have zero expectations for them to pursue or speak to me. I’m talking about black men, whom I’ve dated exclusively. I have two black sons, and a black man. My father was black. There. My love for brothers runs deep – predating my existence on this planet. It’s in my DNA.
What I don’t love are assholes. I got off work last Friday and took my normal walking route to the subway in Times Square. As I approached the station, I saw a drunken looking, plug-faced man haggling a natural haired brown-skinned woman. I peeped her outfit – she was wearing shorts and open toe sandals. Within her right – on a scorching hot summer day, and on any other day because no matter what the hell you’re wearing, harassment is out of order. “Hey baby, can I talk to you?” he begged, following her a few steps until she turned the corner.
I thought to myself – now that’s harassment. Next thing you know, I’m headed down the stairs to the subway station and this f*cking loser is hot on my heels. He’s mumbling for me to wait for him. He wants to talk to me, do I have a minute, etc. “Hold up a minute.”
Again, I don’t condone violence, but the anger and disgust I felt were off the charts. If he had touched me, it would have basically been a rap. Like a throw-down-my-bags-and-use-my-kickboxing-moves type of rap.
This type of behavior – on the part of men – is what motivates women to carry weapons. I thought about it!
To follow me all down the street, into the subway, amd all the way up to the turnstile? Talking to me when I was clearly unresponsive except to say “leave me alone. I’m catching the train?” What if I couldn’t find my metrocard? He only backed down once I swiped my card and stepped onto the platform.
I get that the onus is largely on men when it comes to initiating relationships with women. It’s their “job” to pursue – traditionally. However that’s no excuse to throw caution to the wind and violate someone’s space as they walk away from you.
Women: I’m with you on the street harassment issue. I was never against it – but I did feel that on some level, the movement was exaggerated. I never even bothered to watch the YouTube video of the young actress Shoshana Roberts walking New York City streets for ten hours, with a hidden camera to record men who spoke to her and/ or harassed her. (By the way, she’s suing the director of the video now. Some women dont even want to be looked at. And then there’s another set of women who feel that compliments from men on the street are a huge confidence booster.
I haven’t needed strange man to validate me by acknowledging my beauty since I was much younger. But up til now, I felt that as long as it was done from a distance in a respectful manner, it was okay. Now I prefer that random men just didn’t speak to me on the street at all. And that they didn’t speak to my daughter either. She’s been followed on occasion by men in cars as she walked the streets of our suburban neighborhood. That’s scary considering considering human trafficking and the sheer volume of craziness that exists in our world.
Men: any unwanted behavior beyond a glance or simple hello is harassment. If you follow a woman who is refusing to engage with you, you’re harassing her. Yell profanities? Harrasment. If you make derogatory comments about her body, you’re harassing her. No matter what she’s wearing. Rude, threatening words or gestures are unacceptable. Of course physical assault is just that. The ones who go that far because they can’t take rejection, or even the pervs who ride crowded trains just to rub their penis on women – deserve jail time, in no uncertain terms.
What’s your opinion on street harassment? Do you think it’s generally an issue? Have you been affected? Do you think men take more liberty than they should when it comes to addressing women they don’t know? Particularly on the street? If you’re a man, do you make it a practice of approaching women on the street?