Not that any of the four people that read my blog are men, but just in case.
A couple of weeks ago on a Saturday, I was walking home from (of all places) the hair salon. There's a stretch of road that's a little busy before I get to my apartment, and I usually avoid it with a shortcut, but construction has recently blocked that shortcut. I'm forced to use the busy stretch of road.
As I was walking this stretch of road home, not once, but TWICE, I was whistled and hollered at. I was wearing baggy jeans, a sweatshirt and sneakers. My hair was wet, because I don't like having my hair blowdried, and in a scrunchy. No makeup. No jewelry. Minding my own business.
I was quite unnerved by being harassed by drivers as I was minding my own business on a gorgeous day, walking home and enjoying the sun. I told one of my male friends about it. I asked him if he had/would ever do anything like that, and he said no. But then he said something that really pissed me off. He said, "Hey, at least you're getting some attention. I don't get whistled at, and I'd be really flattered if some girl whistled or hollered at me from her car." So I asked him why he'd never whistled at a woman walking down the street, and he answered that it isn't a great way to get a date, and that he's not a jackass.
Ah, but he IS a jackass in another sense. (I do love him dearly, but he's far from a feminist, as interpreted by his insisting on calling women "girls". I intend to bring him to enlightenment.) This is the problem that men have with the whole unwanted attention/street harassment conundrum. Clearly, what happened to me was street harassment. Why? Because the men who whistled and hollered at me were not paying me a compliment on my appearance or trying to let me know that they are interested.
These men were very clearly asserting their power by intimidating me. As I noted before, I was not dressed provocatively. In fact, I was dressed rather sloppily, for comfort only. I had no makeup on to draw attention to eyes, lips, etc. I should also note that I was completely lost in thought, probably looking down at the beginnings of spring flowers popping from the ground.
I hear some of you asking, "But, QuiteContrary, what if this man was really into you, warts and all?" And in return, I have a question for you. What do you think you'll accomplish by whistling or shouting obscenities to a woman walking down the street? Do you really think that I'll swoon and start chasing after your car? Has that worked for you in the past?
Which brings me to my point that these acts can only be interpreted as acts of intimidation. No man ever harasses a woman walking down the street (whether they are in a car, walking past, or sitting on a bench) thinking it's a successful way to get a date, or even compliment a woman. They are simply exercising their patriarchal right to treat a random woman as an object and intimidate her, simply because she has the audacity to be seen alone in public.
A few months ago, while visiting a friend in Washington, DC, I was alone at the National Gallery of Art. I was examining a painting, deep in thought, when I suddenly felt a presence behind me. Okay, someone had personal space issues. They were probably from another country, where personal space is not a huge issue. I can deal with that. Then I felt something hard on my lower back. I knew immediately it was that asshole's dick.
I moved forward. So did he. I went to the next painting, so did he. And he quickly returned to the same position. I exited that room and went to one with a rather nasty looking guard. So did he. And, well, you can guess where he decided to stand. The guard did nothing, even though I know he saw it, considering we were the only two people in the room.
I was terrified.
And I was fucking pissed as hell.
Remembering that I'm tired of being a victim (which I'll write about in a later post) I swiftly turned around, looked him straight in the eye, and asked loudly, "Do I know you?" Luckily, this was enough to send him on his way.
But this proves my point that the motivation behind these acts of harassment are not to compliment a woman or try to get to know her. It is an anonymous intimidation technique. There have been several stories going around the feminist blogosphere about this sort of thing, and I think every woman can identify. And before you try to defend these truly sick fucks by saying that the women you know appreciate this sort of treatment, let me tell you that either you are lying, or the women you are referencing are lying. It's not flattering, it's fucking scary.