The 5 Stages of Street Harassment

Wednesday July 18, 2012 @ 09:08 PM (UTC)

1. Denial. Wait, did someone just say “PROSTITUTE!”? Was that the word? Was it that guy? Was it to me? No, surely I misheard. Let me just listen to the extremely disturbing replay in my head a bit, I’m sure it wasn’t that. Or to me. Shit, it really was.

2. Fleeing. Doooon’t look over your shoulder, fast fast walky walky fast, car around the corner, no one following me, it’s just nerves anyway. It’s a beautiful day, you’re no less safe just because someone reminded you it’s an ugly world.

3. Victim-blaming. Holy shit, is my bra showing? No, it isn’t. Also, what the what, Felicity, you’re a feminist. Cut that out. It’s about him, not you. [Ed: I bet you want to know what I was wearing. I would too. Because it’s how we make sense out of this crap, and unfortunately, shift the blame.]

4. Stubbornness. Stop, stop, stop looking in the mirror and checking your outfit for sluttiness, Felicity. You’re a feminist. You know that this is about that dude and his feelings about women, and the Patriarchy and its inability to allow women to just be, summer clothes and all, without carrying the signification of “SEX” around their necks like a burden and target. That guy is an enforcer. A creepy, crunkle-faced enforcer who wants you to be ashamed of wearing a tank top on a sunny day. He doesn’t get to win.

5. Blog fodder. Just another lovely reminder, folks! Patriarchy Makes Every Day Special!


Honey, I have never met anyone less like a prostitute. Maybe he said “prims-stitute?”

Well said, Felicity- stage #4 FTW. Fucking patriarchy.

I hear teens all day saying they shouldn’t be judged by the way they look when a grocery stre doesn’t hire them because of a pink Mohawk and face piercings. While half the guys out there are trying to be respectful and judge on merits, we have a hard time when somebody shoves a pair of silicone double D’s in a too tight white tank. Wasn’t there. But while you can choose the clothes, you can’t choose the social consequences of them. Until they know you, people only have th clothes to judge by… Feminist or not.

Thank you, Jan! And thanks, Steven!

And, Jeannine — I’m told the Primness Aura has faded. I think I must have accidentally invested those powers in my braids and when I chopped them, I lost ’em. All Samson-style.

Stonegrei —
Oh man. Let’s see. So, I think what the most expected response to this is, “Oh, let me tell you what I was wearing so you can see how totally innocent it was!”

But that, again, puts the blame on me for wearing clothes — or, more accurately, for existing in this guy’s vicinity. And what it also does is transfer the judgment of my clothes from Random Rather Weird Stranger on the Street to Random Stranger on the Internet.

There are no thought police, and no thoughtcrimes. If a guy I pass on the street thinks, “she looks slutty” or for that matter “she looks like a nerd” or, given my track record, “she looks like Winnie on the Wonder Years”, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Think away, street-passer! But when he takes it upon himself to loudly proclaim his judgment of my person, that’s street harassment.

At this level, that’s not a crime either. But it is unacceptable, totally. Unless this guy seriously thought I was a prostitute and was pointing it out to a cop (there are plenty of geographical and circumstantial reasons even without getting into what I was wearing that this is ridiculous — but also, there was no cop. We were alone on our side of the street. That’s how they like it. If there had been a cop, there would have been no blog post) all he was doing was REGISTERING HIS JUDGMENT.

He was trying to exert a little power over me. Maybe he was homeless — I am not sure. Maybe he was a little on the margins, in some other way — he had that look. Not a man with power, in general. But he knew that as a man in a city, he has the power to shame, upset and frighten women. To remind them that their bodies are not the joyful vehicles of their minds and spirits, but the subject of male scrutiny, desire, and rules. So he got to walk on feeling bigger, and I got to hurry back to my car, trying not to look bothered or scared, not to give him the satisfaction.

Many women report receiving the most street harassment, in cities where it’s particularly prevalent and data are thus horribly easy to gather just by leaving the house, when they feel crappy and look it. When they feel shabby. Not when they’re dressed to go out on the town, or wearing their highest heels, or whatever. But when they’re carrying groceries home in sweats and have had a long day. Because fundamentally this is not about sex. This is not about sex. Women’s bodies are not sex, however much our culture says the contrary. The reason street harassers hit those women when they’re down? That’s predator instinct. That’s because this is about power.

TLDR: A woman wearing a tanktop isn’t responsible for a man making the conscious decision to loudly say “PROSTITUTE” at her. That’s on him. That’s his choice. That’s him trying to feel big at her expense.

Thank you for blogging about your experience. Maybe talking about street harassment will get people thinking about its causes, and hopefully (someday) these conversations will help develop a society where the behavior is not tolerated!

Agree with you, Felicity. It’s all about power. when I clicked on your twitter link, was expecting an article from a street harasser’s point of view so I’d know what more to expect from any regular harassers. Thanks for this though, I see myself there.

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