Is it still Anti-Street Harassment Week? Three hours left? Oh good.
Things men have said to me on the street in the past 48 hours:
• (Gesturing at his crotch) Hey, baby, want to eat Mexican?
• (Out of nowhere, coming very close to me, whispering in my ear) Hey beautiful.
• Check out that ass!
• Hey, white girl! Hey, white girl, over here! Hey! Look over here!
• (Coming up to me) Hey, beautiful, buy my CD! (No thanks.) Come on, help a brother out! (Sorry, no.) Come on! (I said no.) Where you from? (not answering, walking on) Fine, bye, chunky!
• Pig. Pig.
• Hey, babe, smile!
• Over here! Come on, smile!
• hissing to get my attention, then winking and blowing a kiss
• spitting near my feet
And I think there’s been more, in languages that I don’t understand. But I’m pretty sure those shouts were directed at me.
Let me repeat, this is in the past 48 hours.
I’m in New York alone for the weekend, and this is only my second time in New York, so I probably do look like a target. This is a more frequent level of street harassment than I usually get in Boston, where I live, though it certainly happens there. It happens everywhere.
A few months ago in Boston, a man followed me, then asked me,
“I’m about to finish. Do you want to watch me come?”
He’d been masturbating the whole time he’d been following me.
I reported it to the police. They were very nice to me, but I felt like they thought I should be more upset about it than I was. Don’t get me wrong; I was shaken, I was scared, but it felt like it was just two steps further than all the other shouted comments and come-ons; just one step further than groping hands in a crowded bar.
Really, it wasn’t anything new.
A week ago, I visited my little brother in Nashville. I went to a record store he’d recommended, a record store I’d heard of and wanted to go to. It was a little hard to find, and I kept texting him for directions. Six different men shouted at me as I was walking to the record store. One of them followed me until I got to the record store. I texted my brother about every incident.
My brother was blown away. He had no idea this happened. He had no idea that street harassment existed beyond the occasional frat boy whistling from a crowded car.
And that blew me away. That my 2-years-younger brother, with the same childhood, the same parents, the same economic status, the same genetics, had such a completely different experience with the world.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that street harassment exists. It is not a compliment. It is a method used by men - and often groups of men - to intimidate women.
And it fucking works.
It’s 9 p.m. and it’s Saturday night in New York and I don’t think I can make myself leave the place I’m staying to go see a movie or go to a coffeeshop or a bar or whatever because I don’t think I can put up with any more men shouting at me, propositioning me, commenting on my body, demanding that I look at them, demanding that I smile.
And yes, there is a difference between a stupid frat boy in a car whistling at me and a man following me masturbating, but it is all street harassment and none of it is okay.
And somehow, it needs to stop.