By now, most of you have probably seen the video, “10 Hours of Walking NYC as a Woman,” where a woman installs a hidden camera and just walks silently in jeans and a crew neck t-shirt around New York City for 10 hours. The woman is harassed more than 100 times.
I always love when I find videos and articles about women’s issues, because I really like to bring up these topics with LD. It is often scary to find that even as man who is very understanding of women’s issues and I could even consider him pro-women’s rights how little he knows about how women are treated in the U.S. and how much he is affected by anti-woman culture. I showed him the video and he said he was listening to some linguists and social scientists analyzing the video on his way to work. According to him, they (the experts, including women) were discussing how some people’s dialects make street harassment sound worse than it is and it is the tone of (usually) men’s voices that indicate whether something said is considered street harassment. I know as a scientist he is trained to take what the researchers say and consider it with a lot of weight. But, I think as a woman, street harassment isn’t about tone of voice as much as being talked to and belittled.
It is never ok if you don’t know me to call me “beautiful”, “baby”, “sugar”, “honey”, “girl”, “mama”, or “sweetie.” No, it is not a complement. Don’t tell me “Hi. How are you?” unless we make eye contact and you are just being polite (that’s a midwestern thing, I know) or you are saying it to every single person (man or woman) that walks by. You aren’t being nice, you are showing power. It is actually the exact same as bullying, trying to make someone else feel small or weak.
I remember when I was about 16 or 17, I was meeting up with some friends at the local mall. Growing up, we lived in a more expensive part of town (in the smallest house there, but still that neighborhood). Anyway, I walk into the mall and a dad carrying his 2 year old daughter, just stops looks at me and says “Damn!” Looking back, I wish I had asked him whether he wanted men to do that to his innocent little daughter when she grew up, if he wanted men to view her the way he had just seen me. But, being a scared teenager, I pretended not to notice and kept walking silently. I felt so small and vulnerable.
I remember, during my freshman year of college, girls comparing their street harassment stories, not to make a change, but to determine whether they were beautiful enough. This is absolutely sick. Our educated girls should not be determining their value based on how they are treated by men they don’t know. But, when parents don’t discuss with their daughters how it is ok to feel vulnerable or small when they are treated that way or that it is not a complement like culture keeps trying to tell them it is, the daughters start to believe it is something wrong with them and hide what they actually feel. They try to present their experiences as badges of honor, further contributing to the culture and feeling even smaller than before. This is not ok.
Please men, ask yourselves, if you heard another man do this to a woman on the street, would you say something? Would you want them to do this to your daughter (or future daughter), wife, sister, mother, niece, or friend? And, women, do you dare to show your vulnerabilities and stand up for yourselves? Do you teach your daughters, friends, sisters, and all other women and girls in your life that it is ok to feel small when they encounter street harassment? Do you teach them that their feelings are not something wrong with them but with the culture we are living in? What are your stories and thoughts?