I recently mentioned a street harassment incident (they occur often, 10-75 times a week for over 20 years now) on Twitter, and I received a plethora of ignorant responses. I realized that these responses are common, so I documented them here.
1) "Gosh, where do YOU live?" This is asked for two reasons, besides the person being ignorant, of course. One is that they want to find a way to “contain” the negative behavior and associate it with a place where they don’t live, kind of like how people are currently pretending that racism is only in Florida and sexism is only in Texas. The second reason is that they want to be able to associate street harassment happening to a woman with some awful place that she “chose” to live in. This disregards class, race, culture and other factors that determine where people live.
2) “That NEVER happens to me!” Saying this is not empathetic, especially as a reply to someone explaining an awful street harassment incident. When cis hetero men say this, they are being ignorant of their male privilege. Of course they aren’t street harassed. (I am talking about street harassment here, which is highly gendered, not police harassment, for example, of Black men.) When White women (some of them are never street harassed or rarely street harassed compared to Black women) or women of a high social class (as street harassment does have some race/class factors at play) say this, they mean to infer the inferiority of the woman it has happened to. Because we live in a victim-blaming rape culture, if street harassment is deemed the fault of the person it happens to and it doesn’t happen to “some” women, it then implies that they aren’t as “low” as the women who experienced it.
3) "Just ignore it!" This is the lazy response from people who think they HAVE TO reply versus listening, understanding and empathizing with a woman who experiences street harassment. They are actually implying that the harassment is her fault for noticing it occurred. And at times, ignoring street harassment can have dangerous effects for a woman if that man is of the type who cannot handle being ignored and escalates the harassment to physical violence. “Ignoring” is a difficult thing to do anyway when speaking of something that happens with the frequency that I experience street harassment. How can I “ignore” up to 75 insults a week?
4) "Take it as a compliment; if you weren’t beautiful it wouldn’t happen!” This usually comes from patriarchal men who also street harass. They view anything they do, no matter how aggressive and dehumanizing as “flattering” for a woman. Further, this stance does not work. No matter how a woman looks, whether she is considered “beautiful” or “ugly,” men will justify harassment.
5) "Just move somewhere else!" This is the classist argument. Because street harassment tends to occur in cities (especially with public transportation) more than suburbs and in communities with higher male unemployment and poverty than ones that don’t have that, people assume that you can just pack up your S-Class Mercedes and buy a new mansion in a new city where though misogyny will still be present, naturally, it may not be in the form of street harassment. This also ignores the fact that no matter where I go, for example, I am a Black woman there. People decide to disrespect me based on who I am, not just based on what city I am in.
6) "You’re just saying that because the guy was ugly!" People who genuinely believe that street harassment is “flirting” think that disrespectful and aggressive men who are “attractive” are tolerable. After dealing with street harassment for over 20 years now, I know how utterly ridiculous this assumption is. I promise if the guy looks like Idris Elba and street harasses me, I am still angry. Plenty of physically attractive men street harass me (though most are ashy irritant pissants) and I am angry when it occurs. I don’t want to be harassed. I genuinely delight in a day where not a single man speaks to me. It’s peaceful and I am happy when I go home.
7) "Well say something smart back to him; that’ll fix him!" This response usually comes from those who have never experienced street harassment or it never became physical. While some men can be cursed out well (and I have done that) some cannot. Knowing which ones can and can’t is a guessing game that I don’t want to play in most cases. Just like ignoring one can escalate to violence, so can cursing one out.
8) "Go different places then!" So, women should not go to work, their coffee shoppes, their supermarkets, their bookstores, their laundromats, their gyms, etc. because men will be there and will harass them? Again, this is a location-associated response that ignores the fact that some women (like me and most Black women) are PROFILED and TARGETED for street harassment. It is about US, not the location.
9) "Well, a lot worse could happen!" This reeks of rape culture. Who is to determine what is better or worse? Only the person who experiences the wrath of misogyny, misogynoir, transmisogyny or homophobia (as some gay men are street harassed as well) knows what the experience is like. Even more legally serious violence like domestic violence and rape itself are brushed off as jokes or blamed on the victim. So the idea that I should be “thankful” for street harassment because it isn’t rape ignores the fact that no matter what happens to a Black woman, people will respond with victim blaming.
10) "What were you wearing; what did YOU do to cause it?" I addressed this response before in my post 6 Common Derailment Tactics Used In Conversations About Street Harassment and Sexual Assault and in Rape “Prevention” Advice That Doesn’t Include Tips For Men’s Behavior = Rape Culture. While the wardrobe comments are refuted over and over and why the street harasser or rapist is at fault is explained, people continually retreat to this ignorant argument. Girls are raped by their fathers wearing the clothing their fathers bought them. Women are raped fully clothed and in work clothes/uniform. Women are street harassed no matter what they wear. And regardless of clothing, the harasser or the rapist IS THE ONE AT FAULT.
Notice that in all of these examples ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY is applied to the men who street harass. None. Also, notice the lack of genuine concern and empathy for me or other women who are street harassed. Street harassment is a part of rape culture.
Related Posts: all posts tagged with "street harassment" on Gradient Lair
To those who say that whitewashing in Hollywood isn’t a thing:
- Irene from the movie Drive was Latina in the original novel, and her name was Irina. Carey Mulligan, a white woman, was cast in the part without an audition.
- The movie A Beautiful Mind is based on a true story. In real life, however, Alicia Nash, John Nash’s wife, is from El Salvador. She was portrayed in the film by Jennifer Connolly, a white woman.
- 30 Days of Night was based on a comic book miniseries. In the comics, however, the main character, Eben Olemaun, is an Inuit man. Futhermore, the town of Barrow, Alaska is described as being 57% Native American, 22% White, and yet in the movie, only one Inuit character was featured. You can’t tell me that all of those Caucasian extras were hired on acting ability, they don’t even talk.
- The movie 21 is based on a true story, in which most of the participants of the casino scam were Asian-American. In the movie, however, the main characters were white, and the Asian-American characters were poorly developed and badly written.
- They cast a white kid as Goku in Dragonball.Seriously. That happened.
- Dastan from Prince of Persia should have been, shocking, a Persian guy. Or, more specifically, probably Iranian. He was instead portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal, who is white. Nobody in the movie was actually Middle Eastern, if I’m not mistaken, and the movie took place in the middle of the goddamn Persian Empire, where there probably weren’t a whole lot of white people walking around. Just sayin’.
- In Isaac Marion’s book Warm Bodies, Nora was half-Ethiopian. In the movie, she’s white.
- Every single person in the goddamn The Last Airbender movie should have been Asian. The entire series was based on Asian mythologies, borrowed heavily from Asian culture, and should have been immensely culturally diverse. Instead, all of the main characters were white, except for the villains. The characters who hailed from the Fire Nation, particularly Prince Zuko, Commander Zhao, and General Iroh, were portrayed by Indian people.
- Katniss Everdeen, Gale Hawthorne, and a large portion of the other inhabitants of the Seam were described as being “olive-skinned, black-haired, and gray-eyed.” Katniss and Seeder, the Tribute from District 11, were described in the books as having similar skin tones, and Seeder was portrayed in the movie as a black woman. Even then, the casting call sent out for Katniss sought out a Caucasian actress. They didn’t even consider women that actually fit the description of Katniss from the books.
But, I mean, the best actor always wins out, right? Whitewashing is a myth, right, it doesn’t actually happen.
- Angel Coulby, a black woman, was heavily criticized for portraying Guinevere in Merlin, a character traditionally played by a white woman. She did audition for this part.
- Donald Glover, a black man, received ridiculous amounts of scrutiny and negative attention for being linked to the part of Peter Parker, a traditionally white character.
But it’s their talent that matters, right?
Nobody’s criticizing Benedict Cumberbatch, especially not after learning that he was basically duped into accepting the part of Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness. Dude’s crazy talented. He’ll probably win an Oscar for something or another eventually.
The crazy talented Indian actor who could have played Khan, a Northern Indian character, and received mainstream exposure and a possible launchpad for his career, however? He won’t.
and it’s amazing
but wait there’s more
omg and then
"Why, is your nose bigger than your dick?" OMFG so good!
i think what people don’t realize is that people in activist spaces don’t actually like being angry all the time
we want to be able to go about our day without constantly being on guard for casual abuse, degradation, and shitty behavior hurled our way
we’re not angry at you because we think you’re unconditionally terrible people
we’re angry because we fully believe that you can do better
by Mariama Eversley and Ross Levin
The self-proclaimed “Diversity University” is at it again. Wesleyan University, located in Middletown, Connecticut, is prosecuting three trans* and gender-nonconforming students for taking political action to address transgender discrimination on campus. This comes just one year after the University reversed their need blind admission policy, and a rash of racial profiling by the campus police, Public Safety.
On Wednesday, December 4th, Wesleyan University will be holding a disciplinary hearing against the three aforementioned trans* and gender-nonconforming students. The charges against the three stem from actions taken this October to “degender” public restrooms. These students are being targeted because of their visibility in these actions and in the LGBTQ community on campus, despite no evidence that they are indeed responsible for the $5,245 in fines they are facing.
Beginning this October, Wesleyan students began removing gender signs from public restrooms across campus. In place of the gender signs, they posted new all gender signs as well as manifestos which explained their actions: “We demand that Wesleyan University stop segregating bathrooms along gender lines and provide all-gender bathrooms in all buildings in the University. We believe gender-segregated bathrooms create uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations for trans* and gender-variant presenting people. We believe gender-segregated bathrooms reinforce trans* invisibility at Wesleyan.”
The manifesto was signed by an anonymous group “Pissed Off Trans* People,” and the group provided manifestos and all-gender signs available for download online. The materials soon had over 200 downloads and many students outside of the original group were participating on their own.
The charges stem from one incident in the student center when a university employee stopped a group of five students suspected of degendering two restrooms. From this moment on things got confusing. Only three of the five students have been brought up on charges and face disciplinary consequences. These three students are being singled out for punishment because of their visibility in the LGBTQ community and are being forced to carry the weight of all degendering activism on campus this semester.