5 Myths (and now a 6th!)

For my new piece on Role/Reboot, I listed five of the most common responses I hear from street harassment defenders.

“It’s because you’re pretty” (plus obvious wardrobe corollary, “It’s because you’re wearing _______”)

“It’s just a compliment!”

“We can’t help ourselves!”

“It’s the only way to get your attention”

“It’s harmless” 

Since I posted the piece on Facebook, another great one has surfaced, “Some women like it!” UGH, such a good addition to this list!

Thought experiment! Since blatant racism is, in most circles, tolerated less than blatant sexism, I think it can sometimes be useful to switch out sexist language for racist language to test our own boundaries. (NOTE: By no means am I equating sexism and racism. Different issues, sometimes related, sometimes not). 

So, to the guy who responded on FB “Whenever I witness it – which admittedly is pretty rare – ladies seem to enjoy the attention half the time,” let’s imagine this is about race, not gender. Let’s say that about half the time, black people you know don’t mind when you use the N-word colloquially. But, the other half of the time when you try to use it, you trigger for your listeners extreme emotional trauma. Would you use it because “half the time” some people might not mind? Would your verbal “freedom” be worth the pain you would cause people to exercise it? And since you wouldn’t know from looking at your audience whether they were black people who don’t mind or ones who d0, you would just not use the word, right? At least, that’s what any person of reasonable empathy would do.

So, even if some women don’t mind, or even appreciate cat calling (and I’m not disputing the fact that some women do), to others, you are causing extreme emotional trauma. You are making them feel unsafe. You are making them feel objectified. You are making them feel uncomfortable. So…. stop. As another commenter put it in response to this dude,

“Women are telling you they do not like this. It makes them uncomfortable. It make them feel like they can’t just go about their day in a way that is totally reasonable to expect without having unwanted attention from strangers. Regardless of the cat-callers’ motivations, or what you might like or how you think you see women reacting. There are women right here telling you it’s not cool. Period. Even if you don’t agree with the gender analysis or the power-play patriarchy stuff. Fine. You don’t have to. It kind of comes down to basic politeness and that should really be the end of it.”

Anyway, read on for more on my original Five Myths About Street Harassment. Can you think of any others?


Related Post: A letter to the guy who harassed me on the street

Related Post: On Ta-Nehisi Coates and street harassment

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Filed under Gender, Republished!

7 responses to “5 Myths (and now a 6th!)

  1. I work in a restaurant and walk home from work around midnight on most nights. When I raised my frustration with cat-calling to a coworker she responded “Well maybe you shouldn’t be walking alone at night”. As if somehow my walking after the sun sets makes me deserve sexual harassment.

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  3. Rosie

    Nice to find someone with the same point of view, the same goal for women rights AND the same name 1000 of miles away! Love your blog! /Rosie, Sweden

  4. quirkylady

    I think it’s also worth pointing out that many woman who may appear not to mind, or even enjoy, comments from men on the street are acting that way out of fear of what would happen if they acted differently. I often respond to a “hey beautiful” or a “aren’t you sexy” with a small smile because I don’t want to escalate a situation when I don’t know the intention behind the comment. That doesn’t mean I like it. It means I’m conscious of my safety and the fact that I can be easily overpowered by someone looking to do so.

    How I choose to respond depends on a number of factors including where I am, what time of day it is, how close I am to home, where I’m going, what I’m wearing (as in am I in shoes I can easily run in), If I’m alone, how physically big the man making the comment is, the tone of the comment, etc. These are (some of) the factors that women have to negotiate when they walk out their door. So a women’s perceived response might not be what she’s actually feeling.

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  6. Your style is so unique in comparison to other folks I’ve read stuff from.
    Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity,
    Guess I will just book mark this page.

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