I Rage: A Treatise on Street Harassment

I work in pretty rough neighbourhood and, every day, I take a 10 minute walk to and from my car and to my office building. There’s a jail literally a block away, I’ve found used syringes in my parking lot fairly frequently, and I’ve seen a homeless guy’s old, dirty balls on more than one occasion. Walking to and from work is an adventure and, while the area is rough, I’ve never actually felt unsafe – if that makes any sense.

This morning, I got cat-called on my way to work. Like most, if not all, women I’ve experienced street harassment before. I’ve also been groped at bars and at comic conventions and, on more than one occasion, I’ve been the subject of unwanted attention. Even when I’m wearing my wedding ring.

Unwanted attention from men is not fun. It’s not flattering. It’s not a compliment. It’s not an ego boost. And it doesn’t matter if the person doing the catcalling is fucking attractive.

It’s bloody terrifying. It’s something where you’re actively looking for an escape route because things could quickly escalate, especially if you say “no”.

Because, in the back of your mind, you’re thinking about what could happen when you tell a guy to go fuck himself. His response could be fairly benign – like calling me a “dyke” because if you’re not interested in his attentions I might as well be a lesbian – or it could be serious. The internet is full of stories of what happen when women refuse a man’s advances. So, mostly, I say nothing unless I absolutely have to.

I’m so fucking tired of this shit, you guys. I’m tired of being angry all the time. I’m tired of being outraged all the time. I’m tired of the entitlement that men feel towards women, their bodies, and their lives. I’m tired of living in a culture that excuses misogyny and promotes rape culture. I’m tired of living in a society that a man thinks that it’s appropriate to harass women who are minding their own fucking business. I’m tired of people excusing this behaviour and telling women that they’re “lucky” someone finds them attractive.

No matter how tired I get, I still rage.

I rage because I should be able to walk down the fucking street on my way to work without being harassed or cat-called. I rage because I should be able to exist without the constant threat of violence against me. I rage because I fucking hate bullies. I rage because so many women are victimized by different types of harassment that are constantly minimized as being benign. I rage because people tell me that I should be flattered and that I should take it as a compliment when my bodily integrity is threatened.

I rage because women who speak out against street harassment get rape threats.

I rage because I can’t sit at a bar with a book and read without some guy chatting me up. Because why else would I be at a bar reading other than to get attention (read: to get picked up by some skeevy perv who’s in town for a business meeting and wants a little piece on the side before he goes home to his wife and kids)? Certainly, it couldn’t be to enjoy a pint and read in peace! I must want that attention!

I rage because a friend of mine actually had a guy stop his car in the middle of a busy street, run over to her, and try to FORCE her to take his number while she was walking to the subway one morning. When she refused he kept pestering her until she finally was able to get away. Because how dare she walk down the street being all beautiful and fabulous other than to get his attention? She was totally asking for it!

I rage because that level of entitlement leads to other, more insidious acts of harassment and assault against the female body. I rage because my body is not public property and no one should touch it without my explicit and enthusiastic consent. The last time I was groped at a comic convention I was told that “it wasn’t a big deal” and that what did I expect wearing too tight of a t-shirt? I mean, how dare I wear what I want! What about the poor men who should know better than to sexually assault another con goer because they’re reduced to their base animal instincts at the sight of a girl in a t-shirt! I guess it was a good thing I wasn’t wearing a mini skirt or else I’d totally be fucked!

I rage because I feel powerless, degraded, and objectified. I rage because I get victim blamed for doing something that caused this to happen in the first place. I rage because I can’t fight back because it might get myself threatened, hurt, or killed. I rage because no one takes this shit seriously. I rage because it keeps happening over and over again.

I rage because these same men who harass me would be livid if the same thing happened to their wives, mothers, sisters, or daughters.

I rage because other women are victimized in this way (and in other ways) every. single. day.

I rage because I and every single woman I know lives with the ever present knowledge that we live in a society that a woman is in constant danger of having sexual violence perpetrated on her because men feel entitled to her body; a culture where women are afraid to tell a man to “fuck off” when he propositions her because she doesn’t know how he’s going to react.

I rage because if I don’t it means that these motherfucking cunts have won.

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