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Velocity:Inertia Stories of my Adventures

Street harrassment happens EVERYWHERE.

USA | Thursday, 10 September 2015 | Views [403] | Comments [1]

I've had a lot more practice than I wanted making this

I've had a lot more practice than I wanted making this "dafuq you just say to me?" Face to strangers who say outrageously demeaning things to me in public.

I realized I didn't point out enough in one of my previous entries that while I experienced a little street harassment in Delhi, this is not just a problem with Indian men. I cannot say I have experienced it every single place I traveled, but if I had stayed in one place long enough, Who knows? The odds would not be in my favor.

I have never experienced street harassment worse than I have in the United States of Amurika, the country of my origin. 

I constantly find myself begging my partner to "take me for walks" because the chance I will get yelled at or honked at will be lessened (though not completely go away...I was walking with 3 male friends the other night and a man yelled 'LET ME GET AT THAT PUSS' as loud as he could out of a car that was passing us.)

Listen. to. that. verbage.

And I feel like I HAVE TO ASK MY PARTNER TO TAKE ME FOR WALKS. LIKE A FUCKING DOMESTICATED DOG, to get some fresh air and move around.

And it still doesn't stop.

Some people can just shrug it off. Good for them. I personally have stress startle responses from sudden loud noises that pretty much only happen in these situations. As a trained therapist, I can tell you with confidence and some learning to back it up that this is a symptom of trauma. It is not healthy; it is not fun. It's harder for me to "just get over it" than it is for people to stop. being. assholes. All humans deserve to have the choice to relax and take a walk outside without it being potentially filled with negative experiences like this.

A person could turn their nose up at this, and with thiny veiled judgment, state, "You sound angry." I've wanted to spit back, "WOULDN'T YOU BE ANGRY TOO? No? Ok. Fine. Does that make my anger any less valid? Just make sure you ask yourself if you've ever had to regularly deal with this before you question my reactions to something you've never experienced." Sometimes I more or less have, if they let me talk before interuppting me. Because men.

Before I went traveling on my own in Hungary, Ukraine, and Poland for 5 weeks, there were some people who made covertly xenophobic statements...things like, "Well, it's a scary world out there, people in other countries..you never know...especially for a girl by yourself so..." I will say that I was never street harassed the entire time, and then the DAY I get back to New York City, where I lived at the time, I get at least 2 men on the streets saying disgusting things to me.

One could shrug that off, dismiss it and minimize it. "Well, it's New York City, what do you expect?"

But I get the same thing in the town I live in that has a population of 40,000 if the students are here. And people here will then ask the same thing. "Do you think it's just a 'here' thing?"

No. IT'S AN EVERYWHERE THING. Why is that so hard to believe? And just because I didn't experience it in Central/Eastern Europe doesn't mean that misogyny is not completely rampant there too! The United Nations says there is not one country on Earth where women do not experience some level of oppression. And this is true for other minority identities as well.

I wish I had sought out this wonderful, brief, concise, informative article before I went to India. "Traveling, Street Harassment, and Actual Advice."


I gave into a lot of the advice she was criticizing, all the time going against my gut as a feminist. I was willing to do anything if it lessened a chance of unwanted and sexualized attention, and maybe it was different where I was going. I didn't know. I had never been there before and I wasn't going to be so arrogant to think that I did know before I went when other people who had been there were saying this.

Still, so much of that advice I read did exactly what she is saying is so harmful - painting men of color as more dangerous than white people in European countries. Though I was harrassed in India and not in eastern Europe does not take away the fact that the most I've ever been harrassed is by American men, white and of color. The most often, the most frequently, the closest together. (Oh, and then the devil advocates have to ask, what about women? Um. I think I've been street harrassed by a woman in a sexual way once, maybe twice in my entire life. But even if there had been a good deal more that would still not make these males behaviors any less of a problem. kthxybye.)

Guess what the two out of the handful of harrassments in Delhi ere about! 1. When I had a scarf wrapped around my head as a 'cover up' method (and the words he was saying were about the scarf... "where did you get your scarf...I want to TOUCH it)" and 2. about the fake wedding ring I was wearing, another thing I was told would deter unwanted attention. Nope!

I stopped wearing the damned scarf in the blistering heat and took that dumb cheap itchy ring off. Not because I felt they CAUSED the street harrassment but because they will not prevent it- nothing will. I started more regularly wearing a t shirt and cargo capris. I'm sure someone eventually would have found something to say about that too if I had stayed long enough and gone outside more, because it doesn't matter what I wear.

If I am a woman outside in the world, at some point, I will probably get harassed. That is just the reality that I must live with every day until ageism sets in and people treat me as if I'm invisible because people aren't socialized to sexualize older women the way they are younger women. And then because they are no longer considered a sexual object they can be treated as useless. Which I don't know for sure will or always happens but I hear accounts of middle aged women that corroborate this possibility and I believe there is some research I don't feel like looking up right now that supports this. Why the hell do I always feel pressured to find research to back this up? It is so real. It is more real than the god you might pray to, it is there. right. in front of. your face. wake. up.

More days than not, I find the words going in my head: I just want people to leave me alone. Leave. me. alone. Let me breathe. Give me space. Let me heal. Please, leave me be.

Tags: advice, delhi, india, racism, sexism, solo women travelers, street harrassment, traveling, united states of america



So in comparing rates of it, it seems like America does it more, while eastern Europe and Vietnam (mentioned in another post) do it less.

What if it's a behavior that's transmitted socially, like the example in number 4 in this link?

As a male, I find it unsettling to consider the possibility of street harassment urges being transmitted to me. Maybe I was sheltered to this growing up, but I didn't realize until almost age 20 that street harassment is this common and that it's not just the most horrible people doing it. It's almost to the point where I limit how much I allow myself to hear about it, lest the subconscious social-learning kick in. (This is merely an observation.)

Or maybe there's hope that the reverse can happen, that if men can be taught/socialized to see this kind of aggressive pursuit as an expression of masculinity, they can also be taught to see it as the sign of weakness that it is. Maybe this has even happened, in the case of Hungary/Ukraine/Poland.

  Le mi-Belge Dec 10, 2015 8:41 PM

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