It seems like women have been sharing their experiences with sexual harassment all over the place in the past few weeks. That’s what prompted me to share mine. As Jen Bennett said on twitter, there is clearly something in the air. It should be in the air. Speaking up is the only way that we can help people understand that something is an issue. Sharing is how we let each other know that we are not alone. Open discussion raises awareness of things like http://www.slutwalktoronto.com/ and http://www.ihollaback.org/.
Street harassment is not a rare or isolated occurrence. It does not only happen in America. It does not only happen to young or traditionally-considered-“beautiful” women. It does not only happen on public transit or in low income areas.
We shouldn’t have to have a big angry dog named Funster to protect us. We shouldn’t have to carry Mace or a knife, hoping that we’ll be able to use it properly if necessary or investing hours of our lives in self defense courses (something a lot of women have neither the time nor disposable income to do). We shouldn’t have to travel in packs to feel safe (again, something that isn’t really feasible).
Men have been responding saying that they want to divorce their gender. That they didn’t realize, until we started sharing our stories en masse, what it is like to be a woman. That they wish there was something they could do. That they’re sorry for the way other men treat people. Men shouldn’t *have* to feel like they need to apologize on behalf of their gender, or feel ashamed of being male. Unless they’re one of the ones doing the harassing, I don’t think they should apologize.
There are things that can be done. When someone you know engages in inappropriate or harassing behavior towards a woman, let them know they did something totally not cool. Like: “Actually, that woman had a right to be upset when you chased her down the street. She was completely accurate when she called it creepy.” or “Hey, this story you’re telling me about putting your dick on a drunk stranger’s face at a party when she clearly didn’t want it there but was too sleepy to fend you off, that was a totally not cool thing to do with your penis, bro.” Teach every moldable male(1) mind (brothers, friends, sons) that treating women (humans) with respect is the right thing to do. Don’t have sex with jerks. Don’t blow them, don’t give them a handjob, don’t give them your phone number. If you hear a woman asking a man to leave her alone or calling attention to the fact that he’s whacking off in the train station, add your voice to hers. Say “This is not ok. This is not cool. We see what you are doing and it is unacceptable.”
(1) I’m focusing on the men here because I’ve never experienced or heard of a case of menacing street harassment by a female. I could be misinformed. Could be. Possibly.