Via a Feminist Bookmark Alert at Hoyden About Town, this post on street harassment at The F-Word … well, it should be thought-provoking. The fact that almost every woman on the planet has at some time faced harassment, threats, or abuse from random strangers on the street – and the fact that this is almost invariably sexualised, so please spare me the “But TEH MENZ get hassled too, honest!” – should be shocking and unbelievable.
But it isn’t, to me.
Last week I was walking to a dance class at the Ungodly Hour of 7.00 pm. It’s been an absolute fright of a winter in these parts, so I was in black stockings, knee-length skirt, big fluffy scarf and bulky hoodie. My shoes were flat and plain. I had a backpack on.
And as a small red car full of young white men sped past, one wound down his window and shouted, “HEY BABY, HOW MUCH?” at me.
I’m amazed how quickly I managed to regain control of my thoughts and flip the wankers off. And then I felt shaky, and nervous, and kept looking around expecting the car to come back, and thought about the front cover of my copy of Against Our Will, with the words writ large: “a conscious process by which all men keep all women in a state of fear.” And after my class I asked my teacher to give me a lift home – because at 8.30, on a weeknight, in a well-lit area of a pretty bloody safe city, I did not want to be a woman walking home alone.
All this because of one pathetic little man thinking he’d look really Cool and Funny by asking a woman how much it would cost to fuck her. Because one pathetic little man just crystallized in four words what I am allowed to be in society: a vagina. A receptacle for a man’s good time. A commodity. Not even worthy of seeing the guy abusing me, not even worth pulling over to yell at.
If you think I’m analysing this a bit too much, pray tell: why are so many women on that thread able to relate to being harassed on the street? Why are the catcalls and wolf whistles and jibes so often about sex, or sexuality (woman brushes off abuse = OBVS A LESBO, LOLOLOL), or a man demanding a woman’s attention and time and phone number? Is it really just coincidental that all these men, from all corners of the globe, have figured out that HEY IF I CALL HER A WHORE SHE’LL FEEL ASHAMED?