A Personal Street Harassment Story

Hey, y’all! Alicia from the Hollaback! Bahamas team here. I started to make a Facebook post, but thought I should share it here.

 

I experience street harassment every single time I leave my house. If I’m out, it happens. Multiple times per day. I intentionally limit the amount of times and the amount of time I have to spend out of my house because, really, this cow dung is annoying, time-sucking, dehumanizing, and exhausting. It sucks every single time it happens, but there are times when I am just not about dealing with it. Today, I just needing a freaking break.

 

I’ve been having a less-than-stellar day and decided I needed some self-care items. I had to walk because, in true day-from-hell fashion, the car wouldn’t start. I crossed the road when I saw a group of at least six men with a dog a few paces ahead. I wrapped my fingers around my tool of choice. These are the things I do as a woman, well aware of the risk I take every time I dare to be in a public space, especially alone. And a woman who is afraid of dogs. I found myself walking behind a man and, being a very fast walker, I intentionally slowed my pace to stay behind him. When we got to the store, he held the door open for me. As I approached, he started his little conversation.

 

HIM: You’re [insert parent info], right?
ME: Yeah.
HIM: See how I saw you from the side, and I kept lookin’?
ME: Mhmm.
HIM: I try to know all my neighbours. You don’t be outside like that. [Blah, blah, blah…]
ME: Yeah. [Going about my business in the refrigerator]
HIM: I wasn’t sure because… I don’t know why you cut your hair. Your hair was your beauty.
HIM: [trying to recover, but can’t because I won’t stop talking]
ME: Wow. That’s a shame. All that beauty, gone. At least now I won’t trick anyone to thinking I’m beautiful, right? You’re welcome!
HIM: No, no… I mean, you still beautiful. I just –
ME: See why I don’t come outside? Men are all over the place, commenting on my appearance, style choices, and beauty. You have no right, stranger. [Goes to another aisle]

 

Minutes go by.

 

 

This is me, with short hair, letting the fux slip through my fingers
This is me, with short hair, letting the fux slip out of the palm of my hand. You mad?

 

HIM: [stands at end of aisle I’m in] Um… I think I said that wrong. I meant I was used to seeing you with the long hair. [gestures like long, flowing hair]

ME: Sir, it’s been YEARS since I’ve had long hair, and I don’t care if you [looks him up and down] think I’m beautiful or not. Excuse me. [passes him to get to the cashier]

 

I didn’t address this man. I showed no interest in having a conversation with him. He doesn’t know me, at all. He’s seen me a few times, YEARS ago. I have been rockin’ short hair, HARD, for ten years off and on, and four years consistently. Somehow, he felt quite comfortable with commenting on, not only my appearance, but my decisions regarding my appearance. When he realized he screwed up big time, his solution was not to apologize. He tried to explain it away. He wanted to take up more time in my shit-tacular day. Armed with two cans of Coca-Cola, a pack of oreos, and a pack of M&Ms I was not having it. He needed to be out of my way, and out of my day.

 

I know this seems like something I should/would be immune to by now, especially doing this work, but it’s not. On occasion, the outright misogyny, body shaming, exercise of power, and patriarchal behavior and views (of everyone, but especially complete strangers) is a bit more than I can/want to handle. There are times when it’s nice to know you’re not alone, other people understand, and not everyone is quick to invalidate your feelings or experiences. That’s why we’ve got the I’ve Got Your Back button, and I hope you’ll click it for me today.

 

[got_back]

 

Have you had ever experienced street harassment when you were already kinda down and out, and opposed to human interaction? Has anyone ever tried to explain away their comments or actions? Share your story in the comments or here.

 

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