Feminism | Posted by Camille E on 06/3/2013

I Will Not Be Scared Off The Streets

So, the other day, I was walking downtown on my own (or as I like to say, “independently”), and this guy in a truck hooted at me while I passed the Shell gas station. I shrunk a little, turned around, trying to determine whether it was aimed at me, and meekly flipped him off.

Resuming my walk downtown, I immediately thought about what I was wearing. Hoop earrings, shorts, a tank top. I was testing out this new bra clip that hides the straps, and when I stepped out of my house I felt excited and a little bit proud. I didn’t have to worry about the straps, and I felt good in my skin, not so afraid of people looking at me. But as soon as that guy hooted, I wanted to be invisible. The confidence was sapped out of my stride. But I soon realized by doing so I was internalizing the message of slut-shaming women receive on a near daily basis. Somebody objectified me in public? Well, what was I wearing? And didn’t I say I didn’t mind if I stood out a little, wore my sunglasses because I thought I looked fly?

When I got home, the people I care about didn’t seem to know what to say or really care that such harassment had happened and that for a moment I felt unsafe. For them, and a lot of women, street harassment is accepted as a part of life, and this time around, I felt defeated instead of enraged. The last time, I was walking home from school and two men (in a white van, no less) honked at me and waved enthusiastically. I couldn’t believe it had actually happened to me or that my family really didn’t have much to say. Both times, the more people acted like it wasn’t such a big deal, the more I began to think maybe I was exaggerating, maybe what happened wasn’t so important, but it was — it is. It matters to me and I had hoped the fact that I was objectified, and, as a result, felt insecure out on the sidewalk, would matter to people I love

That’s the worst part. People whistle, hoot, honk, grab, and follow women, and those women raise their daughters to expect rape. When I left the house, I felt great. That’s the kind of feeling I want girls, and everyone, to have when they go into the world. When that empowering state of mind is shattered partway through the small act of independence, that act doesn’t seem so small anymore. Every time I leave the house since that happened, there’s a little more fear in me. I don’t feel so free anymore – instead, I think of how I’d respond if someone harassed me again until I notice I’ve been scowling the entire walk.

This event had an effect on me I didn’t expect, because I feel like walking out there again, today. I refuse to let idiots like that man in the truck or those guys in the van scare me off the streets. Fuck that. It’s a beautiful day. So, I invite you to take a stroll this fine afternoon and own your right to be in public without fear or danger. Stay bold, my sisters.

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  • Nicole @ at 10:07 am, June 4th, 2013

    Nice Post – it’s easy to say I didn’t mind if I stood out a little – but in real life and in public I made the experience that my self confidence is often not so big as I wanted it to be. So I rarely have the courage to wear outstanding clothes and I would never ever have the courage to leave my house in such an outfit.

  • Camille E @ at 2:45 pm, June 4th, 2013

    I feel that! When I dress a little more boldly,I get paranoid that someone is going to get mad at me or I’ll get in trouble for some reason. So I take my earrings off. I’m going to try to push back that negative force keeping me down and insecure, perhaps by going out in similar clothes once more. I sincerely believe you will find your distinct form of courage.

  • Daisy @ at 7:03 am, June 5th, 2013

    The type of post I came on the internet to find! It’s happened to me multiple times and I feel disgusted with myself each time it has happened. I feel as though I have to wear baggy clothes that cover me up head to toe. Of course I want some positive feedback when I wear something I feel make me look good, but as soon as a sleazy guy passes, hoots or whispers “Hey sexy” as I pass him (that’s happened…) it makes me feel extremely exposed and… well, crap! Girls shouldn’t have to worry about walking through town, along roads etc and being objectified! It’s totally unfair and something has to change!

  • Jenny @ at 9:54 pm, June 17th, 2013

    Wow, that’s so brave of you! I am still scared of walking out and around the streets by myself (ok, the trails behind my home and down to the library 10 minutes away is fine). Here’s a question for all of you; what do you do if someone whistles at you on the streets? Wouldn’t you be scared of yelling back at them or flipping them off in case they got angrier and retaliated some how?

  • Camille E @ at 2:03 am, June 21st, 2013

    If someone whistled at me, I would want to confront them somehow, but I would be afraid of them following me. I read something online like this: “If a man whistles at you, don’t respond. You’re not a dog.” It’s a dilemma. A response is probably what harassers are looking for, and we’re not dogs who have to answer to anyone. I’d say it is dangerous, to various degrees, to confront someone. But at the same time, staying silent feels so contrary to what we stand for. It feels like submission. Like, why shouldn’t we confront sexism when the ball rolls in our court? I don’t know. I would read the situation, judge how safe it would be when deciding whether to respond.

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