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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