Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Street Harassment and Freedom

I've been dealing with a nasty cold and feel generally gross in every way, so Monday, my husband and I decided to "go out" for a little while - just a quick walk around the mall - to get me out of the house and out of my bathrobe. 

Clothes and makeup have always been my armor - I've talked about that here, before. So even when I'm sick I try to pull myself together. On Monday, I put on a nice outfit, a little makeup, and tried to will myself to be confident, instead of a snotty mess. 

My ensemble - jeans, a nice sleeveless shirt with a high neckline, black boots. Earrings, a watch. A little black eyeliner, neutral eyeshadow and lipstick. Basically, just nice clothes, nothing fancy. 

Conservatives and all-around jerks talk about how women should dress modestly, because if we don't, we are "asking for it" - "it" being everything from street harassment to sexual assault. These are the same people who influence our culture so much that young women are policed daily by school dress codes, forced to be sexual objects through the lens of adult puritanical prudishness, forced to cover themselves up because of adult perversity. These are the same people who advocate abstinence in their (and everyone else's) daughters - one form of taking away a woman's sexual agency - but complete compliance in their wives - another truly tragic and harmful method for robbing women of their bodies and their power. 

I've worn some sexy outfits. I've worn clothes that capitalized on my curves. I've worn backless and low-cut tops, and I've enjoyed compliments, because I was dressing to feel beautiful and powerful, sexual, mysterious. And those jerks would tell me that those were the times I was "asking for it."

Well, jerks, was I asking to be cat called in a shirt and jeans? Was I asking to have a man call me hot and sexy, pretty much right in my ear, as I was walking at the mall with my husband?

Tell me, do you really think my clothes are the issue? Or are you the issue? Are you scared of my flesh? Are you scared of your own sexuality? Do you think of yourselves as powerless in the face of your own mindless need to possess women? Are you scared that I hold the power to say yes or no - and is that why you are so worried about campaigns to discuss and encourage affirmative and enthusiastic consent? 

Cat calling is just another way in which jerks like you try to beat women down. Make us less human. Own us. 

I pity all of you. It must be painful to be so frightened of a woman taking control of her own power, sexual agency, and flesh. You must have truly unsatifying lives. 

I wonder how much your wives and daughters resent you. 

A man in the mall - who was bigger than me, and definitely threatening - decided it was his right to speak low and thick in my ear and reduce me to an object, a plaything, an animal. If you, jerk faces, think I was asking for it, you're even more deluded than you appear. You'd like to blame your behavior on those slutty women who wear what they want, sleep with who they want, take birth control, are feminists - but the truth is, I was just a woman in jeans with a red nose and a hacking cough, holding hands with my husband. 

You are utterly transparent in your hatred of women. 

There are so many little tricks, little twists of language, that you employ to make you sound reasonable - or worse, Christian. You hide behind a text - the Old Testament - and completely ignore the messages of Christ. You talk about decency and family values and purity and all that bull which means only this: the only sexual expression which is acceptable to you is white, male, cis, hetero sexuality. 

You literally think that women who have sex (and enjoy it!) outside of marriage are going to hell. You think members of the LGBTQ community are going to hell (for two real reasons - we defy gender stereotypes and shockingly, enjoy sex!). You throw fire and brimstone at us and become more and more enraged, because we stand outside of a culture of fear and oppression and have a real chance to be happy. 

When we own our bodies, when we make choices, when we have power, we are free. 

You, jerks, are not. 

No wonder you grasp at the straws of power - cat calling, legislating our rights to choose. You want us back in the tight grip of your own prisons. 

Until you break out, until you sever the chains you forged yourselves, link by oppressive link - just stop. Just stop the cat calling and harassment, stop the hatred, stop the slurs, stop trying to force us to join you in your cells. We will not go. 

A man spoke in my ear and asked me to imprison myself in his own shame. He tried to make me dirty. 

But I am clean in my brilliant expression of love and sexuality, in my curving flesh. And in the joy I take in my womanhood and pleasure, I am free. 


  1. Thank you for this! Powerfully written!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. This post both enraged me and empowered me through your depiction of despicable behavior and terrific analysis. Fierce and beautiful.