Facing Street Harassment as A Woman

I’ve heard this story before: woman rejects man advances, man shoots the woman. This is not the fairytale you learned about in books where men are riding white houses and slaying dragons to find their true love—they are the dragons.

This isn’t a feminist speech #becauseimnotafeminist and this isn’t a “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” rant #becauseimnotafeminist. This is a hear me out conversation for a call to action.

Janese Talton-Jackson was shot outside a bar after she rejected a man’s flirtation when he invaded her personal space.

If Janese’s story sounds familiar maybe you were thinking of Tyrelle Shaw who before his suicide resorted to violence in psychological retaliation towards Asian women because he believed “its brilliant to give all Asian Women a legitimate reason to hate me.” Shaw came up with the plan to hit every Asian women he encountered in the nose as sniffing cocaine could have been the only plausible reason they found him unattractive.

Maybe you’re thinking of Mary Spears, shot in the head outside of a home going celebration by a man who asked for her name and number in 2014.

Maybe you’re thinking of Jessica Scholl stabbed to death by an ex-boyfriend ending their relationship and left her body to burn in a house fire in 2013.

Maybe you’re thinking Anna Maria Gonzalez who was murdered by an ex-boyfriend who stalked her after their breakup in 2012.

Maybe you’re tired of thinking but too bad I am not tired of typing.

Let’s continue.

In 2014, a 14-year-old girl was viscously run over twice, kidnapped and choked after declining a man’s offer of $200 for sex.

Then we have the pregnant woman slammed to the ground by her aggressor after ignoring his conversation and stabbed in her stomach.

Street harassment—excuse my French—is no fucking joke and it just doesn’t happen in the streets. It happens any and everywhere and men will follow you any and everywhere. Catcalling is not cute; it’s borderline harassment and an issue our society continuously brushes under the rug. In a study by Stop Street Harassment, 65 percent of women experience at least one type of street harassment in her lifetime.

Men will use their societal constructed superiority to overpower women and because we don’t talk about it enough, as women our lives are dictated by the opposite sex. Men need to know even down to the small things we change to avoid harassment. If there’s a male or males on one side of the street, we walk across the street. They could very much so not even be concerned with us, but past experiences have shown us it’s best to keep distance. You shouldn’t have to stand in front of your closet and decide to not wear an item of clothing in fear of street harassment.

As I read Janese’s story and scrolled down to the comments as I normally do, I got lost in the voices of women who recounted their frightening experiences of street harassment by men. The stories were so relatable I knew I had to speak out. Not because the victim was a Black woman, but because Janese was a woman—a woman killed at the age of 29 and preyed upon by pure evilness. Her children will never see her in flesh form again because of this monster; her natural life is no more all because a man felt he was entitled to some part of her. Entitlement will get you killed. Entitlement will get you groped. Entitlement will get you followed. Entitlement will get you called a bitch, ho, thot when you don’t cooperate.

The truth is: being a woman is not easy. Womanhood does not entirely embody beauty, perfection, elegance and motherhood. But from a man’s perspective—a misogynist man perspective—that is 100% the breakdown of being a woman. You look pretty, carry yourself with class, exude grace and have babies. It’s not my cup of tea but I know it’s what many sip. Not every compliment is harmless and as women we don’t have to say “thank you” every time someone says we have a fat ass or pretty face. Chivalry isn’t dead and chauvinism is very much alive.

Source: Leah Nash/ The Daily Cougar

In an society where patriarchy is almost autocratic it leaves women voiceless. We’re often left powerless because we have to constantly explain why are bodies are not a commodity. As women, we don’t have the luxury of power in our social mobility because for centuries our power has rested in our bodies—commodification and sexual objectification. There is no power in pussy. I will tell my children that. I will tell my children’s children that. Society tells us we don’t have much else to offer and our vaginas are our most valuable tool and when you’re constantly fed that bullshit you start to believe it. However, when you hear stories like Janese and Mary who are raped or murdered because men equated pussy with pleasure and it starts to conflict.

The reason I include women in this discussion is because we contribute to street harassment as well. Women are just as guilty of victim-shaming and I will never understand. People think there’s always a catch to someone’s behavior that warranted an attack. She rejected him BUT how was she dressed? She rejected him BUT she probably wasn’t that nice about. Here’s the thing: you shouldn’t feel you have to be nice to a man to offset a violent predicament.

The SSH supports my statement that street harassment does not only happen in the streets. It can happen in a grocery store. Half of the women and men in the survey reported harassment while in stores to aboard public transportation. Maybe that is why a young woman decided to capture her interaction with a young man on camera and when she dissed him was a called a rude/stuck up/ugly/cock-eyed/bitch from what was shown in the 15 seconds clip. What people didn’t see was in the full video (watch here) two guys followed them a couple of blocks into a grocery store and then approached for her name and number. You think following someone into a grocery store is flattering? You think after following someone and making them feel uncomfortable they’ll give you their digits?

Women shouldn’t have to use the “I have a boyfriend” excuse to get out of giving someone any attention.

I once read an article by a women who quit the lie to get out of uninteresting conversations. After reading the piece, I felt empowered and agreed I shouldn’t have to lie just to avoid telling someone no. That was short-lived as I’ve used the excuse on numerous occasions, I even went as far as saying I had a fiancé and this man became even more persistent. He responded “is it serious?” I was taken back he felt confident enough to even ask simply because he saw no ring. But then again his life experiences may have shown him infidelity is okay.

Just the other day while walking down the street some man said “If I want you, I can get ya,” and he repeated it as if I knew without a doubt he would succeed. I’ve been approached by women and men and the times I’ve been approached by women (who look like men) they were nice. Then there are the times where you wonder who in the hell raised you and where is your mother.

There was this time I turned down a man’s advances while grocery shopping and he stuck around the store until I left and I had to immediately think of an alternative route to go home that included driving past a police station. There’s also the time my neighbor of over 10 years asked me out to dinner because “you’re grown and I’m grown” and I had to politely turn him down even though in my mind I was saying “HEEEEEELLLLLLL NOOOOO YOU OLD ASS CREEPY ASS GET YOUR ASS OFF OUR DRIVEWAY!” Our creepy ass neighbor is a whole notha’ story.

My point is, no one—female or male—should be harassed or killed because of rejection. But I strongly feel women need more protection because we carry a lot on our shoulders. There is already the huge disparity between how women of color and white women are treated. Black women march in the streets for our men. We hold up signs and scream #blacklivesmatter in the face of injustice and the same love should be reciprocated. In article by Damon Young of VSB, he stated one of the biggest threats to women are men. Although relevant, men discussing how men can stop these occurrences doesn’t happen enough.

Take a look around blogs Everyday Sexism Project and When Women Refuse and read the countless personal and news stories of women speaking out against violent street harassment of their own.

Unfortunately, Janese Talton-Jackson will not be the last. So, what can we do? As women, what can we do to protect ourselves to prevent being killed or harmed simply because we don’t want to talk to a guy? I find myself concluding nothing, absolutely nothing.

*This post was originally posted 02/06/2016 and later restored, reedited and republished. Read about that here. It may or may not contain original photos used.



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