I haven’t followed the #Occupy protests very carefully. Maybe that’s because I am one of the few people left in the country who still has full time employment. Maybe it’s because I also go to school at night. Maybe it’s because I’m simply tired. For whatever reason, I haven’t been involved in it.
However, it has got me thinking about space. The concept of ‘occupying’ – going into another person’s or symbol’s or brand’s “space” in order to protest. This has long been a method of protestors and dissenters, but people don’t seem to understand how that concept relates to women.
Like my sisters all over the globe, I face street harassment on a regular basis. To me, it’s not just a question of my perceived sexuality, or men’s lack of sensitivity to the tenuous relationship I have with my body. It’s about space. Because I am now out in public, I am in their space. I am out in the man’s world instead of the safety and protection of the kitchen – the one ‘space’ that has ever really been designated as belonging to women.
When Virginia Woolf said “every woman needs a room of her own,” I believe that she was speaking about more than just the power to lock a door and the courage to let one’s creative juices flow, uninhibited. I believe she also was referencing the fact that it is a man’s world. This world was not, in fact, made for you and me. And so when I walk down the street, I can see that men think I am invading their space, their territory. When they step aside to let me pass, it is not because I have just as much a right to be there as they do, because the street belongs to me just as it does to them. Instead, it is because I am in their space and they have the right to make the decision whether to let me pass. Or not.
More often than even I care to admit, I will be instead subjected to catcalls, whistles, ‘hey mamas’, and all other manner of harassment that all boils down to the same message: you deserve it. Hey, you step out into the street, into the public sphere, then you should expect to be harassed. You need to be put in your place. You do not belong here.
What does all of this have to do with Steven Greenstreet? I won’t dignify him or his thoughts with a link, but this is a man who thought it would be funny to post video of the ‘hottest women at Occupy Wall Street.” I didn’t cringe when I saw this. Instead, I wished sincerely that he was in front of me so I could punch him in the face.
And so I’d like to ask Steven Greenstreet a favor: please act like a woman. Please go down to your local Occupy protest and then have women take close up photos of your pelvic region. Because that’s what you’ve done to the women who are participating in Occupy Wall Street. You’ve taken their strong, passionate voices, calling for change, and you’ve sexually objectified their bodies. You’ve opened them up to judgement and ridicule and criticism and humiliation. And you think it’s funny. You think it’s funny to judge women by their looks, and to degrade and dismiss their voices. And so I’d like you to please reverse roles with them.
Of course, this won’t really work. Because even if we were all to take embarrassing photos of Steven’s sexuality and then post it online for all the world to see, he STILL wouldn’t understand what it was like. Every day to go into a space that you know belongs to you, only to have the reigning bankers mock, ridicule, and sexually humiliate you at every turn. Steven would perhaps only get a very, very small glimpse of a taste of what it is like to be a woman in a man’s world.
Still though, I think it would be valuable. Not just for Steven, but for all the men who have thought his rape jokes were funny and that women are overreacting. That by showing up looking hot, we were asking for it. That being sexually harassed and humiliated is the same thing as being admired and respected. And so Steven, let me know where and when you are going to be showing up at an #Occupy protest, and I promise I’ll be there to take photos of every piece of your body that can be judged by the world.
Is your butt too big or too small? Is your hairline receding? Is your ‘manliness’ big and strong or weak and wimpy? Let’s post video of you from just the neck down and tear you and your body apart on the internet. Then, let’s encourage every one else to do to you all day, every day, every time you step out of your house or turn on the TV.
Let’s see if anyone hears anything you’re saying then. Let’s see what kind of a man you are, then.
Photo Credit: Annapolis Political Scene