What it feels like to be street harassed

Three minutes ago, you were walking down the street, swinging your bag with your new pink Mizunos (Wendy Davis’ brand! The best sneaker to fight the patriarchy in!) around like a pinwheel, laughing with your friends on your way to dinner at that latin-asian fusion place on 14th you had heard so much about.

Your heart is filled with happiness at the place where you are in your life, the friends you have, the city you live in – and then a man walks straight up to you, legitimately STARING at your breasts, and says “oh baby, look at those tits!” You stare at him in disbelief, and the man explains, “aw baby, I’m a man! They’re hanging out! I GOTTA LOOK!”

As he keeps on walking down 14th, you’re overcome with the need to cuss at him in response – which you do, yelling it without hesitation back in his direction. You feel justified in your response, but it doesn’t change how you feel – suddenly you feel like a piece of meat, out on display.

size_550x415_6-26-11 anti-street harassment march, dc, by Mark 362

You adjust your dress, your bra, trying to hide yourself beneath fabric. 10 minutes ago, you loved this dress, which you call your “Katniss” dress, because it has arrows all over it and you feel like you’re channeling the Girl on Fire. Now you hate it, because it has that weird button thing which sometimes can have it show some cleavage.

You push it out of your mind after a couple of blocks, and enjoy dinner with your friends, for the most part. But you can’t help it – every once in a while, you check down on your shirt situation – is that stupid button popping open?

On the walk home, late at night, you grow even more self-conscious. You throw on your cardigan and button it up, even though it’s 88 degrees outside and incredibly humid, since D.C. is a swamp and it’s August. As you walk up 11th, you fold your arms up over your chest, picking up your pace. You feel vulnerable – like anybody can just feel welcome to comment on your body. You are suddenly acutely aware of your hips, your belly, your arm fat. You feel insecure, remember that guy that leered at you this morning out of his car, the one who whistled at you last week. You curse your large chest, your curvy hips, your clothes. You begin to blame yourself. What were you thinking, wearing that dress today? You should know better than to walk around like that.

Those few little words – which that man probably barely even thought about again all day – affected every single movement you made for the rest of your evening. It interrupted your focus at dinner, made you insecure in your body, shook your self-confidence, and made you feel unsafe.  For those few moments, your body was not your own – and that changed everything.

 

Becka Wall is a DC young professional and blogger who enjoys talking about politics, feminism, equality, and great brunch spots. Follow her musings on twitter @beckawall.

Photo Credit: Stop Street Harassment 

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  • holytaco

    Mmm nice tits!

  • Sigh, yeah. This happens far too often. I know the feeling it gives you. Can easily ruin your day.