Hey Baby, I’m Talking To You!

1 Dec

If you’re a young woman and have been in any big city for at least 24 hours then you know what I’m talking about.

It starts out with the kissy noise or the whistle you hear faintly behind you, but you convince yourself maybe it was just in your head….then the catcalls start.

“Hey baby!”

“Can I get some of that over here?”

And the ever so classy “Mmmmm…nice ass!”

The cocoon of independence, confidence and empowerment you weave around yourself every morning has been split open.

You tuck your coat even tighter around you. You quicken your pace, and you finally heave an exasperated sigh, because it has happened once again. You’ve been a victim of street harassment.

Street harassment towards female pedestrians is an overlooked form of sexual harassment since it doesn’t take place at work or in school. It’s lurking on every sidewalk, at every corner, and in every passing car,  and it can’t be escaped or avoided. It has become an institution in metropolitan cities across the U.S. and has been generally accepted as a product of a male-dominated society.

I’ve been harassed when wearing anything from a dress to a t-shirt and jeans to sweats and at all times of the day whether I’m coming back from a late night at the library, going to class or just doing a quick food run to the grocery. It’s frustrating, it’s belittling, it’s disturbing, and it’s borderline tragic that simply being a female in a public space equals you being public property.

And one day last week, I had enough of it.

I was carrying groceries back to my apartment late Tuesday evening when this older man approaches me and starts making comments about how I look and asking me my age. I executed my usual course of action and just ignored him.

This backfired.

Instead of seeing my blatant aversion as a deterrent, he became angry that I wouldn’t acknowledge him, and the situation escalated. After a few minutes of following me and attempting to talk to me, he physically stepped in front of me and blocked my path.

To make a long story short, my typically calm demeanor evaporated as I found myself locked into a heated yelling match with a very intimidating stranger. He asserted I should be flattered (Ha!) and appreciative (Ha!) of the fact I garnered his attention.  I begged to differ.

This incident uncovers the very root of street harassment: the grossly skewed perception by some males that women enjoy being talked to in sexualized.

It’s patriarchy and male supremacy flexing its muscles, and I refuse to flinch.

My situation didn’t move beyond verbal abuse into violence, but knowing that it easily could have was jolting.

Organizations like HollaBack California, HollaBack New York and the Street Harassment Project were started to give women an outlet for the daily frustrations they face with street harassment and verbal abuse. A growing trend started by the HollaBack sites is to have  women take a mug shot of their harasser and upload it to the site with their personal story. Organizations like this bring street harassment into the public dialogue and help raise social awareness of the sexual terrorization women face every day.

So to the next perv who hits a nerve by thinking my first name is ‘Baby’, I’ll have my camera phone ready.

Beware.

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One Response to “Hey Baby, I’m Talking To You!”

  1. muckrakeable December 16, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    Good for you! It’s insane how much women tend to accept harassment like this as a part of life – as though by nature of the fact that we show ourselves outside, our bodies become part of the public domain, free for anyone to comment on. I read an interesting take on exactly WHY it’s such disturbing behavior – notably, it shows that the harassers regard their own desires as more important than your wishes. There’s no guarantee that their behavior will end there, and women have no way of knowing who’s “merely friendly” and who is dangerous. And even the “merely friendly” ones are overstepping their bounds. Flattering to make someone feel uncomfortable for daring to walk the streets of their own city? Hardly.

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