Saturday, November 1, 2014

Woman Walking

So, I saw this article today:

And it is about the responses to the video below:

Its about a woman who secretly tapes 10 hours of herself walking down a NYC street, silently; she is normally dressed and made-up.  And she experiences over 100 incidents of catcalls, whistles, and other forms of harassment including one uncomfortably close walking buddy for at least five minutes.

Apparently, Hollaback, the organization that produced the video has reported a slew of rape threats and other violent threats posted in response to this video.  While it is clear that this is hitting a nerve in NYC as Hollaback concluded, it makes the reality of our rape culture all the more clear to me.

This reminded me of an incident I experienced walking my dog a few mornings ago, in my oversized sweats, greasy hair pulled back in a pony tail and with some seriously bad morning breath.  (I can say, that it really bothers me that I feel compelled to start this story with what I'm wearing?)  I am accustomed to people complimenting my dog.  He is really, super adorable.

See??  Pretty Puppy!

He's part Corgi, has short little legs, a spunky personality, and always looks like he's smiling.  I'm cool with pretty much anyone complimenting my dog.  Seriously, I know he's adorable, but I love hearing it!

But what I don't love is when men use my adorable Puppy-dog as a way to hit on me.  Its just not cool.  I love my dog, and getting a happy response from me when you compliment him does not, in any way, demonstrate interest in you, Mr. Random-Dude.

So back to the other morning, I pass Mr. Random as we are walking in opposite directions.  And Mr. Random compliments Puppy.  But he says, "Cute dog" in that way I've learned is a segue into chatting me up.  So, I politely say, "Thank you," and keep walking.  I turn the corner, Puppy stops to sniff something, and low and behold, Mr. Random has doubled-back, turned the corner, and headed straight toward me.  I am more than a little uncomfortable, so I call him on it, politely.  I ask, "How are you this morning?"  I hope that my hot-mess of morning breath will deter any other thoughts he might have.  We have an awkward exchange regarding the state of our mornings, and Mr. Random introduces himself and shakes my hand before he high-tails it away from me.  I make sure there's some distance between us before I duck into my building, safe behind a locked security door.

The reality is that Mr. Random really might have been burning time since he was early to work (the sidewalk behind my apartment building is a main thoroughfare for people walking to the BART).  Maybe he decided to go to McDonald's, which is right across the street from the entrance to my apartment building.  I don't know, but as a woman, walking my dog with few other people in sight, I have to be on guard.  Mr. Random, and every other Mr. Random I have yet to encounter, its not personal.  My reality as a woman is that walking is simply not safe.  It is always a risk.

As the video that Shosana B. Roberts shows, and the vile responses to confirm, women are expected by society, to allow men to behave however they wish with the understanding that one of the most common first questions people in our society ask regarding a rape case is, "well, what was she wearing?"  Somehow women are expected to both protect our sexuality while also not telling aggressors that their behavior is inappropriate.  We must self-protect without causing offense.

Every woman experiences this reality.  Every. single. one.  NYC, Atlanta, Chicago, El Cerrito, SF, my small hometown of Valdosta, GA.  This happens all over our nation, and it must stop.

For more on this, check out Stop Street Harrassment at their website or on twitter.