Saturday, November 13, 2010

Street harassment: I'm not stupid, you know!

Today, I was on the receiving end of some street harassment.  It's happened before, and even though this time was pretty unusual, it was no less upsetting.

I was walking to get my hair cut.  It's warm out today, so I didn't wear a winter coat.  As I was walking up the street, there was a line of cars driving slowly down the street in the opposite direction.  Some guy had his window down, and he very clearly, and quite creepily called out.  "Argyle's good, nice choice."  I happened to be wearing a cardigan that has an argyle print on the front.

This harassment was unprovoked and completely creepy.  My sweater is from Old Navy, and while I think it's cute, it's certainly not revealing, nor is it very unique.  The comment was unusually creepy.  Add that to the fact that some guy in a car had made the comment from across the street, and I was upset enough that I actually worried that maybe this guy was going to eventually hunt me down or something, since I was wearing something apparently so distinctive.

Street harassment is unsettling and upsetting.  And most importantly, something that so many people do not understand, it is not at all a compliment.

A compliment is something nice.  It's when someone thinks something nice about you and tells you so.  "Wow, I like your shoes!" said to a friend is a compliment.  "Your performance was really, really moving," said to an actor after a performance is also a compliment.  "Hey, sexy baby!" shouted by a stranger from a car is NOT a compliment.

So, don't assume I'm stupid.  Don't decide that I, along with countless other women, are so stupid that we can't tell the difference between a compliment and harassment.  What happened to me today was harassment.  The man who commented on my appearance was not doing so to make me feel good, and if he thought that's what he was doing, he's an idiot.  The only thing to be gained by harassing someone is the feeling of power that comes with it, while the victim, the woman who's just trying to get to an appointment, who put on that sweater because her room is a mess and she couldn't find the black sweater she wanted, feels helpless, confused, angry, and afraid.

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