The Sexist

Sexist Comments of the Week: “Where Grody Dudes Leave Women Alone”

Last week, I asked you whether there are any cities where street harassment dare not rear its ugly head. As many commenters made clear, street harassment isn't about where you are—it's about who you are:

A woman:

Honks, shouts, barks, cat calls, offers for a ride, “smile baby”—in a nice, progressive town in Arkansas. This isn’t regional. If there’s a place on Earth where grody dudes leave women alone, I’ve never heard of it. —a. brown

A lesbian:

Having lived in Philly (center city and south Philly) for the previous six years, I can say that street harassment does happen there– but in my case, it was generally from crazy/homeless people. I got a lot of guys yelling at me to ask if I had a boyfriend/was looking for a date or some “company”– one man, when I told him no, I was not looking for a boyfriend, offered to “bite that angry p*ssy all night long.”

I now live in Savannah, GA, and while people are a bit more…pleasant in the terms they use, I have gotten a lot of attention (I don’t wear short skirts/revealing clothing at all…if anything I’m pretty dykey). In a particularly unpleasant incident earlier this week, I was sitting in my window having a cigarette and a middle aged black man shouted up to me that he loved me and had something to tell me, and when would I next be down on the porch so he could talk to me?

I haven’t had anyone try to touch me in either city, but I’ve been trailed by cars, shouted at, catcalled, and had all manners of “love” professed to me everywhere I’ve been. I used to say that sure, I was flattered, but honestly I’m not. I’d like to be left alone. My girlfriend would appreciate it too.

A curvy WOC:

I think it also depends on WHO is not experiencing the harassment. I know that being a curvy woman of colour has made the likelihood of being street harassed WAY higher than my skinnier, whiter friends. For some reason because I have body fat, any clothing I put on can be over-sexualized. I’ve been harassed when a girl wearing MUCH less clothing walked right before me.

Also, I’m not sure how I feel about implying that being in a “safe, middle class” neighborhood makes one less likely to be subjected to street harassment. In New York I live in Harlem and I have only been catcalled *once* by a construction worker. The others didn’t even glance twice. However, when I’m around my work in Midtown…oh the street harassment is BAD.

So in short, I think it is about who you are and where you are in combination. I definitely did get touched a LOT when I lived in DC, however. New York is a welcome change. —Wagatwe

Young:

I’ve lived in suburban and rural towns. Like some of the others here, I saw more street harassment when I was 11-12 years old (and more conservatively dressed) than now. No one would argue I was “more attractive” in braces and a bob. I suppose that various 20-40-something creeps think pre-teens are more receptive and clueless i.e. vulnerable. Moving hasn’t changed anything; looking like a legal adult has. —h

Alone:

In my research on street harassment, I’ve found it happens pretty much everywhere, though I personally think it’s lower in places w/higher rates of gender equity. But my research shows that if you drive or are often accompanied by others in public you’re not going to experience it as much as someone who walks or takes public transportation and often is alone in public. Young women, women of color, and members of the LGBQT community tend to experience it more. So if someone feels there isn’t much harassment in their area compared to another, it may be that you’re not in public as often or in the same way that you used to be. —hollykearl

Near a harasser:

8 years ago, i moved from Philly (south of South) to DC.

Harassment there? Yes. In DC, i’ve perceived far more and what harassment I’ve observed often takes to the more severe–same floor, higher ceiling.

Harassments don’t all have the same motive. Some people are just being assholes. Some people are actually trying to be pickup artists (of a low class variety). Some think they are supposed to boisterously express sudden extreme attractions. Maybe there are other kinds.

To be harassed, one must be near persons willing to harass. —DB

Photo via The U.S. National Archives

Comments

  1. #1

    How is people of color not offensive? I feel like that is something that stopped being said 50 years ago. And is there anyone that doesn't have color? Clear people?

  2. #2

    LOL @ KZA. That having been said, I'm not sure I agree with the claim here. Street harassment is much less about who you are (except that you're a woman -- but within that criterion, being a particular race/body type/whatever won't protect you), much more about who your harasser is. Does he respect women? Does he have any notion how to chap up girls in a nonthreatening way? Does he recognize that basic rules of human decency such as "mind your own business" apply to women, too? If he's harassing you, presumably the answer is "no"... anyhow, the answers to these questions will depend on the culture and social norms to which he's accustomed. So it's not surprising that different regions, cities & neighborhoods would have different amounts of street harassment. I've lived in D.C. & I've noticed that the amounts of creepy behavior & unsavory comments is much less in other parts of the country.

  3. #3

    kza: I don't know, why don't you ask the woman of color who identifies herself as a woman of color whether she finds it offensive that she identifies herself that way?

  4. #4

    @Emily H. I agree, but I also think that a lot of people who perceive an area to be free of street harassment are perhaps only considering their own personal situations. The question in places where street harassment happens isn't necessarily "Does he respect women?" but also "Does he respect young women? Does he respect trans women? Does he respect gay women? Does he respect black women?" If I'm an older, white, heterosexual, cisgender lady, I may not notice harassment in areas where the norm of acceptable harassment cuts along these lines.

  5. #5

    I'd have to find the official person of color spokeswoman.

  6. #6

    @kza I think it's the term "coloured people" that's stopped being used a long time ago (however I've still heard that being used within the past 50 years since I'm only twenty-something). I use the terms "people of colour" "women of colour" "men of colour," etc . and never found them offensive. I have other friends who use the term and identify as such without offense.

    To each their own, I suppose.

  7. #7

    It offends people of No color.

  8. #8

    What term do you prefer kza?

  9. #9

    Scary Joann: Invisible?

    Perhaps we should pretend he is for the duration of whatever conversation graces this comments section, if only to keep things relevant.

  10. #10

    I live in Egypt, so this isn't totally relevant to your premise, but I just want to throw it out there because I think it's funny how context can change things.

    Around here, the females who get the most harassment (every female in Cairo gets harassed on a daily basis, even local women in baggy, ankle-length dresses and head coverings) are white, thin, blonde girls, emphasis on the blonde. I'm very white and have light brown hair, but my friends who look a lot like me except for being blonde get exponentially more harassment. I guess street pervs go for whoever stands out the most.

  11. #11

    I think there are instances in which how you look affects if you are going to be harassed. I completely understand what Wagatwe said, except I had different experiences. I have many plus size friends, and I am not the thinnest person either (although I know I do not belong within the plus sized category) - I find that white plus sized women are rarely catcalled. Harassment happens for another reason altogether - but society has said these bodies are not sexual and something to be mocked. I would say that the plus sized women of colour's body has been overtly sexualized and thus more prone to harassment.

    As for the groups, I have never been harassed while I am alone. I generally walk many places alone, but I have not been approached ever yet (thank goodness!). But, I have been approached and harassed while in a group. The last time unsettled me as I was not expecting it - I was out with 2 of my male friends. Generally that makes you "safe". Yet I was "propositioned" by 5 older men standing in the dark behind a Tim Hortons. My guy friends did nothing, and I just kept walking - standing even closer to my friends than before. I thought being in the company of men made me "safe". I had my defences down - and normally it wouldn't have bugged me - but I was caught by surprise and struck by fear.

  12. #12

    I get harassed on the streets pretty regularly as a man. Especially around the time of happy hour and weekend let outs. While it may be annoying, a woman followed me for at least five blocks trying to convince me to "give her some of that 'big black dick', I never feel unsafe.

    Race makes it interesting at times though. If I am with a woman of colour, ahem, a more highly melanated woman, white women, or those less melanated, gawk with reckless abandon. Now, if I'm with a white woman all types a sh*t is bound to be said, done and looks to kill will be administered. One woman, I believe the same from the first story stopped by white homegirl and asked, "How you get that fine black man?!"

    What I would like to know is where or what is the line between street harassment and trying to holla holla holla?

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