I’ve really contemplated whether I should post this or not. I wrote it a couple weeks ago, scheduled it for posting, then trashed it so I could think a little longer. It seems like street harassment is becoming a popular topic lately. I mean, Huffington Post put this up today. This issue is just something that’s been really bothering me lately. I don’t like taking my dog for a walk and not feeling safe without my husband. And even when he is with me I still get comments shouted at me from passing cars. I’m fed up.
I bought a dress during the Victoria’s Secret Semi-Annual Sale. It’s black, stretchy cotton. Nothing too outrageous. (Partially pictured above with a snuggled little Bea.) And it hugs all the curves. Now originally I bought this dress to wear to a wedding. Technically speaking, it’s not at all inappropriate, but I just couldn’t wear it. Most people who know me are aware that I dress fairly modestly and when I attempt something a little more daring I’m usually uncomfortable the whole time I’m wearing it. Bryce just couldn’t understand why I was so uncomfortable and I think it’s because he is a man who has never been harassed on the street. In fact, I think he got a bit irritated with me. Probably because I bought a dress that I didn’t want to wear, but also because he thought it was a perfectly appropriate dress and I rarely wear anything that doesn’t really cover up my body. Was I overreacting? Maybe a little bit. But even so…
The dress made me feel exposed. Exposed to every man walking down the sidewalk, standing outside, driving down the street. If men will yell, “Stick it in her butt!” to my husband while we’re out for a nice walk with our dog (and I was wearing a plain, t-shirt dress), then what will they do if I’m actually dressed in something appealing? How is it that I can’t even drive down the street without guys trying to talk to me through my window and then following me in their car? I mean, did you know 90% of women experienced street harassment by the time they were 19 years old?
I used to laugh it off because men are supposed to be idiots, right? Wrong.
No, I’m sorry hollering men, but I’m going to give you more credit than that. You know nothing is actually going to happen for you when you yell at a girl on the street. But something will happen to her. You will make that girl feel violated. You will make her question if her plain, appropriately long t-shirt dress is still too provocative to be seen in public. You will make her question her safety, her body, and what on earth to say or do in response. I mean gah dang it, that is my farmer’s market dress! What am I supposed to wear to buy vegetables without “asking for it” (ugh, that’s a whole other thing, don’t even get me started)?!
I’m lucky I’ve never had anything further than someone hollering at me or making disgusting comments when I walk by. It’s sad that not having been assaulted makes me lucky, but frankly it feels like I’m in the minority. Despite that, street harassment has changed my life in more ways than I ever realized.
Ending street harassment matters. StopStreetHarassment.org is a fantastic resource for learning about why it matters and how to deal with harassers. It’s also a place where people can share their stories of harassment.
Maybe one day we will have a generation of men that have learned how to respect women. Until that day comes, I’m not sure my curve-hugging dress will be leaving the closet.