I'm Just Not Interested: Street Harassment


My morning began with a debate - that shouldn't have been a debate at all - about the entitlement men have toward women they approach. Before I even had a chance to finish my green tea and the small cup of ginger beer my co-worker passed my way, I was knee-deep in a discussion about how a woman's refusal to share her name with a man that was following her around a grocery store was rude, unnecessary and isolating. I found myself defending a woman who chose not to give her name to a stranger, before I even had the chance to draft up my day's to-do list. Yet here I am, taking more time to write about this seemingly complex issue. An issue that shouldn't be complex at all. An issue that can simply be solved by understanding that women don't have to share their name, number or conversation with anyone they don't want to. 

I'm sure we've all seen videos, heard stories or even experienced a guy walking up to us when we're just not in the mood to chat. I'm sure we've all seen videos, heard stories or even experienced the backlash that comes from declining an invitation for conversation with a man that seemed so vested in getting to know you. I've heard all types of b-words thrown at me for not being responsive to a strange man's sexual advances toward me. And now - in a society where I have the right to choose who I do and do not decide to befriend - women are being considered rude (and even isolating), based on their desire - or lack thereof - to entertain these behaviors. 

I posted on Facebook earlier about the right we have as women to select who we want to respond to and in what manner we choose to respond. While, I firmly believe in being kind to all people (as stated here), it is our choice whether or not we want to respond; and how we choose to do so. The fact of the matter is simply: we don't have to

We don't have to smile and blush at the sound of men whistling at us like we're pets and they're ready to play fetch. We don't have to be flattered by men's "hey ma; hey baby; you sho' is fine" or whatever other 'pleasant' introductions they choose to woo women with. We don't have to jump for joy when men grab our arms or touch our waists, in an attempt to get our attention. And, we certainly don't have to stick around and be ridiculed for not responding to any of these, or the other inconsiderate gestures men use to start conversations, get our numbers or take off our panties. 

Street harassment is real. And toward the end of 2014 there have been eye-opening articles and videos to prove this. Coverage on women who have been assaulted or killed because of a denial surfaced all over Facebook from news outlets. What's most baffling to me, is the sense of entitlement these strangers have for the women they approach. What is going on in this unstable, damaged, yet beautifully invigorating world that women cannot decline an advance, a phone number or unwanted attention?  

Queens, let me be real clear: you have the right to choose who you want to engage in conversation with and who you don't. While there are tactful ways to downplay an advance, the choice is truly yours. Don't let anyone tell you different. Don't let anyone's demeaning comments after their rejection, force you to change your mind. Don't let the negative comments about you after ignoring a sexual pass, convince you that you were in the wrong. Don't let your friend that likes making ineffective decisions, guilt you into returning to talk to that strange man with no respect for your space or your body. 

I'm wholeheartedly tired of street harassment, but I'm most tired of the fear I see in the eyes of women who genuinely don't want to talk to these men. Women who simply want to get to where they have to go, without the sound of snickering and the feeling of eyes gazing at her dips and curves. Women who are afraid to walk down the street alone because there are men outside and they just don't want to be bothered. Women who politely respond with a simple "hi" as they continue to pass and then get followed for more conversation; because the polite "hi" still wasn't enough, and it may have been better for her to just have ignored him completely. 

While I can't answer the question regarding the root of men's entitlement issue - understanding men isn't quite my forte' - I can throw a little encouragement your way. Coming from a woman who's been followed by a man she's ignored, and a man she politely said "hi" to: street harassment is not okay. Keep gliding, queens. Keep walking with your head high and your back straight. Keep listening to your heels tap against the sidewalk as their mumbling serves as the beat to which you walk to. Keep maintaining the high standards that don't allow you to stop for men that grab you or call you out of your name. And keep praying that you don't have to tase these fools. If you must, learn kickboxing, karate or any other method of self-defense you'd prefer; but never let the fear of a man's response to your rejection, snatch away your free will to choose who you entertain. Never. 

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