Walking down the street: a trick or a treat?

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Walking down the street. It’s something we do every day. As common as washing our hands or brushing our teeth. And yet, when you are a woman, this simple act can result in a lot of different actions and emotions.

When you’re a woman walking down the street, chances are some men will let you know they noticed. Some will say hi, which can be nice. Others will say or do other, less pleasant things.

I must admit: sometimes I don’t feel comfortable walking down the street. For instance, when there’s catcalling, whistling and/or shouting involved. Or when I feel men are looking me up and down as I walk by, often with a big smirk on their face. Some think women should take this behaviour as a compliment. Maybe some women do. But why should all women be grateful for it, if for a lot of us it doesn’t ever, even remotely feel like a positive thing?

The big problem for me is that I feel there is no respect in this kind of behaviour, merely lust and a sense of ownership: “You’re walking here, looking the way you do, hence I’m entitled to something from you.” It makes me cringe and to be honest, feel very vulnerable. Like I’m in the midst of a power game, one that I’m never winning. This kind of behaviour never for a second feels like a compliment.

But I could be wrong. Maybe secretly the only thing women want to do all day is walk the streets to please men

But I could be wrong. Maybe secretly the only thing women want to do all day is walk the streets to please men. Maybe we want to feel like sexual beings, and nothing else, 24/7. Well I don’t. Not like that, and definitely not to please every man I cross.

Some men don’t understand what the fuzz is about. They say they would love to be checked out by women like that. But they don’t realize that the things being said are less “You look very pretty today miss” and more “Suck my dick you who”. Also, there is still the matter of men being physically stronger than women. That, to me, is always a factor in these kinds of situations. Because it can become hostile. If you don’t react the way your “admirer” wants you to, there is always the possibility that he will physically harm you.

If the catcalling, whistling and shouting were really a compliment, then it wouldn’t matter or bother the giver what the response is. A compliment is a gift and the receiver is free to do with it as he or she pleases. Also, if we are really talking about a compliment, then the men so eager to share them with the world would surely not mind if other men acted the same way around, for example, their mothers, girlfriends and sisters. I wonder…

So no. Often it is a power game. An intimidation game. Nothing to do with seducing or pleasing women. You can tell that some of these men love it when their behaviour makes you seem embarrassed or ill at ease.

It’s true, everyone is different and reacts differently in certain situations, and I don’t think it’s possible or even a good idea to draw the line between good and bad street behaviour and publish a bestselling book about it. Women, as much as men, are all different. Some women may like the whistling, while others don’t.

Having said all this, I stubbornly continue to have great faith in humanity. I also trust grown men (and women for that matter) are wise enough to know the difference between a compliment and sexual harassment. I do wish some of them would stop insisting on proving me wrong.

(2015)


Interesting links

Femme de la rue

Projet crocodiles (French, stories of harassment and sexism told as cartoons )

Street harassment in NY

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