Today I want to talk to you all about a subject that has affected me directly. A topic that is very close to my heart. Something that if we all band together, we could stop completely. I am talking about Harassment. Lately the topic of harassment has come into just about every conversation I have had with my girl friends. Whether it's something as simple ass “OMG that jerk just grabbed my ass” while we were out at a bar or “You'll never believe what this guy just said to me while I was walking to Walgreens.” to “Dude, look what this creep just asked me on tinder!!”- it is CONSTANTLY coming up these days.
Recently there have also been some of videos that have gone viral online where women have recorded their day walking around busy streets of Manhattan, LA, and other major cities and it has started a discussion amongst city dwellers about what appropriate street etiquette is. I for one, live in Downtown Los Angeles. For those of you who have never been to my neighborhood- it is quite an odd mix of characters. It's a mixture of young professionals, hipsters, bankers, and of course- LA's notorious homeless population just a few streets over on skid row. Basically to skip right to the point- when I walk out my door on any given day, I'm never quite sure who I am going to meet. My personal preference of street etiquette is to be left completely alone. I pop my headphones in and walk to my destination. I do not want to talk to strangers. Maybe that makes me a bitch. So be it. I don't feel that I owe my time to a complete stranger who blindsided me out of nowhere. Women like me have been criticized that we just “don't know how to take a compliment”... NEWSFLASH a stranger shouting “shake that ass” or honking at us while crossing the street IS NOT A COMPLIMENT. It is abuse. It's those types of comments or gestures that objectify women and contribute to rape culture. It is SAD that this is our culture. That men are not being raised to respect women. After I post this I have to walk to the bank which is roughly a 5 minute walk from my front door and I am DREADING the fact that my roommate is not home to walk with me because I know I'll have to dodge strange conversations with at least 7 people I have never met and will probably never see again.
In the past year since moving to a big city I have been harassed on the street more times than I can count. The other day in fact, I was getting out of my car in KoreaTown and as I stood up a group of guys honked at me and shouted and I dropped my starbucks all over myself. If you are making a woman JUMP from fear- that is NOT ok. Would you want that to happen to your mother? Or your sister? Didn't think so. I have been followed for 15 minutes, forced to make polite conversation with a total stranger and called a bitch when I wouldn't engage. I have even had to make up fake boyfriends or say I was a lesbian so that I had a “reason” to be uninterested in these strangers... and all I can think is WHY?! WHY DO I NEED A REASON TO NOT BE INTERESTED IN SOMEONE WHO COMPLETELY CAUGHT ME OFF GUARD ON THE STREET?! Can't I just be a single white female who is not interested in you?
It's even carrying over into the online dating world. I can't tell you how many times I have been asked if I am “DTF” and “want to meet up right now..” No. No, I do not want to meet up with a complete stranger I swiped right on ten seconds ago- no I do not want to go to your apartment, I am not even sure if you are who you say you are and luckily for me, I watch the news. Some other gems are: “When was the last time you had sex”- & when I refused to answer that question I was called a PRUDE. Ha, which is actually quite laughable to anyone who knows me even a little bit- but to this man if I didn't want to immediately divulge my sexual past to a complete and utter stranger, I must be a prude virgin. Obviously. * hair flip *. I've been called a “cunt” because I didn't respond to a message quickly enough, I've been called “ugly” because I didn't want to go on a second date because I just didn't feel any chemistry... WHAT IS WITH YOU ASSHOLES AND YOUR EGOS?!?! An acquaintance of mine has even started an entire instagram account dedicated to these fools- aptly named “Felipes” where she posts screenshots of heinous conversations with douchebags who lack complete respect for women. (Go check it out @byefelipe).
Oh but it doesn't stop there- even the articles in Men's & WOMEN's magazines like Men's Health & Cosmopolitan constantly have articles like “27 easy ways to wow him in bed” and “48292021 things that will make him yours forever” even something as simple as “what to wear on a first date” - So you're telling me the way we dress, how much we weigh, how big our breasts are, the way we present ourselves in public, the things we do in bed... should all be geared towards finding and pleasing a man?!?! YOU PEOPLE HAVE LOST YOUR DAMN MINDS. I am not an object. I am not something that should be OWNED. I have opinions and political views and they may not always line up with everyone else's- I will speak my mind, I will wear what I want, I will act how I want, I will speak to (or not speak to) whomever I please, I will exercise for MYSELF, I will have sex because I ENJOY IT and nothing or NO ONE will ever have the power to make me feel bad about it.
UGH. End rant. Sort of.
So with all that being said, please allow me to point out the difference between being a creep & CAT-CALLING A WOMAN and a “Compliment”
The TONE: I am a woman, I KNOW when someone has less than savory intentions when they speak to me. I am not stupid. There is an enormous difference between the statements “You look lovely today” & “Damn girl you are looking hot” (while staring at me like I am a fucking cheeseburger and biting your lip. Barf). There is also a difference between “I really dig your style” and “Your ass looks great in those jeans”. Similar statements, completely different intentions. So for all you men who are claiming that we “can't take a compliment” MAYBE just maybe- you should change your fucking tone and step your game up.
KNOWING WHEN TO BACK OFF: You may think that it is innocent enough to tell someone they are looking good today. Fine. Whatever. But if that person clearly is disinterested in continuing a conversation with you- leave it be. Don't push. She is not a “bitch” or a “whore” because she doesn't feel like talking to you. She simply, just doesn't feel like having a conversation at that exact moment. Even if it's just in a simple tinder message- if she doesn't want to chat that is her prerogative. The end.
The ATMOSPHERE: There is a big difference between saying hi to someone in the elevator in your building- or even in a bar setting- than following a stranger you saw in the street.
TOUCHING SOMEONE: When going to touch someone- even in the most innocent way- please ask yourself the following question: Do you know this person? If the answer is no.... than NO.
At the end of the day it is SO simple: Learn to read a woman's body language. Respect her personal space (i.e. don't fucking touch people you do not know- yes, this includes touching a girls hips in a bar to say “Excuse me”- this is my BIGGEST PET PEEVE EVER.), if you're going to give a compliment- give a REAL one-not one that makes her feel like a piece of meat being dangled in front of a rabid dog. I don't know why all these crazy people in cities have decided that it is ok to act like sex starved construction workers but it has got to stop.
Ok. Now the rant is really over.
Photos by: Ilse Helgen