29 Things Women Avoid Doing to Circumvent Sexual Harassment

I would love it if my readers checked out this link: it is dead-on.  I have done all the things on this list as well as the following (Note: this is not necessarily a list of what women should do to avoid harassment, but what many women actually do on a regular basis.  Ideally, you wouldn’t/shouldn’t need to do these things.):

-No longer going to cafes/restaurants alone – even though reading/working at coffeeshops used to be a favorite pastime – because there is a high chance that random creepy strangers will approach me, and interrupt what I’m doing to hit on me/give me unwanted attention.

-No longer taking walks/jogging outdoors, even in daylight.

-Purposefully dressing frumpily to avoid looking pretty/the least bit glamorous.  I now avoid dresses and skirts like the plague.

I would also like to highlight the parts of the list that accurately apply to me:

-Actually becoming suspicious of any/all men on public transportation, just because I have had too many instances where one tried to hit on me, and didn’t relent after I said I wasn’t interested;

-Avoiding eye contact/smiling.  You know that awkward moment sometimes when you accidentally make eye contact with a stranger?  50% of the time this happened with a male, he took it as an opportunity to hit on me (not cool.)

-Avoiding small talk with strange men.  In my experience, if a strange guy approaches you with a seemingly innocent questions like “do you know how to get to….? or “what is the time?”, they are just looking for an excuse to converse with you.  This in itself isn’t a problem, but like I mentioned before, many people don’t leave you alone when you express disinterest in having a conversation.

-Being the target of staring (always creepy and rude.)

-Being afraid to meet by myself maintenance guys, electricians, and landlords because they have tried to hit on me in the past.

29 Things Women Avoid Doing Because We Fear For Our Safety

Aaand finally…Annoying typical reaction whenever I complain about the above situations:

-Being told that I shouldn’t complain and just get over myself by people who have not had the same experiences.  This is in spite of the fact that many of these people openly complain about how they hate small talk, don’t like it when random people solicit them (usually for charity donations and such), and being bothered by strangers in general.  However, if I complain about it, I’m being irrational and paranoid.

The Right to Privacy in Public

I have been wanting to write about this topic for some time, but wasn’t sure how to go about it.  The actual topic is sexual harassment, and the unwanted attention that women have to deal with in public.  My commentary will join the billions of blogposts already written about this topic.  However, it seems to me that people are taking a bit too long to just get it. 

Too many people (read: mainly people who themselves don’t get constantly harassed) are quick to counter complaints about harassment/unwanted attention with any of the following:

-we have to stop feeling annoyed, and start feeling flattered, by the attention and compliments,

-we should be polite and accommodating to strangers who are just being “friendly”,

-smiling at strangers makes the world a better place.

While all of these responses irk me VERY much, I can see where they come from:

Unfortunately, many people who propogate these messages do not understand what interacting with strangers means for a lot of women.  Where I’m from, most people expect to be able to go out in public and about their business without actually being bothered by random strangers, and being demanded by strangers to converse with them.  These messages assume strangers helping out a friendly neighbor, an elderly person, or a distressed soul on the verge of committing suicide, rather than a creepy man who demands that women smile at him for his own enjoyment.  Unfortunately, the reality is that the majority, if not only, of strangers who demand attention from me just happen to be old men who, for whatever reason, only seek out interactions from other women.  My swift rejections to these advances are immediately met by “Hey!  I’M JUST TRYING TO TALK TO YOU!” and “Why don’t you give me a chance?”

I cannot stand or sit alone for more than five minutes outside in my city without being bothered by one of these idiots.  Unfortunately, poetic rhetoric is not on my side.  Apparently, we are obligated to smile to light up some other person’s day and converse with random strangers to alleviate their loneliness.

Or are we?  It has long been known that the definitions of being nice and polite have been warped against females so that rejecting male attention actually compromises our morality.  However, no one is actually obligated to interact with another civilian against their will on public transportation, in a store/mall, in a park, etc.  The difference is that women are likely to get too much unwanted attention, and then criticized for rejecting it.

The fact that many women feel uncomfortable in the presence of strange men is so misunderstood that, during the Trayvon Martin trial, women repeatedly became the punching bag as the racist bitches who avoided black men in elevators and on the street.  Therefore, George Zimmerman happened.  Even the President of the United States didn’t get it!  Has it ever occurred to some people that these women may have just been avoiding strange black men because they were avoiding, well, strange men?  And that they may be avoiding strange men because they have had previous negative experiences with strange men?  (Which is why I appreciate this nice response to Questlove’s annoying rant.)  Now, you can argue that women avoiding black men is racist, and thus women avoiding men is sexist.  Sure, I’ll give you that.  But as long as they aren’t going out of their way to shoot you, harass you, or disenfranchise you, you haven’t got much to worry about.

This is a good article describing one girl’s experiences with harassment under the guise of stranger-friendliness in the D.C. area, which is very similar to my experiences in San Francisco.  People who insist that everyone regularly interact with strangers assume that all strangers are sane and should not make the person feel uncomfortable.  They also forget that circumstances differ in places like big cities.  Many women, feeling the need to be polite, end up disregarding their feelings of discomfort and vulnerability, and possibly put themselves in danger.  It is about time we stop this nonsense.

Street Harassment

It happens.  All. The Freakin’. Time.

I have been catcalled and sexually harassed so many times on the way to work that I no longer feet comfortable walking outdoors. I stopped jogging outdoors at a nearby park because I would get yelled at by random men sitting on benches.

How you dress is not a factor in whether you get harassed. I was mainly harassed on the way to and from work, and my work attire of choice is pantsuits. I have also been harassed on Saturday morning trips to the grocery store wearing sweats, a hoodie, no makeup and glasses. If a woman happens to look nice when she gets harassed or assaulted, it is in no way her fault for “asking for it”. It is repulsive that people think that.

The other day I was purchasing a coffee at a café and the male cashier (of about middle age) said, “You look nice today.” I thanked him politely, but honestly thought that his comment was out of place. The most personal comment I ever got from a cashier was “I like your shirt.” However, having worked as a cashier myself, I would never think of just telling a random customer “You look really nice”, even though it is technically a compliment.

That being said, I don’t think I will start a campaign against polite compliments that are slightly out of place. Yes, they are slightly creepy, but I can get past an unsettling cashier. It is the public transit/street harassment that has to stop.

This post is based on some comments I posted (under a different name) on these really good articles about street harassment:

On Men Who Think Street Harassment Would Be Awesome

Why You Should Not Tell That Random Girl On the Street That She’s Hot