When we talk about feminism and sexism, we tend to focus on larger institutional problems like the wage gap and rape legislation. We discuss sexual harassment in the workplace, but less lip service is given to the day to day bullshit women face that over time, can really wear on your spirit. It's the type of exhausting sexism that makes you feel like things are never going to get better.
Hollaback is an initiative to raise awareness about and combat street harassment. They filmed a young woman clad in a simple black t-shirt and jeans—not that it really matters what she was wearing, but the idiots among us love using that to justify verbally and physically abusing women—walking through the streets of New York and captured the staggering amount of street harassment she was subjected to. Over the course of ten hours, Hollaback recorded over one hundred instances of verbal street harassment. They note that the harassment spanned a number of neighborhoods and people of all backgrounds.
It's hard to fully articulate how goddamn infuriating, frustrating and at times, terrifying, street harassment can be. And to be clear, all of it sucks, which we see in this video—from the seemingly innocuous, "Hey what's up girl," to the man who, after she ignored a "compliment" yelled: "Somebody's acknowledging you for being beautiful. You should say thank you more." Sir, fuck your compliment and fuck your entire existence on this planet.
Of course, there was also the guy who silently walked next to her for five minutes.
The first thing that Jezebel ever published by me was about street harassment. I didn't even realize that was what it was called until I saw it tagged as such. When I recently moved from New York to LA, I naively thought I would experience less street harassment. Luckily, I was wrong because apparently this shitty male behavior cuts across a number of cultural barriers.
A few weeks ago I was at a flea market in Los Angeles. As I was buying something from a vendor, I hear a male voice saying: "Hey beautiful" over and over. The vendor I was buying from said, "I think he's talking to you."
I quickly snapped: "My name isn't fucking beautiful." The man who had yelled at me came closer and said: "I just wanted to let you know that I think you're beautiful." I said: "I don't give a fuck what you think."
A few minutes later that same man approached me to apologize. He said he wasn't trying to holler at or bother me, (lies) but just wanted to give me a compliment. I told him that my self-esteem is not dependent upon the affirmation of strangers and he should stop doing that shit to me and other women. To his credit, he was very polite and said he's trying to grow and be a better person. I truly hope that he meant that because having just one man recognize how degrading it is to do that to women is necessary.
Because this? What we see in this video—a woman unable to simply move through a single day of her life without verbal harassment? This shit has got to stop.