Saturday, April 09, 2016

On Street Harrasment and Speaking Up

This is reposted from a Facebook post.

Facebook: What's on your mind?

Me: Glad you asked. If you've seen either of my last two videos, street harrassment and a culture of consent (thank you Burning Man Global Leadership Conference) are top of mind right now.

Let me just say that I personally think that we do have a right to say hello to each other in public spaces.  I'd say where the line was drawn last night is that we do NOT have the right to expect and receive a response.

Last night a gentleman didn't receive one after multiple attempts to engage a woman waiting for a cab. So I spoke up, and not for her, but as witness to her and the situation. I know women can speak up for themselves. At the same time, I can only imagine how hard it is to want to say No but not, because even THAT is a response that can actually encourage further harassment, so the safest thing to do might be to do and say nothing.

And I certainly appreciate the expression of concern from friends, and am seriously thinking about taking self-defense classes. But my concern for the lady simply feeling safe and knowing she wasn't alone trumped my own feeling of safety, not that I ever felt unsafe. We were right in front of a bar we had just exited, and staff was right inside still closing and cleaning up.

I will say while I've been accused of not being a native Washingtonian, I've never been called a "leader of gentrification" or "the biggest contributor to black-on-black crime", the latter of which I didn't even realize was potentially a veiled threat until friends asked me to simply be safe. But those and other attempted insults, including calling out my perceived sexuality, only reinforced how absurd this conversation was in the first place.

On the latter though, I found it ironic that in saying women felt safer around gay men, he implied that straight men by nature are predatory and/or don't make women feel safe...not helping his point at all.

I guess my only thought is that while silence on her part was an attempt to not engage, does silence on the part of people nearby condone the behavior, at least when in public spaces? I understand the concern for personal safety, but again, if that's what we feel as a passerby, what must the person who's the object of that attention feel. Not saying there's a right answer, but I can't stop asking the question.

Anyway, personally I will be looking more into the work of Collective Action for Safe Spaces. If you haven't heard of them, it's an organization "working to empower people in the DC metropolitan area to build a community free from public sexual harassment and assault."

And if you have your own story to share, maybe we should make a night of it, to raise awareness and keep the conversation going.

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