Street Harassment Is Not Flattery

I was sitting outside a store eating ice cream with a friend when a car pulled up to a light on the street in front of us. The windows were rolled down, and there were two twenty something guys inside. They looked at us and started yelling at us.

“Hey ladies! Come get in the car with us! Lets go get a beer!”

Mortified, my friend and I refused to look in their way and tried to continue our conversation. We’d done nothing to invited these men’s attention beyond sitting outside while female. It didn’t help that we ignored them; the men continued yelling.

“Come on, babes! Get in the car with us! Come on, what are you waiting for?”

The light was taking forever to change and the men were not stopping. My friend and I stood and walked back to the store, and for the shelter and protection it would offer. The men yelled one last thing after us as we walked away:

“That’s okay, you’re ugly anyway!”

And there are people who claim that women shouldn’t complain about street harassment, because it’s a form of flattery. Flattery my ass. Far from making me feel flattered, street harassment makes me feel afraid. Because a man who feels it is his right to yell at me, a complete stranger, and that if I ignore him when he does so then I am the one treating him badly, is not a man I feel safe around. At all.

At a gut level, street harassment makes me want to stay out of public spaces, to sit inside restaurants rather than outside, and to never go anywhere alone. In these moments I tangibly feel the reality that my body is seen as public property and my words are not respected. And if that’s not scary, I don’t know what is.

What experiences have you had with street harassment? How does street harassment make you feel?

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