It’s that time of year when all the goblins and ghosts and scary monsters come out of their holes. Some are utterly frightening and some are mildly irritating. It’s all pretty creepy, if you ask me. But, what monsters am I referring to? Creepy men (yes, this blog is about creepy men, but stay with me here). Creepy men who demean, stalk and harass women. That is what is truly creepy. So, on this day we call Halloween and the last day of October, Domestic Violence Month, I will deal with an important and often misunderstood topic related to domestic violence and abuse: Harassment.
Harassment is defined as the act of “systematic and/or continued unwanted and annoying actions of one party or a group; or, the act or an instance of disturbing, pestering, or troubling repeatedly.” There are many types of harassment such as (but not limited to): psychological, sexual, gender, workplace, religious, cultural, racial and street. I will discuss street harassment by men towards women in this blog.
I came across the following video of an actress hired by a nonprofit called Hollaback, an organization who is working to end street harassment. She was hired to walk the streets of New York City as an experiment. Please watch this short clip before reading on.
The real motive of street harassment is intimidation. It is to make the target scared or uncomfortable and to make the harasser feel powerful. With worldwide local activists, Hollaback’s goal and mission is to better understand street harassment, to ignite public conversations, and to develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces. Their vision is a world where street harassment is not tolerated and everyone enjoys access to public areas without intimidation.
According to HollaBack,
- If you’ve been harassed, you’re not alone.
- Street harassment is used to exert control over others by making them feel scared or uncomfortable. It is much more than individuals just acting inappropriately.
- There are street harassment “hotspots” in most cities often centered around high pedestrian traffic areas.
If a woman walking down the street does not want to be spoken to or bothered, it is her right. If I am walking down the street minding my own business, I am not looking to meet men, say hello to everyone, smile at everyone, or have a conversation. I am only focused on getting from point A to point B. If I were looking for a conversation or had the desire to talk to a man, I would go to a bar, a place where people socialize or a join an online dating service. Cat calls, stupid remarks, telling me I have a nice ass, staring me down, whistling, making a disparaging comment, and/or following me is harassment. It is harassment because it is behavior that is NOT wanted and is degrading. If it is not wanted and continues, it is not only harassment, it is creepy.
The above video is only an example of what happens to women worldwide. Women are harassed in malls, on the subway, at work, at home, at the doctor’s office, at the coffee shop, at the grocery store, on the bus, at the airport, at the post office, and the list goes on! Why does this happen? It happens because it is allowed, and it is not only accepted behavior by both men and women, but it is also ignored and made light of (I am sure some of you reading this are thinking I am going overboard with this). It is the result of patriarchy: the belief that woman is created for man and is or is to be the possession of man. Street harassment of women also occurs because of a lack of healthy boundaries and respect for one’s self and others. Men who harass cannot see the woman as a “person;” they only see another “chick” to be conquered. Until this mentality and behavior changes, nothing will improve for women and society in general.
As a woman, it is sometimes frightening for me to walk down the street in broad daylight (much less in the evening), alone, without having to be on guard every moment. I have to have eyes on the back of my head (How is that for Halloween-ish?) and make sure no one follows me, sneaks up behind me, knows where my car is, tries to attack me or rob me. If a man talks to me, he could be my rapist. This is how I have to think based on past experience, and as is demonstrated by this video above. This is how most women have to think when walking alone in order to best protect themselves. I do not live in constant fear of men, but I have learned to be weary of them when out alone and feel that I need to always be on guard. So, when men approach women who are waking on the street (no matter what they say to them), it feels creepy. And, if a man should follow a woman and/or keep bothering her, it is especially frightening.
So, on this Halloween, I challenge you to think about what is truly “creepy.” If you are a man, I encourage you to see women as human beings and not as your entitlement, someone to conquer, or a piece of meat. Women DO NOT have to talk to you, smile at you, give you the time of day, acknowledge your statements (especially if demeaning), smiles or gestures if they do not wish to do so. As a matter of fact, no one is obligated to respond to anyone. We all have the freedom NOT to respond. If you are a man reading this, I encourage you to think about what you were programmed, taught or indoctrinated to think with regard to women. I challenge you to look at yourself and alter your behavior (if harassing) to make this world a kinder and gentler place. I challenge you to stop cat-calling women or viewing them as objects. The next time you see a woman walking alone on a busy or empty street, please remember this blog and act accordingly.
As a woman, I have been “creeped-out” in one way or another, by men, in various circumstances throughout my life. If you have a daughter, a wife, a girlfriend, a mother or a sister, I can guarantee that they, too, have been “creeped out” at some point in their lives. As a woman who has had to deal with this type of harassment my entire life, this blog was very hard for me to write. My intention is not to disparage men; it is to bring this topic into the open in hopes of shedding some light into how it feels for women in a man’s world and to inspire respectful behavior from men. Please take it as that.
The creepiness, whether on Halloween or not, must end.
To learn more about street harassment or to get involved in ending the violence, please visit iHollaback.org.
Vilma Reynoso, www.vilmareynoso.com, Inspiration for Creative Health. Abundant Life.
Copyright, 2014, Vilma Reynoso