How to deal with street harassment
It could be anything. A whistle as you walk from your car to work, a gaze that you caught while on your morning run, or a grope you weren’t expecting at the bar. You’ve been sexually objectified just for existing, just for being female, and maybe you didn’t handle it with the middle-finger-in-the-air, eff-you-and-the-patriarchy way you’d always imagined you would. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, and you sure as hell weren’t expecting it or asking for it. You’re feeling some negative feels you weren’t expecting to feel today and it’s putting a damper on your day, your ideas, and whole worldview. So what do you do? How do you go on with your day? I’m not a mental health expert—and if you are feeling traumatized and/or sad or just not OK, you should definitely seek out help from a professional—but here’s what I’ve done and it helped me.
Feel your feels
Your feelings are real. It doesn’t matter how something feels to another person—this is you we’re talking about and you are important. Feeling an emotion is the most human thing that exists on this great grand big planet and bottling up emotions is not good for anyone’s health. So if someone has treated you in a way you didn’t want to be treated, it’s OK to let it bother you if it actually bothers you. Find a corner, bathroom, tinted car window and let those emotions out. Yell into a pillow if you have one near you.
Talk about it, write about it, do what you must
It’s obvious that the objectification of women is a huge problem that needs to change ASAP and that’s why we have to talk about it. We can’t stay quiet, even for the small stuff, because that’s how it becomes an even bigger problem. If you have a close friend who is culturally aware and socially conscious while also willing to listen to you vent about the fact that one too many creeps stared you down at the supermarket or cat-called you when you left, and it affected you, go to that friend. Vent, vent, vent, and discuss. If you don’t have a friend or loved one you can bring this stuff to, pick up a trusty journal and get to scribbling. Journaling is a great tool for keeping your feelings in check. It’s moments like these where you need to remind yourself why men need feminism too.
Educate and empower yourself
Listen, the way the world treats women is messed up. Hell, the way all of human history has treated women is messed up. Of course we have to talk about it. Addressing the problem is the first step, but leaving the discussion at “yeah, that sucks” and “it totally sucks” is not going to create positive change. So here’s what we can do: Read some progressive work by badass women on street harassment, check out incredible art projects (like “Stop Telling Women To Smile” by Brooklyn artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh) that address street harassment head on, join an anti-harassment movement like Hollaback or StopStreetHarassment.org, learn how other women (and sadly, even girls) are fighting street harassment every day. Empower yourself by taking self-defense classes and learning basic self-defense so you feel stronger in your body and (at least a little) safer on the planet.
Believe that change is possible
When you are feeling hopeless, try to remind yourself that there are respectful men who exist in this world. Think of your male friends who have never once touched, flirted, or treated you differently because you’re female. Believe that change is possible because it totally is. It’s the only constant, friend. Now try your best to feel good, go on with your bad self, and have hope for the future.
Photo by StopStreetHarassment.org via Facebook