As someone that proudly and publicly identifies as a Black feminist, I have ended up in a lot of heated discussions about certain topics that men don’t see as important. One recurring topic is street harassment or why women aren’t receptive to being stopped for conversation. They wonder why women walk around with permanent stank face or give terse responses when approached by a supposed nice guy aka them. They admonish women for this behavior, especially Black women because they have been conditioned to think Black female anger is almost always irrational. What they don’t realize is being able to move from point A to point B can be a matter of life and death.
Being a woman in a public space triggers a vigilance that is unmatched, especially if you’re a woman with qualifiers.
A Black woman. A queer or lesbian woman. A transwoman.
Most men don’t have to worry about whether eye contact or a quick hello will cause harassment.
They don’t have to take precautions like not entering a train car if they’re the only man onboard or walking home in the middle of the street with your keys between your fingers.
They damn sure don’t have to worry about some fool being able to please “cis panic” while on trial for murder.
On Thursday, I heard about two women that were harmed for rejecting a man’s advances. One is in critical condition and the other died. I hear about transwomen being killed multiple times a month because of wayward knuckleheads that can’t accept their existence. Walking down the street feels like walking through a minefield because you never know who is lurking around the corner.
When I explain all of this, guys are quick to tell me that they aren’t all like that. They tell me generalizations are wrong and that women should give them a chance. Male entitlement to female bodies gets written off as just a few crazies in the bunch. The aforementioned incidents are rare and blown up by the media.
My lived experiences and those of scores of other women tell me different. I have been verbally harassed for rejecting a man’s advances and got groped on a train. My sister had to pull a knife on someone to get her to leave them alone. I know women that have been followed and even physically assaulted for rejecting or ignoring someone. This problem is too damn common and will continue to be as long as we write it off as something that is rare to avoid hurting men’s feelings.
Women aren’t being standoffish to be mean; they’re being that way to survive even if, as evidenced above, it might not work.
Note: Buzzfeed did a GREAT video on street harassment. Watch it below: