Violence is bad, obviously. It can be seen on a broad spectrum ranging from extreme, unacceptable violence such as war, to violence that isn’t seen as such a big deal, such as a petty argument between siblings over the last cookie. But what about if there is an in-between violence? A type of violence that isn’t seen as that big of a deal in society, but is still a big deal, it just isn’t dealt with as such big of a deal. Such violence is street harassment, but what is street harassment?
Street harassment has been seen and interpreted from 2 different perspectives: the one who does the harassing, and the one receiving the harassment. It has become a common, undignified and anti-feminist belief that street harassment can and should be taken as a compliment by women across the world. It has gotten to the point where women across the world have lost sense of the true degrading nature of street harassment.
Some women actually like being cat-called on the street, or stopped in a store to listen to some guy try and talk game to them. They see it as a compliment; a way to let other people and themselves know just how attractive they are. It’s a confidence booster in some cases with women with low self esteem, and it makes them feel good. In an interview conducted by a CNN news reporter, one man even said "I have heard that when a guy walks by a girl and doesn't look, that she's hurt by that," he said. "I imagine it might feel pretty bad, but you know I can imagine it might boost their ego." Knowing they can capture the attention of anyone walking down the street. It is something some women look forward to leaving the house every morning. To other women though, the thought of getting catcalled on the street is horrifying. In more cases than not, simple comments meant to be compliments on the street have turned into uncomfortable or even violent situations. A writer from The Guardian was brave enough to share her insight on how it feels to be a woman at night, trying to get home: “My heartbeat quickened, the hair rose on my arms, and I felt the usual emotions flood through me. Fear. Anxiety. Impotence. Anger. Frustration. Misplaced embarrassment and shame.” Many women feel this way just walking around the corner. That nightmare has turned into reality for women around the world everyday. They do not see it as a compliment. The same reporter from The Guardian article wrote: “A compliment doesn't make you rethink your route the next time you walk down the street.”. I believe this is a strong quote because it’s brutally honest, and people should understand how twisted the meaning of a compliment has become.
It is ultimately up to a person how they chose to perceive street harassment. It’s upsetting that to the majority of people, it really won’t seem like a big deal. They might say that women are overreacting, and should be more chill about it. The point of this essay is not to portray women as cowards who shake with fear as soon as someone tries to talk to them on the street. What must be understood is that there is a difference between giving someone a compliment, and harassing them. A compliment would be along the lines of: “Excuse me, I just wanted you to know, you look really nice today.” and leaving it at that. Harassment would look more like: “Damn ma, your ass is lookin’ mighty fine in those jeans today! Your mama know you out here looking like that?” There’s an apparent difference between the two interactions, and sadly, the latter is the one women are most likely to hear walking down the street.
There have been many attempts to raise awareness on street harassment. Such attempts such as social justice blog, Hollaback! Video, recording what it’s like to be a woman walking down the streets of NYC for 10 hours. Though there are many efforts, the truth is, street harassment won’t stop as long as sexism exists, and as long as people keep being ignorant to what’s right in front of them.
CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017.
Bates, Laura. "Women should not accept street harassment as 'just a compliment'" The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.
"10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman." YouTube. YouTube, 28 Oct. 2014. Web. 16 Mar. 2017.