“Men Will Never Truly Understand A Day In The Life of Women. But Shouldn’t We Try?” by Yashar

BY YASHAR, cross posted from the current conscience

The other day, my friend Dina was talking about her experiences of being catcalled—street harassment is a more accurate term—while walking around the streets of New York.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about the epidemic of street harassment. Many of my women friends have remarked about experiencing and dealing with this kind of harassment and how unsafe it makes them feel.

For Dina, one particular instance of harassment on the streets of New York was cemented in her memory. She was walking alone, during the day, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, when she heard a man taunt her, “Hey baby, you’re lookin’ good…”

“Don’t call me baby,” she responded.

He looked her up and down and said, “…fucking dyke.”

For the record, Dina is straight—not that it would have been okay if she weren’t.

This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time Dina faces street harassment. She has been harassed in public places, and on a number of occasions, followed by men. Many studies indicate that almost 100 percent of women will face some sort of street harassment at one point in their lives.

Most men don’t even realize street harassment exists as a very real, serious problem. Yet, many women see this kind of harassment as part of daily life. For the few men who are aware of it, they assume the extent of street harassment is something akin to harmless, or at worst, annoying flirting, which still problematic if that attention is unwelcome.

The reality of street harassment is far worse than what most men think or believe. In cities large and small, women have to contend with comments that range from the mildly offensive to the disgusting. Beyond being verbally harassed, many women are followed and some women are even forced to deal with the same harasser on a daily basis. And for some women, this “harmless” harassment leads to assault.

But I realized, as Dina was telling me her story, that I have never actually been witness to the kind of street harassment my women friends tell me about. If a woman is walking down the street with me, other men generally won’t engage in any kind of harassing behavior towards her because street harassment, like all forms of harassment, is about attacking the vulnerable.

And despite what some readers of this column may think about my gender, I will never know what it feels like for a woman to walk down the street alone. How am I to fully relate to the pain, fear, and humiliation of street harassment when I have never witnessed its full form and lack the the personal experience of being harassed on the street?

Street harassment is simply one issue that plagues women in their everyday life. They are constantly barraged with discriminatory obstacles that we don’t even see as obstacles.

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3 Responses

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  1. kj says:

    The other day, my fiance came home and told me that he finally understood what I go through just walking down the street. I’ve been complaining to him recently about street harassment and how it makes me feel, and he was always sympathetic, but apparently he never “got” it until he was walking home from the subway a little bit behind a young woman in a short skirt and he noticed the men staring, catcalling, etc. He obviously must have been around something like this before, but he never noticed. I feel happy that I opened one man’s eyes to what was going on around him.

  2. Enna says:

    I find it amazing that if a woman stands up for herself how she is called a “dyke” if she is or not is not the issue, the harraser’s clear lack of respect and insercuity is highlighted. Men can be hetrosexual and sexist but it’s not okay the other way round. Men would not like it if they were on the receving end of it.

    There is a time and a place to chat up/flirt and there are MANY reasons why a women would not be interested – she doesn’t even need to have a reason to be uninterested. Men need to be better at reading the situation so they don’t make themsleves look like right animals. If they are more civilised towards the women in their lives they will have better relationships with women, and understand that if you like a woman you don’t have to have sex with her – there are many non-sexual ways men and women can have relationships together.

  3. Enna says:

    P.S and also enjoy each others’ company.

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