Yesterday I was walking to the post office, feeling strong and standing up straight, happy to be feeling confident and grounded in my body. I recently moved with my partner to Philadelphia from our home in the Bay area Ca, and am still adjusting to a new city, but yesterday for the first time, I felt at home in my body here.
A man took that from me. He was just a random guy on the street, walking back to his car, but he may as well have knocked me over and kicked me. “Wassup Baby,” he said as he passed me. And then as I tried to speed up he watched me from behind and said “Nice ass.” I felt like every inch of my strength deflated with one breath, I was a puddle on the sidewalk.
I could feel his eyes on my body as I walked away, and I just wanted to disappear, but I couldn’t… So I just froze. I stood there, on the street, waiting to get up the courage to turn around and tell him that was NOT ok to talk to me that way. To explain how much his words cut through me like a knife, making me into a naked shell of myself. I stood there for what seemed like forever, as I heard him get into his car and zoom off. I stood there even after he was gone, ashamed of myself that I could not stand up for myself, for women, for our bodies that are forever under attack.
This was not the first time I had been harassed, but somehow it struck me differently, maybe because I am in a new place and far from home. Why is this ok? Why does this happen everywhere? I am now an adult woman, I don’t dress in a way that invites any attention to my body from strangers. I have a loving and respectful boyfriend who affirms my right to own my body every day, and I feel stronger now than when I got harassed as a teenager or even a few years ago. But yesterday, that man made me feel like nothing anyway. I wish there were more places like this website, where the force and weight of street harassment and all it leads to was acknowledged. How can we create more space for this issue to be recognized for the oppression that it is? I’m still searching. For now, thank you for making this space.
Submitted by Reena