Emily’s story: “I shouldn’t have to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate for sexual harassment.”

I was walking home today and an unpleasant thing happened. It made me kinda angry and I felt like doing something about it. So here is my short story, fueled by my desire to end street harassment:

I live in Queensland, Australia in a respectful, middle-class, and reasonably safe suburb of Brisbane. It is currently 1.26pm on a Tuesday afternoon. I’d say the temperature was a warm 25 degrees Celsius. For this reason, I chose to wear a singlet, shorts, and runners to my morning at university. When I was walking home, an unpleasant thing happened. A car full of young men drove past and yelled out to me. This has happened many times before, which is a sad fact in itself. I’d been previously been yelled to “show us ya tits”, “gimme a piece of that”, or just simply “nice ass”. Each time this has happened it leaves me feeling insecure, unhappy, and a little bit guilty for something. I’ve wondered whether I should dress the way I do, if maybe a longer skirt would have prevented it, or if I’d walked down a side-street instead of the highway things might have been better. But now I’ve realised I shouldn’t have to think these things. I shouldn’t have to adjust my lifestyle to accommodate for sexual harassment.

The big thing is, I’ve never known what to do in these situations. I’m not good at thinking up witty retorts and even if I was, maybe something worse would happen if I yelled back. Its incredibly frustrating to feel so powerless against something you detest. However, I’ve discovered the Hollaback! campaign after being particularly enraged this afternoon.

When a car full of young men drove past me this afternoon, they yelled at me to “get in the car” and drove away laughing. As usual, I didn’t understand the point of this (what did they hope to achieve? Did they think it was funny? Did they actually want me to get in the car and do… what exactly?). But this remark was more offensive than any I had experienced before. This is because abduction, particularly towards young women, is a serious problem and cracking jokes about it is something I just can’t understand or appreciate. I’m sick and tired of being on the receiving end of these comments. If these actions are becoming normalised and accepted as part of everyday life, I won’t be able to feel safe, secure, or happy whenever I leave the house.

The Hollaback! campaign has my full support to end street harassment.

Hopefully one day I can wear a pair of shorts, a singlet, a skirt, or whatever I want without the fear of being harassed. Maybe one day someone will yell to me “I love your dress!”. I’d be ok with that.