HOLLA ON THE GO: “I have been experiencing…”
Currently, I have been experiencing various forms of street harassment on an almost daily basis. These experiences have involved various groups of men and individuals shouting at me about what I am wearing and my appearance, asking me personal questions, asking me to go home with them, following me, intimidating me by invading my personal space and giving me incredibly derogative and sexualized looks, the list goes on really.
Today a man asked me for the time, it was 12:15pm, a time where I generally feel safe because it’s daylight, so I stop and tell him. He then proceeded to say, after clearly not caring what the time was, about how he thought I was beautiful, asked me what I was doing and said how lovely he thought my hair was. Within that same breath, he then proceeded to touch my hair. For some reason I came out with ‘ok, have a nice day’ and I tried to get on my bike to ride off. I felt his hand grab my arm to hold me back and he then continued to grab my hair. I had to struggle to get away from his grip on my arm with him continuously shouting ‘hey HEY, HEY STOP’. My adrenaline was so high I can’t really remember what else he was shouting at me towards the end.
I feel ashamed to admit I succumb to the anxiety that it has created and in turn, reluctantly, let it consume my day. I find myself now actively not looking directly at men and keeping my head down when conscious of walking past a man on a less busy street. I consider more and more where I go, what I wear and how I might be coming across to experience such harassment. It makes me feel guilty, gross and ashamed, especially when I know others can hear what someone has been saying to me. Especially when the men are never challenged, it makes me feel like I deserved their comments or behavior. I also feel ashamed that I haven’t said anything back to these men other than continuously word vomiting some polite bullshit sentence whilst sweetly smiling.
I’m angry that men get away with it over and over and over again, not particularly to me but to other women, younger and perhaps more vulnerable to me.
I want men to realize to what extent women and girls are being harassed and assaulted on a daily basis on the streets that they frequently walk down without any problems. I want everyone to consider how they might be coming across to women whether this is on the street, in a bar, at the gym, at work etc. It’s not always something as ‘extreme’ as a physical attack, it can be something as simple as a look or one word. This, for me, has been the most relentless and tiring part and hard to manage when experiencing this on a daily basis. The looks you get from men that pretty much only veer towards one thought.
When you’re walking at night, even thinking about how close you may be walking to a woman or girl may make a difference in them feeling safer. Respect people’s space and acknowledge their absolute right and simple desire to walk or travel alone with the hope in feeling and being safe. If you feel safe and able to do so, call people out on their behavior. Ask women about their own experiences and educate boys, men, friends and yourself on the current problem of street harassment in the UK.
I know it will happen again. Not in a month or two weeks but probably tomorrow or in a couple of days. It’s happening now, probably a few streets down from where you’re sitting.
I am incredibly privileged especially in feeling safe to express my feelings on this topic here and I am incredibly lucky and forever grateful for living in such a privileged country with so many people around me that support me throughout my life.
I do, however, feel increasingly angry for all the women who experience this without these privileges and have experienced and are experiencing a lot worse.
Something has to change.