Earlier this week I posted a link to Hollaback’s now viral video of a woman’s experience with street harassment in New York City. Since becoming viral, the video has sparked debate and discussion about catcalling, street harassment, male privilege, and many other important topics. While reading segments of the discourse happening online, I came across Aliza Worthington’s “An Apology to Street Harassers”. Take a minute to read it:
I respect your goals of introducing love and improving my self-esteem in, what is too often, a cold, hard-hearted world. Why can’t more men be like you?
I’ve been watching you, and I was so pleased and impressed to notice that you direct your remarks to old men, women in wheelchairs, police officers, and toddlers who pass you by, so clearly you’re NOT simply trying to get the attention of an attractive woman you’d like to see above you naked.
Clearly you’re NOT singling out pretty females for your impressive persistence when ignored; I’ve seen MANY of you following a businessman with a briefcase around asking him why he won’t say ‘hi’ back to you. After all! You’re just trying to be friendly! Oh, if I had a nickel for every time I saw you asking the guy selling hot dogs why he isn’t smiling, taking the time to explain to him that he makes so many people happy every day. Don’t even get me started on all the overweight women who callously reject your attempts to let her know she is just fine the way she is. What is WRONG with them???
I swear, I’ve even seen you befriend homeless people offering to take them to job training, and asking to help an elderly woman carry her bags to the bus! How can they miss the nobility of your motives? Why don’t they see you’re just trying to make the world better and make people other than yourself happy? How can they not see the innocence of your intentions? Again, I ask, what is WRONG with people?
Don’t they see how harmless and well-meaning your compliments are? After all, when your younger sister is the recipient of such remarks, don’t you beam with pride? Of course you do! You put your arm around her and say, “Way to go, Sis! You’ve made it!”
Why, if your friendly kindness was in any way untoward, you wouldn’t thank the other gentlemen who make similar remarks to your girlfriend! No, you’d get possessive and threaten to beat his ass! But that never happens – you always just wholeheartedly agree, and high-five the man for saying such nice things about your girlfriend (whose confidence, of course, is bolstered!)
The number of ways I’ve misinterpreted your “kindness” and completely non-threatening, non-intrusive, non-objectionable attempts to interact with me and other women on the street makes me want to weep for your suffering. How you’ve been victimized is an absolute disgrace. I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive my self-involved obsession with personal space and safety. I don’t know WHERE I got my bizarre aversion to being asked if I “want some of this right here?” This feminist streak that makes me shrink inside at your displays of “appreciation” has GOT to GO.
How could I have misjudged you so? I have seen the error of my ways, and I promise to try to do better.
You’re right! I really SHOULD smile!”
Reading Aliza’s satirical letter led me to an A-HA moment; while I watched the catcalling video for the first time I thought that it was possible that some men were just being friendly, but the more I thought about it and the more I reflected on my own experiences, I realized that 99% of the time (at least in my experience) men who approach men on the street do it while I’m alone. I’m not saying that my experience is true for all women, but this realization made me feel kind of sick. As a woman with self diagnosed “resting bitch face”, I can’t count the amount of times a male stranger has come up to me and told me to smile. How about no? It’s my face and I’ll wear whatever expression on it I’d like!
How do you feel about street harassment? How about Hollaback’s video or Aliza’s open letter? Let’s talk about it below in the comments.