It’s Not a Compliment
You’re standing on the corner waiting to safely cross. It’s Monday morning and you have only just managed to wake up enough to get yourself to Starbucks. All of a sudden, your’e sleepy ears are accosted by a horn tap. You look up from your cell phone to see an elderly individual, old enough to have known better, staring you down in a sleazy way. You’re instantly creeped out.
Or you’re walking home from some quiet study time at a coffee shop, your headphones in with one of your favorite songs serenading your trip. A group of individuals approach you going the opposite direction. As you pass by them, one of them says “Hello.”, not the polite greeting of one human being to another, but the suggestive one that infers physical interest rather than a salutation. You, being polite, say a quick hi back and keep walking as you feel a few of them turn to stare at your backside, and hear one of them say something crude under their breath.
These, my friends are examples of the harassment I face everyday. And I hate it.
Right now, some of you are rolling your eyes, “Oh poor you.” You’re saying sarcastically as you read this. Some of you think that I’m exaggerating. Some of you even think that I should be grateful to be getting the attention. (Put a pin right here, I am coming back to this point.)
Street harassment is difficult to peg. Sometimes it’s outright blaring and in your face, like assholes hollering nasty and crass things out of of car window. Sometimes it’s subtle, you would have to be paying attention to notice. But all examples are a problem, not a compliment.
Here’s the difference: A complement is a nice thing to say, something that affirms the person. Harassment is when what is said or done degrades or objectifies the person. Here’s how you can know the difference: if you want someone to say it to your mother, your sister, or your daughter. If you wouldn’t want some dude to say it the girls and women in your own life, then you probably shouldn’t say it to that girl walking down the street.
Now back to this whole “take it as a compliment” thing, I would like to counter with a few questions of my own:
Who died an made you the only human being with feelings on earth? How dare you think that your “Nice ass” comments even come close to a compliment? Who said I needed your attention or affirmation to begin with? And how dare you, after the nasty things that come out of your mouth and your even nastier attitude, dare to think I should speak back or take it as something pleasant? What makes you entitled to any of my attention, especially after you have forced your negativity on me? Who do you think you are?
I’ll tell you who you are; you’re a guy. And this is what guys just do. You check out women and have the propensity to think with your other head too much. You feel like you can say whatever you want to a woman, even entitled to. And if she takes it wrong, then she’s a bitch and you keep it moving. But why be like every other penis following sleaze ball when you can be one of the good guys? You know, the good ones who don’t reduce a woman to her appearance alone, one of the ones that see a fellow human being an not a pleasure object, one of the ones who think before you open your mouth. Be the guy that’s better than this bad behavior. Deep down inside, you actually are better than your behavior. Because in the end, those guys win, those guys rock, and those are the guys we women want to raise our sons to be.
Why do we continue to think that these objectifying and demeaning remarks are complements? Are we that desperate to have a guy’s attention that we will settle for anything we can get, no matter how degrading? At what point did we think this was okay? At what point did we trade in our humanity for our sexuality? Who do you think you are?
I’ll tell you who you are; you’re a woman, not a blow up doll. You are a human being. A beautiful, unique, precious human being who deserves to be loved and valued, not talked to like you’re some type of penis receptical. You are priceless. You are worthy of respect. You deserve better, but unfortunately you won’t get better until you’re willing to fight for better. But if we all fight for better, if we all take a stand, for ourselves and for each other, street harassment will end up something our daughters won’t have to worry about.
Let’s stop making (guys) and accepting (gals) street harassment. Its not cool, it’s never okay, and it’s definitely not a compliment.