I will no longer be a witness to my own sexual harassment: an invitation to women.

I did not plan on writing this essay tonight, but I have something important that I must say, and I must say it now.

I wrote this post on Facebook about 48 hours ago, quoting an excellent article by Clementine Ford on women’s fear in public spaces and how it cannot be ignored.

Lo and behold, in the last 24 hours I have experienced two sexual harassment incidents on the street on two separate occasions, one this morning, about 100m from my office in broad daylight, and one last night walking the 10 minutes home from the train station at around 10pm after nightfall. Both times were men in white vans yelling obscenities at me as I merely walked down the street.

These confrontations happen and continue to happen in public spaces that I am entitled to utilise as much as men are, without fears for my own safety and wellbeing.

A while ago without really recognising it, I changed the internal narrative that went through my mind during and after experiencing incidents of harassment and oppression by men.

This is what has changed: Every time a man spreads into my space, hurls rape threats and verbal abuse at me, I do not listen to the narrative that has historically conditioned women to ‘keep the peace’ in public or ‘suffer in silence.’ We are programmed to discomfort ourselves and forego our own needs, dignity and self worth to accommodate men.

I recognise this thought process in my mind, and I push it aside, instead I choose to tell men to give me the space that I am entitled to as an equal human being and that they should exist without encroaching on me. I have also learned the value of saying no, emphatically, not no-with-a-possibility-of-maybe-that-thing-happening. Just no.

I will not make room for men who manspread into my space.

I will not move out of the way for men who think that they are more entitled to the pavement or the aisle than I am.

I will not smile and shrug when I am told to smile or when I am touched inappropriately by men.

I will not be a woman who goes quietly into the night, laughing off her oppressor, her harasser, while screaming on the inside. And for this reason I must do more than yell fuck you and lift my middle finger when I am harassed by male passersby.

I will no longer be complicit to my own abuse.

I will no longer be a witness to my own harassment or the harassment of women in my presence.

I will be using my Facebook page to document every incident of sexual harassment, street harassment and men’s general verbal abuse that I am subjected to.

I am taking back the anonymity that men think that they are entitled to when they engage in this behavior towards women, or when they act as bystanders.

Where we have a cellphone, we have a camera, and I will be using mine to document everything that I possibly can.

We will no longer suffer in silence. We will speak back to our oppressors and our harassers and we will publicly shame them.

This includes and is not limited to: posting photos of my perpetrator, number plates/photos of their car, their name and any other identifiable information that they reveal during the course of the harassment.

To women reading this: together we are going to change the way we react to our own harassment and denigration. It will be like reclaiming our time, but it will instead be: ‘reclaiming our abuse and harassment.’

I invite all women to join me in this reclamation.

Feel free to send your experiences of street and sexual harassment to lizdchao@gmail.com or find me on Facebook at Liz Chao. I will publish your stories.

***This is also a warning to all the men who call themselves my friends but have a) used racial slurs (“ching chong” etc) against me and have never apologised, and b) sat at our dinner table for years eating my mum’s cooking and continue to post white supremacist, Asian-hating, One Nation/United Patriots Front bullshit on social media. I will no longer centre you; I give zero fucks about your anonymity, your feelings, or you in general.


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