Last fall, a short documentary was released which chronicled “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman.” The footage is disgusting. It features actress Shoshana Roberts walking throughout the streets of New York and getting harassed every step of the way. She gets told to smile, hears “You should say thank you more” when she ignores someone who calls her beautiful, and is followed by the same man for five minutes straight.
Unfortunately, Shoshana’s experience is not unique. Women deal with street harassment on a daily basis. As a young woman living in a major metropolitan area, I am no stranger to it myself. My friends and I often have conversations in which we swap stories about the horrible things we’ve had said or done to us while simply trying to get to work or a party. It’s frustrating that we can’t go out and live our everyday lives without constantly checking over our shoulders to make sure we’re not being followed or adjusting our clothing to make sure everything is covered. At the same time, it’s also terrifying because you never know when the situation might escalate beyond catcalling.
There needs to be more of a discourse about street harassment. The excuse that women should be grateful and see it as a compliment is completely out of touch with reality. What it actually does is make us feel uncomfortable, frustrated, and worst of all, unsafe. To highlight this, I’ve included a list of some common thoughts that run through the minds of women when they are walking down the street alone.
- Does that guy really want God to bless me or does he want God to bless my ass?
- I should call my roommate so someone knows where I am right now.
- But what if I can’t hear an attacker coming up behind me while I’m on the phone?
- Maybe if I hold my keys out I’ll be able to protect myself if someone comes at me.
- Wait, how hard would I even have to plunge my keys to injure an attacker?
- Would anyone even come help if I blow my rape whistle or will they just think it’s some kid playing?
- I’d better put my sweatshirt on to avoid getting leered at.
- Nope, never mind, it still happens even with the sweatshirt.
- “Baby”? Seriously dude I work a 9 to 5 job and opened a 401K. I am not your baby.
- Yeah let’s see if you still think I’m a “sweet thang” with my foot shoved up your ass.
- Yes, male friend, I would like you to walk me home to make sure I get back safely but I know that if I let you, you’ll then expect to sleep with me.
- All right, definitely crossing the street to avoid that giant group of men.
- ARE YOU SERIOUSLY CROSSING THE STREET AFTER I DELIBERATELY CROSSED TO AVOID YOU?!
- No, I’m not going to smile until you get the hell away from me.
- No, I’m also not going to thank you for objectifying and harassing me.
- I’m never leaving the house again.
- I have to get out of the house because that creepy guy saw me walk in and now knows where I live.
It’s sad that even a simple walk to the grocery store leads to thoughts like these. In order for a real difference to be made against street harassment, we need people of all genders to recognize that it’s wrong. While videos like “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” help to highlight the prevalence of street harassment and start a discourse about it, the fact remains that Roberts’ experience shouldn’t have happened in the first place.
Everyone, regardless of gender identification, should be free to go about their daily business without being made to feel uncomfortable or afraid.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.