I am reeling a bit from the response to my post about my experience of and reaction to street harassment. I intentionally published the post to break the silence in my community of Allston, but I certainly did not expect 60K people to see it. (Thanks Jezebel.) In spite of being a bit overwhelmed by the buzz, I am glad it is out there.
I stand by my actions.
To immediately subdue some concerns of assault, I was wearing plush heavy bike gloves, punched him in the chest and stand 5’3″ tall. I’m certain the strike was scores more shocking than painful. To address some very valid concerns of my safety, I completely acknowledge that I put myself and my girlfriend at risk. I am sorry for this element of the situation. I probably would not have done that without the presence of the crowd on the sidewalk. It may have been foolish — which is not mutually exclusive from courageous.
I probably won’t do something like this again. It was a jarring experience and somewhat emotionally traumatic. However I take responsibility for my actions and my reasons behind them. I understand why some people have been saying there is no excuse for violence; in fact, before being an out queer woman living in Allston, I think I might have said the same thing. I have verbally responded to street harassment as much as I’ve been strong enough to in the past couple years. I have ‘turned the other cheek’ in silence a countless many more times than that. The guy I hit got the brunt of my rage of him and hundreds of other men’s blatant sexual harassment. The punch I threw carried the pain and solidarity of thousands of other women, queers and other non-normative people who are targeted by hate and ignorance every day.
I believe that people should always strive to be kind and peaceful towards others. That said, my day-to-day experience of street harassment is a day-to-day experience of a violent and oppressive culture. (And I emphasize that I face this degradation literally every day I’m in Allston.) My piece struck a nerve because I articulated a universal experience that happens every day, but is rarely confronted. We don’t hear about a woman lashing back at those who lash out at her, and this story is controversial because it challenges behavior that is usually just shrugged off, if acknowledged at all.
I consider this event a victory because of the waves of conversations its triggering. I wouldn’t advise others targeted by street harassment to lash out because it is endangering, but I do support those who feel compelled to do so. Those who zero in on ‘the punch’ as the key element to my story are missing the point. Wake up: this harassment is not an isolated incident, nor is it limited to the streets of Allston. I didn’t just lose my temper and succumb to uncontrollable female emotions. For once in my life, I made the decision to NOT turn the other cheek in the face of violent oppression. It caused a stir for good reason. If my story angers you and you believe I am in the wrong, turn your lens around on your day-to-day life for a moment and try taking notice of how women around you are treated on a mass scale.
We are called ‘hun’ and ‘sweetheart’ everywhere from the street to the grocery store to our schools and offices, and we are expected to smile sweetly in return. On crowded busses, at concerts and parties, men touch our waists and our shoulders as they pass, as though they have the right to touch us without even looking us in the eyes. On the street, we are hollered at, leered at, propositioned, attacked, and we are told that it’s in our best interest to just ignore it and keep walking.
This is me rejecting that and everything else that comes along with the rape culture we all live in. This is me breaking the silence. I am grateful for the attention this issue is receiving because it is universal and it is urgent. I do not condone violence. I condone doing what needs to be done to stand up for yourself and assert your right to walk down the street without feeling fear or intimidation.
Do whatever you can to raise awareness. Street harassment isn’t an issue exclusive to abusive drunk jerks in Allston, it’s an issue for the friends and passerbys who see this harassment and say nothing. This is your issue as much as it is mine. I urge you to join me in breaking the silence. Be aware, respond as needed, share your stories to your friends and family, post them online. Another world is possible if and only if we all participate in its evolution.
Thank you for paying attention.