Sunday, May 16, 2010
My college graduation is rapidly approaching, and it's final project/exam time. For my wonderful Masculinities class, we're required to do a "liberating action," that is, some kind of activism that draws on what we've learned throughout the class. I've chosen to make small cards that can be carried around and given out to street harassers - whether they cat-call, make inappropriate comments, unwelcome sexual advances, or any unwarranted physical contact. I explain my reasoning for doing this in my accompanying paper:
Every time I have to walk down any street alone, I find myself preparing to be harassed. It’s sickening that I should have to prepare myself for such a thing, but the truth is that I cannot remember the last time I walked down Main Street by myself or with girlfriends, and was not at least honked at by a car full of men. When I go to the bars, I see men standing to the side of the dance floor, watching the women dancing, picking out which one is the hottest or the sluttiest, and then making their moves, which always consists of latching onto her backside without so much as a “hello.” The worst part is that I can’t even really hate them for what they do, because I know that it isn’t entirely their fault; they were just taught in a variety of ways by a variety of people that to be a “man” is to treat women as objects to be ogled. The sad truth is that, “Men learn that to effectively perform masculinity and to protect a masculine identity, they must, in many instances, ignore a woman’s pain and obscure her viewpoint” (Quinn 397). To the harassers, the cat-callers, and the gropers, there are no feelings or souls attached to our bodies, and we could not be their mothers, sisters, girlfriends, or friends because we are not really people, and that is what allows them to continue to do what they do.
It’s time to start reminding these men that, contrary to what they have been forced to believe, what they do does affect us. A honk or a “hey sexy” might seem harmless, but I know that every time I get that attention on the street, it hurts me. It hurts even more when I can’t respond to this inexcusable behavior because it just gets too exhausting to say something to every jerk on the street. Therefore, for my liberating action, I want to make it easier for me and every other woman to call harassers out on their behavior, and for the harassers to realize that their actions affect us.
I'm sure some people might argue that this isn't the best way to handle harassment, and I think it is important to discuss what the best way to respond to being harassed is, but these are for the women who feel that this method is the best for them.
You can download the cards I made as a Word document here.
Please note that the cards are intended to be printed double-sided so that one side has English text, and the other side has the same text in Spanish. Feel free to make any adjustments you see necessary and to post these to your own blog/site (I just ask that you link back to here). And I would love to hear your experiences with carrying these around and distributing them - whether through comments on this post, or through e-mail.
Good luck, and stay safe.