“This street is not a market, and I’m not a commodity” – Ani DiFranco, “The Story”
I’ve had this post simmering for a while now and decided to post it as a follow-up to my post encouraging women to become more comfortable with approaching men. In that piece, I talked about how some men are assholes who approach women in such degrading and disrespectful ways, that women sometimes have guards up against all men. This is a topic near to my spirit.
I watched Rihanna’s latest video “Man Down” today and read discourse on Tumblr about the negative reaction some have had to her song about a woman shooting a man who raped her. In the responses, there seems to be a lot of sympathy for the rapist and blame put more on the woman for reacting as she did.
Rape and intimate partner violence are two of the hugest threats to our progress as women across the world. Rape is currently being used as a weapon of war in various countries around the world. I talked briefly about the lack of female power in the world and cited statistics about rape and intimate partner violence. There is no coincidence in this correlation. There are men who regularly use rape and violence as a means of subjugating women and relegating us to an inferior status. If it is not rape and direct physical violence, it can be emotional abuse and harassment, or what we call “slut-shaming”.
*Note added April 2015*: I’ve since changed my thoughts about the phrase “slut-shaming” as the terminology to describe this phenomenon. This post is a few years old, so I’m adding this update. Read more here.
Slut-shaming is when people attempt to vilify women who embrace their sexuality in positive ways and live their lives empowered. Slut-shaming is also bout blaming victims of sexual mistreatment, deeming them deserving of it because of their willful engagement in sexual activity. Slut-shaming is one reason why sex workers and strippers rarely report rape and violence; almost everyone believes their deserve it and they are at fault for putting themselves in those positions. Should women be more careful about the choices they make every day? Yes, of course. Is that an excuse to rape us and be violent towards us? No.
But then, people blame women for wearing mini skirts and tight dresses when they are raped. People also blame women for drinking too much when they are raped. During rape trials, the first thing defense attorneys do is bring up the victims’ sexual histories and attempt to discredit women’s claims of rape based on them having had sex before. Because only virgins are raped… right?
People haven’t quite come up with excuses for why an 85 year old women was raped, but I’m sure it has something to do with her wearing her skirt 2 inches above her ankles.
I connect the point of this post to the phenomenon known as “Street Harassment” (SH). This has been discussed more and more lately as one of the phenomena that does great destruction to women’s levels of confidence, feelings of safety, and self-esteem. SH is degrading, belittling, cheapening, and rooted in the idea that men have rights to our bodies. It is rooted in the idea that we are to be available to men, on their terms, whenever they decide we should be. SH means you go from being a beautiful queen to an ugly bitch when you dare say “No” to someone soliciting your number. SH means you face men telling you how to dress and how to wear expressions on your face, as if you owe them any of that. SH can mean being shot at because you won’t give a man your phone number.
And Street Harassment happens online as well. Men send women unsolicited pictures of their dicks, thinking women want to see that. That is akin to flashing a woman in the street. Or a man will try to get a woman’s attention and when she declines, he seeks revenge through slandering her, calling her all sorts of disgusting insults. Or men will type anything they want to a woman, just because she is there and they can… no consideration for her feelings, no respect for her right to be online and not be sexually harassed.
Yes, it is all sexual harassment.
I’ve been a victim of this harassment for about 20 years now.
It has to stop.
Fellas, you don’t have the right to treat us this way. You just don’t. Think twice before you whistle, whisper, or grab.
Ladies, you are not alone. You do not have to suffer in silence. Tell someone you trust. Report it. Tell the police, your boss, your religious leader, your sister, even a friend online, hell… tell me! Tell someone. Call these violators out. Don’t let them win by suffering the harassment in silence. Be empowered and fight back!! Don’t absorb it as shame.
You’re better than anything they can ever be, despite society telling you that you deserve whatever comes your way. I know it is hard sometimes, to fully embrace your sexuality because of limitations and obstacles like these. I now it is hard to assert yourself as a sexually empowered woman because you fear that you will receive this treatment. I know it. I hear you. I understand. I work hard almost daily to fight through those same fears and vulnerabilities.
But I will NOT let anyone sustain power over me using my sex as a weapon against me. We’re in this together, ladies.
We will win!
Watch this touching short video: