“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 hurts.

It’s real.

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:

 

28 thoughts on “No, Thank You.”

  1. We are in this together and I appreciate you writing this piece. As the mother of daughters it terrors me to think of them being subjected to the treatment you describe- and I’ve experienced.
    I want then to be free to be themselves, not fearful. Ive already had to check a grown man about my oldest daughter! She’s 11!

    I will repeat what you said- sisters, tell somebody! Tell me. I promise to listen and support you.

    One more promise: to raise my son to treat women with respect, tenderness and the same level of care that he would expect for himself, his mother, his sisters.

    1. The point you make about raising your son is SO important. We HAVE to raise our sons to respect women! Period. That goes for everyone across the board. We shouldn’t always have to prepare the potential victims but we can raise one less abuser

  2. It’s excused. People accept it as a way of life. The work environment as a black women, particularly when dealing with black men, is a breeding ground for this sort of thing. There’s this “just us black folks” attitude that black men often use with sisters that sets me on edge. It’s hurtful in ways I can’t describe.

    1. That is an interesting perspective. I haven’t worked with many Black, heterosexual men in my field because they are scarce as hell, but I can imagine what it’s like for other women. And then, if you report them, somehow you’re keeping them down and not with “the cause”.

      Thank you for commenting

      XOXO,
      FJ

  3. My thoughts, your words. Maybe some day “it wasn’t my fault” will actually sound like me. Thank you for sharing this piece, please keep doing what you do!! We are all in this together. I just hope to be as strong as you are.

    1. It wasn’t your fault.
      It is never our fault.
      I pray for your peace and reconciliation with this truth.
      Thank you for reading. I hope you feel a sliver of empowerment.
      *hug*

      XOXO,
      FJ

  4. Thank you for this post. It’s annoying when someone tells you to smile when you’re minding your own business. Or being YELLED at as you walk away because you were polite and uninterested in the conversation. Being grabbed by your arm while you’re in a club so you’ll stay right where he wants you. Giving your real name and phone number to a dude you just met because he’s towering over you and your roommate is too fascinated with his friend to notice. Sometimes, it’s absolutely scary out there.

    1. Yes. Thank you for your take on these experiences. I can relate to ALL of them.
      The sense of ownership some men feel is just startling!

      XOXO,
      FJ

  5. Good read!

    I’d heard about Rihanna’s song/video for Man Down but I’d never heard/seen it until after reading this post. Interesting and risky but I like it

    I think some men assume that when we wear the sundress, low cut top, short skirt, etc we’re wearing it JUST for them so they feel we WANT and will accept ANY kind of reaction we get out of them. which is completely untrue

    Saw an ep. of What Would You Do where this couple was at the bar and the lady had a on a low cut dress. She went to the BR and her date slipped something in her drink. NOBODY said anything to her b/c of the way she was dressed. Scenario two, same dude but this time the woman had on a regular top. When she came back from the BR, the bartender and a few other people at the bar immediately told her and called the police

    The host asked why they reacted differently to the two women and they all said that the first woman deserved it b/c of how she was dressed. They figured her outfit was asking for sex

  6. A few things, if a woman shoots her rapist I think thats called justice not controversy. While I appreciate the second video, I actually do say shawty cause I don’t know your name and personally B*tch has to be earned. No it’s not “hey shawty whats your phone number” it’s “how are you doing today shawty” or “you’re welcome shawty” there are a few darlings and babygurl’s thrown in too, it’s meant to be fun and flirtatious but if you don’t respond it cost me nothing I was being nice and going on about my day.

    It does no good to raise a gentleman if you only respond to fools. Because from a distance the only guy who got a reaction was the one mistreating you. It’s not okay to grab someone UNLESS they don’t see a car coming or something is about to fall on them. A virgin female is supposedly this great thing, but a virgin male is a curse thing is to no longer be a straight virgin male, you have to have sex with a female hopefully of peer age or hopefully legal(though if you are low teens peer age if the both of you consent)so to pretend women having sex is evil is not only hypocritical but stupid.

    I think SOME people sympathize with the rapist because they may have skeletons in their own closet and got away with it, I don’t know same as I say that “A man should never hit a woman, but a woman shouldn’t take the chance that the guy she is about to haul off and smack didn’t get that memo” you shouldn’t violate somebody and expect them to turn the other cheek, I don’t care how you violated them:Stole from them, bullied them, harrassed them, stabbed them in the back, slept with their spouse, whatever; retaliation MIGHT happen and while you may think it “harsh” you weren’t worried about harsh when you had your chance to not mess with them. I’m cringing at the black male stereotypes because I don’t do those things and I didn’t see a some. And before somebody says “if it don’t apply don’t reply” I could say the same about complaining about dudes calling women out their name. Simply put if ya don’t like it don’t do it, yes some dudes of EVERY COLOR can be the biggest jackasses on the planet, it ain all of us the assholes just blind you to the rest of us.

    1. “I actually do say shawty cause I don’t know your name and personally B*tch has to be earned. No it’s not “hey shawty whats your phone number” it’s “how are you doing today shawty” or “you’re welcome shawty” there are a few darlings and babygurl’s thrown in too, it’s meant to be fun and flirtatious but if you don’t respond it cost me nothing I was being nice and going on about my day.”

      You’re a real class act, referring to women as “shawty.” Note my sarcasm.

      If you don’t know a woman’s name, refer to her as “miss” or “ma’am.” Not “shawty,” “babygirl,” “boo,” or any other ridiculous name. Just because you have a tacky mentality doesn’t mean the women you approach are tacky like that.

  7. I think both genders need to take responsibility for their actions. As women we need to understand that men are visual creatures so if you wear something revealing, and you know it’s in a man’s nature to be dominate then if you advertise it they will come. I know a man is going to degrade a woman if he wants to no matter what she is wearing, but some clothing truly does suggest that certain things are available for his pleasure. Bars and clubs aren’t exactly the most modest places to be especially with so many people that have liquor in their system and music with suggestive lyrics playing.
    At the same time men need to learn how to control their urges and just admire off of a distance. Now I don’t go to clubs , but I’ve seen the way some men stare down women in different places in public. To me that’s downright uncomfortable so I can’t imagine getting “hollered” at daily. There is nothing wrong with a woman embracing her sexuality, but a lot of us need to learn how to set boundaries and demand respect while embracing it. Not playing devil’s advocate, but don’t pass out samples of anything that you’re not willing to give a full course meal to. Bottom line, sexual responsibility is a two way street.

    1. Thank you for your comment.
      Let me ask you a few questions:

      “As women we need to understand that men are visual creatures so if you wear something revealing, and you know it’s in a man’s nature to be dominate then if you advertise it they will come.”

      How does this account for Muslimas in full hijab being harassed? Or women coming from church in their Sunday finest being harassed?

      “I know a man is going to degrade a woman if he wants to no matter what she is wearing, but some clothing truly does suggest that certain things are available for his pleasure.”

      I disagree. I don’t think anything other than a woman’s words should be taken as “I’m here for your pleasure”. You’re blaming the victims and it is unfair. You’re suggesting that if a woman wants to avoid being harassed, she needs to dress in a Puritannical way, but you’re not accounting for the fact that women of all races, ages, shapes, sizes, and style of dress are harassed and raped.

      “but don’t pass out samples of anything that you’re not willing to give a full course meal to. ”

      The idea that a dress I choose to wear because it makes ME feel good is somehow me handing out “samples” of myself is, IMO, ridiculous.

      I kinda understand what you’re trying to say, but I think you missed the mark on this and are doing the same victim-blaming that is rampant in our society.
      You basically just said that women deserve it without saying women deserve it.

  8. This was beautiful. I get so tired of people underestimating the stress and discomfort we women (especially WOC) face when walking down the street past our counterparts. The frustration and rage you can feel when you have to endure/ignore comments is real. That wish to walk down the street and smile without inviting attention…. so simple yet we are denied that right. Powerful stuff. Thank you.

  9. Great post and while some people go all day about the pains that white privilege, we rarely talk about male privilege. Most guys don’t see the harm they’re doing by treating women like this and it needs to be addrtesed. No woman should walk around feeling scared cause they’re not interest in what a man wants to say to them

  10. Thanks for this piece. It’s that time of year when street harassment becomes more rampant due to the heat, and the stories about it never get old. The attitudes of harassers do get old. I cannot wait for the day when we women can walk down the streets and not have to worry about the horrible behavior of harassers.

  11. Forgive my Aquarian approach to this, it may seem scattered. I can agree on the fact that NOTHING CONSTITUTES rape on any level. But as far as to say women are oversaturated with comments that lead to aggressive behavior and disrespect, I think that goes both ways as well. We’re not gonna pretend folks do not visually harass each other just by staring alone. We do it when they aren’t even in front of us physically. Media – most of us are posted up on the couch watching both men and women, talking about how “fine” or however/whatever a person looks. Our minds tell us that verbally we have issues controlling our respectful words towards others. I’m not softening the blow for any rapist. I’m concretely placing blame on us all when we don’t check our own words and gestures and actions. Someone just jumped on another dude here about saying shawty, and I hear mad women talkin’ about “big man”, “poolboy” for us… yet has no reservations about seriously or jokingly cooling out on men’s physical issues and dropping nicknames on them. Not harassment in some way? In fact, some of these same trifling dudes use that as fodder to foster hate toward any and all women, which could translate into abuse in all forms. Being called concubine is worse IMO, or sideline ho. Jump off. Sharia Lawcould basically justifies how to subjugate women through religious constructs, so that’s not news, and it isn’t fair to women, so “wife”, “women”, “human being” would be the start of heavy respect towards Muslim women in hijab or burqa. But, opinion, that’s mine. However, if someone gives you a term of endearment, such as sweetheart or love, albeit your hubby or interest, you’re ready to defend yourself against names? Yet we sexually succumb to domination in the sack, in ways that could be giving the go ahead to folks for controlling issues to be unleashed in terrible ways, and words like “whore”, “slut”, and “bitch” get flung around. Check me if I’m wrong, but I think there are some countries pushing for the wife to have sex with the husband regardless of will, as law. As far as clothing as stereotyping and street harassment, I don’t advocate any use of that. But again, it’s typified in everything we say and do, and we sometimes pass it off as “sexual beings being themselves”. Like hell. Respecting has been a serious issue for us. The woman’s body is often used as an object.. (see “playground”, “jeep”,) and if we subdue our own fantasies and co-sign the bullshit of degradation towards them without checking each other in all facets or aspects, this will continue to be a problem “talked” about. Self-respect and mutual respect, first. Power to those abused and misused.

    1. “Yet we sexually succumb to domination in the sack, in ways that could be giving the go ahead to folks for controlling issues to be unleashed in terrible ways, and words like “whore”, “slut”, and “bitch” get flung around.”

      con·sent/kənˈsent/
      Noun:
      Permission for something to happen or agreement to do something.
      Verb:
      Give permission for something to happen: “he consented to a search by a detective”.
      Synonyms:
      noun. assent – agreement – approval – accord – compliance
      verb. agree – assent – accede – acquiesce – comply – concur

  12. Oh yeah, enough of this getting pissed of about folks asking you to smile, or why you aren’t. Seriously, if that person isn’t meaning you harm, how the fuck do you get mad at them for wanting you to feel better regardless of your moodiness?

    1. Actually,

      It’s more like strangers demanding that you smile and making assumptions about why your face looks the way it does. It is NOT appropriate to go up to a stranger and tell that person how they should be feeling and how to present their face to reflect said feeling. You know why someone gets mad? Because its a STRANGER telling you what you should be doing with YOUR life and YOUR body. This happened to me not long after my mother died and while I was in the midst of PPD. A stranger, an older man, came up to me, actually touched my arm, and told me that I should be smiling because I looked evil and life can’t be that bad.

      Are you serious?

      That’s “moodiness” to you?

      Oh. Ok.

      Peace,
      FJ

  13. Hi,

    As a survivor of rape I am so glad that you’ve written this post. Although, my spiritual beliefs differ on some points you made. I wholeheartedly agree that all shaming must stop!

    It would be great if there were a way to incorporate these points into some of our global religious institutions. I believe our churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are a sort of “ground zero” for many of these misogynistic beliefs. Yet, I know there is hope to change this if we acknowledge the problems and create solutions systematically.
    Thanks for the post!

  14. The black woman’s message to me ‘don’t look at me don’t Speak to me, get you a fat white girl and go away !’

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