Buzzfeed recently published a video that shows a New York woman walking through the streets of the city that never sleeps. The video spans 10 hours of walking throughout the city and documents the various levels of catcalling she experiences. The calls range from the falsely benign “hey beautiful” to outright following her for several minutes at a time.
In this time of campaigns such as “Stop Telling Women to Smile” and “Stop Street harassment,” there are few people of our generation, regardless of gender, age or race, who would argue that following a woman for several blocks and demanding her personal information is not harassment. The contention comes in when we’re dealing with the “friendly” end of the harassment spectrum.
This is usually where we hear the cries from men and women alike of “but they’re only being nice” and “there’s no need to be rude if he speaks you should speak back” and “shouldn’t you be grateful that someone is paying you a compliment?”
No. No I shouldn’t.
Do we really think women who are ‘outchea in these streets trying to get to work, school or wherever else they need to be are so low on and desperate for self-esteem boosts that they should be falling on their knees in thanks every time some random stranger decides to say something nice to them? Is that really what we think of women in society?
If this “friendly compliment” was so innocent and the giver of said compliment was so pure of heart that they only wanted to tell me how beautiful I was to brighten my day why is there such an angry reaction if I don’t respond to them?
Maybe it’s because these sweet, well-meaning men who are spraying compliments all over women like skittles from the rainbow are expecting some type of engagement and reciprocity. We all know what happens when men in America don’t get what they want. At the very least, a woman ends up getting called ‘angry,’ ‘bitter,’ ’bitch’ or ‘ungrateful.’ At the very worst, she ends up dead.
Take the case of Mary Spears, engaged mother of 3, who was shot and killed weeks ago in a bar because she turned down a man’s advances. She told him repeatedly she was not interested and he responded by shooting her multiple times. So there’s that.
Even if these men have no intention of shooting you in the face or running you over with their car (this has also happened in real life) when you ignore them there is still no duty of women to respond to men. Last time I checked most social interactions were optional to engage in. Saying hi to someone is an invitation not a command. If I speak to you on the street you have the option to speak back. Responding is purely and simply a courtesy that you have the power to extend to me or not. I smile at folks all the time, sometimes they don’t smile back. Know what I do? Move the hell on.
I don’t understand why this same understanding of social interactions does not extend to women walking down the street. Sir, you are a STRANGER who I have no ties to and will probably continue to not have ties to so I owe you absolutely nothing.
Hell, even if I do know you, I still owe you absolutely nothing…unless, you know, you’re my mama in which case I owe you everything. Either way, women are not obligated to speak back, respond or even acknowledge you just because you used 2 seconds of your time to say something to them that they already know. Bri, are you saying you already believe you’re beautiful and the compliments men give you on the street are no boost to your personal self-esteem?
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.
One person in the video tells the woman to smile twice and the second time his voice is louder and more authoritative. It’s almost as if he believes he has the right to tell this woman how to live her life and what to do with her body. Wonder where he would get such entitlement from?
Women are not here for your visual stimulation. If my scowling face, as I walk to class, is so off-putting to you, look somewhere else. I’m not here to look appealing or inviting to you. Believe it or not, sometimes I have thoughts happening in my brain that I’m mulling over and sometimes my day isn’t going so great so I look pissed…because I’m pissed.
In any case, me smiling for you or saying nice things back to you is not a social contract I agreed to. Just because at the last Men’s Rights Activists conference y’all decided women exist to make your daily life better doesn’t mean I have to nervously laugh and be polite every single time a man decides he wants to talk to me. I am an autonomous, free-thinking, rational-enough human being who can choose whether she wants to engage in any happenings surrounding her or not. And so are most women.
At the end of the day if it is so hard for you to treat women like humans with thoughts, minds, feelings, and actual stuff going on in their life you can keep the “hey baby’s” “hello beautiful’s” and “why you looks so mad’s.” I’m going to stay over here being great and living my daily life for me and not for those who made the decision that I owed them anything even though I don’t know them.
Check out the video below to see a woman’s harassment-ridden journey through the streets of Manhattan.