An open letter about street harassment
This is a blog about writing and comic books and horror and weird stuff. Tonight, it isn’t.
Dear man on the street, in a restaurant, on a bus, on the corner, outside my house, outside my classroom, at my job, who may be my coworker or my boss or my classmate or my neighbor or just a stranger. If you’re reading this and you’re offended by the things I’m about to describe, I’m not talking to you. But if you don’t fall into that category, then this letter is about you. And I want to make myself very clear: I don’t need your attention.
I don’t need your roaming eyes or itching fingers or tongue licking at your bottom lip as you look me up and down and tell me you’re into something different. I don’t need your pity, your sympathy, your oh-I’ll-throw-her-a-bone-I’m-a-stand-up-guy routine. I have no use for your bones or any other part of you, all six feet of solid meat and heavy breath. I’m not yours to crowd in, pressed against a shelf in a grocery store or a bus stop hutch. I’m not yours to pant on or grab for, touch or pull. This skin is my own, this skeleton of imperfections held together by cloth and twine. It doesn’t need your approval, your wants or intentions. I’ve made it twenty-six years without them so far.
I know it isn’t me. It’s you, because I’m just some dumb bitch or ugly cunt out of the hundreds you see every day and I should be grateful for this. There’s a dozen other girls prettier than me and I should be glad for whatever I can get. I got that. But I’m still going to take it personally.
Yeah, you’ll whistle at me from your car at a stoplight, or try to grope me in a bar or on the street or on my way to class. You’ll try to stop me when I’m walking home and yell things at me and call me names when I don’t go to my knees and kiss your feet for the attention. I know you. I know a thousand faces just like yours. You’ll all tell me I need to be grateful for whatever I can get. You’re doing me a favor, after all. You’re just trying to pay me a compliment. You’re just trying to make me feel good about my mouth and my tits and my ass in these jeans that you can’t stop staring at.
Because I’m too fat, or too ugly, or too short, or too whatever to do any better for myself, and you just want to make sure I know that. Even if you call me beautiful first, I’m an ugly slut when you’re done with me. I’m a frigid bitch and I need to learn to accept your attention with a big stupid smile on my face. You want to make sure I never forget. Nobody forgets. No girl gets the chance to, no matter where she is or what she looks like. You all make sure of that. But I want to make you remember something, too.
Every time I’ll just keep walking, or I’ll push back, or I’ll punch or scream. I’ll call for help when you harass me on the bus and I’ll involve everybody around me when you smile and lie and say we were just having a conversation. I’ll stand in the middle of the aisle at Wal-Mart on a Friday afternoon and shout about what a rapist you must to be to accost someone in broad daylight until you go away, huffing and red-faced, fists balled up, ready to make me regret it. I’ll fashion a blackjack for my keychain that I’ll swing like a billy-club as I walk to my car after work. I’ll smile at the cops on bicycles who stop and nod at me and move aside, because they now why I have to do these things.
You’ll make me do this, but you won’t make me afraid.
I don’t need you, and I won’t be swayed by you.
Everything in this letter is true. What you do with it once you’ve read it is entirely up to you.