I was so excited to hear that the UK now has its own Hollaback blog. For people who haven't come across one of these blogs before, they're essentially accounts of street harassment from women in various US cities. It's a great way for women to vent their experiences, rather than just bottling up that impotent rage that many of us feel after dealing with sexual comments from strangers.
After all, how many of us feel up to confronting these swines after we've been humiliated and degraded? We often just slope off red-faced with our skin crawling, angry at them for daring to speak to us like that and angry at ourselves for saying nothing in return. And this is exactly the reaction they want. If you turned around and said, 'Yeah, I'll fuck you. Let's go back to your place', they simply wouldn't know what to do. A street harasser's aim is to make women feel powerless, not to compliment us or make us feel 'special'. I often feel that it's a way to keep us 'in our place'. Like we've got a bit above ourselves walking about in the world, living independent lives. We need reminding that we're are objects, only useful in the home and particularly in the bedroom. One of the most frustrating things about this is the fact that if you ignore them or tell them to fuck off, they shout that you're stuck up or you're a bitch.
I'm aware that none of this is particularly new or interesting so here are are a couple of my own memorable experiences with street harassment.
A couple of weeks ago, I was at uni to meet a friend and I was locking up by bike with a combination lock. I looked up and saw the postman heading in my direction. I smiled and prepared to say a cheery 'good morning'. Except that I didn't get a chance to say anything before he said, 'If I come back to yours, will you tie me up like that?' It took a second to register that that was what he said and I was still wearing my fixed grin. I was so angry that I hadn't managed a retort. I hated that he might have thought I was OK with his disgusting behaviour.
But whenever I feel like that, I remember the time that I did manage (just a little bit) to get my own back. I was walking past a tiling shop with my friend on my way home. We heard somebody behind us saying things as we walked away and turned around in time to hear, 'I love the way your ass looks in those jeans'. This schmuck was sitting outside the shop in his uniform, he clearly worked there!! We went in and spoke to his manager who assured us that he would be disciplined. As we were leaving he started saying, 'Oh I get it, you're shy. Can I get your number?' What did he think we'd done? Asked his manager for this guy's number so we could get a date with him?!
It was small but it made us feel a bit more powerful.
Anyway, you can find Hollaback UK here and you can tweet them at @hollabackuk. Congratulations to all involved, it's a brilliant idea.
(Picture from http://hollabacktalk.blogspot.com)