Mammas, don't let your babies grow up to be street harassers

Mammas, don't let your babies grow up to be street harassers

New Orleans. June. I was walking down the street with my husband during the day. It was warm. We were getting exercise. I had dressed for comfort in a tank top and yoga pants.

As we neared a corner, I overheard a guy telling his friends, "I've always been supportive of yoga pants." And then as my 35-year-old, been-through-two-pregnancies ass passed him he added, "In most cases."

During the school year, on one of the first warm days post-polar vortex, I got kissing noises from a passing trucker as I walked with my daughter to pick up my son.

Last weekend, I went to Lollapalooza. As I sat alone on a beach towel listening to some band I'd never heard of, a passing man suggested that I "smile."

And on...and on...and on...

Every time I've put on those yoga pants since June, I've thought about those jackasses in New Orleans and whether or not I *should* be wearing pants like that.

Whenever someone shouts at me on the street, my heart speeds up out of both fear and anger.

When someone stops me in Home Depot and tells me that my (at the time two-year-old!) daughter's father is going to need to buy a gun for when she's of dating age, it makes me think it might be time for me to reconsider my anti-gun stance and purchase my own piece.

Over and over and over again...

There's been a lot of talk recently about the damaging effects of street harassment. Feminista Jones has been promoting the hashtag #YouOkSis as a way to help deescalate street violence on a case-by-case basis. The female editors of the Huffington Post shared the kinds of things they've heard while walking down the street. Most of us women have been there in some form or another, even if we didn't realize there was a name for it.

And it kills me that so many guys, smart guys, don't realize how devaluing and frightening this can be for a woman. And somehow we keep passing this practice down from generation to generation.

"It's not like we're saying it to her. We're just whispering it to each other."

We have ears. We can hear. We know. You're not as quiet as you think you are, brain trust.

Even if we are out of earshot (which is how this sort of behavior has recently been mansplained to me), by the way, it's still rude. Even if she can't hear you commenting on "dat ass" or whatever you find appealing or unappealing about her, it's still a dick move to talk about a person behind her back. This is a grade school-level lesson.

"If she's dressing like that, she wants to be noticed. It's a compliment that we're paying attention."

OK, yes. Sometimes we do want attention. Everybody does at some point long to be noticed. But not like that. Not with the kind of attention that makes us feel afraid on our walk from the train station to the bar. Not the kind of attention that makes us worry you're going to follow us and drag us into an alley, or where we feel compelled to act flattered because if we don't, things might escalate to a more dangerous level.

Yes, we want attention, but we want it on a more personal level. Look us right in the eye and smile kindly. Say hello. Not "Hell-O," while biting down on the knuckle of your index finger and letting your eyes drag along the ground like a cartoon wolf, but "Hello," with a nod and a smile, like we're two human beings interacting with each other on a personal level. Or if you see us at the bar, introduce yourself and buy us a drink. If all that seems like a scarier prospect than catcalling us on the street, well, screw you, you're not man enough for us anyway.

 
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