hey baby

I first bought an I-Pod mini so I could listen to music while working out at the gym. I had finally retired my portable CD player. Remember those? I had to rest it on the ledge of the treadmill or crosstrainer and hope it wouldn’t fall to the floor.

Now my I-Pod mini does double duty as a harassment blocker (or at least a blunter). I’d complain to friends that my walks through my Brooklyn neighborhood–on my way to yoga, the train, or the store–were always punctuated by lewd and sometimes aggressive remarks from men who loiter in front of buildings all day. And I have a swift gait! I navigate my ‘hood like most New Yorkers: walk with a purpose and keep my eyes straight. But neither haste nor sweaty gym clothes discourage random men from commenting about my appearance or body or suggesting that I smile.

Photo Credit: Life.com
Street harassment is a daily occurrence for most women and for queer and trans people. Last week, my friend sent me a link to this animated scenario of street harassment @ Jezebel. Yesterday, the Crunk Feminist Collective reprinted a poignant piece by Elizabeth Mendez Berry about the insidious trauma of street harassment. Sites like Stop Street Harassment and Holla Back host women’s stories and recommend empowerment strategies. Street harassment is so tied into our misogynistic culture that both women and men will have to work to make public spaces safe for women and men. My white ear buds may block out daily annoyances but they don’t always quell my anxiety and hypervigilance. I know as a woman who stakes a claim to public space–to my city, my neighborhood, and my stoop–that at its worst, street harassment can turn violent or deadly.

Stop Street Harassment recommends a multilayered approach to ending public harassment: educate, empower, raise awareness, and campaign. How do you address street harassment?


About jennifer williams

Jennifer D. Williams is a writer and professor of English and Women's and Gender Studies. She has published in academic journals and online at Ms.blog, PopMatters, among other sites. Jennifer is currently working on a book that looks at black women's urban literature between the Depression and the civil rights era.

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