By Brittany Barnes
SC Staff Writer
At the age of 13, I realized that my body did not belong to me. Instead, it belonged any and every guy I passed on the street.
I was standing in a Chinese store in Philadelphia, where I grew up, when I heard a guy behind me say, “Mmm, mmm, mmm…you’re going to be a ‘killa’ in about 5 years.” I turned around and saw a man, approximately 25 to 30 years old gawking at me.
I felt uncomfortable, uneasy, and most of all, disrespected. I’m sure he meant for his comment to be some form of a compliment but it wasn’t.
Most people, along with myself, associate the sound “mmm, mmm, mmm” with food. A grown man downgraded me from a person to a meal.
That was my first experience with street harassment but it was certainly not my last. Now 21 years old, I have endless stories similar to that one.
Many other women and girls have had the same experiences. StopStreetHarassment.org conducted a survey in 2008 on ‘Street Harassment.’ 80% of the 811 women surveyed said they constantly assess their surroundings and 62% said they avoid making eye contact. Women have to be on guard while going to school, work, or at the gym.
StopStreetHarassment.org also stated that “for most women, street harassment begins around puberty [which occurs between 10 and 14] and being a recipient of it signifies to many of them the transition from girlhood to womanhood.”
Being whistled at, winked at, and honked at by random men should not signify your transition from a “girl” to a “woman,” especially since you’re still just a child.
Between the ages 15 and 17, some girls have completed puberty. That’s when street harassment became worse for me.
At 16, I was walking into a gas station convenient store wearing a pair of jeans and a top that stopped right under my belly button, showing a little bit of my back. A man yelled out to me, “Damn baby, you should a get tattoo right there, that’ll be sexy!”
Around this time I received countless “Hey baby’s,” “Damn’s,” “Yo’s,” and “Girl in the (whatever you’re wearing that distinguishes you from your friends).”
I even had my butt grabbed by a guy walking out of the mall one time.
Women are entertainment. They’re nothing more than objects for men to watch and cheer for with disrespectful comments, catcalls, and scary admiration. I’ve witnessed guys throw rocks at girls to get their attention.
When I went home for spring break just a few weeks ago, I got on the subway and saw a man licking his lips at almost every woman that entered the subway car.
Women’s bodies have become public property for all to see and comment on whenever they please. And don’t you dare say “no.”
I had to ride the subway for 15 minutes watching a guy stare at me the entire time. When I got off the subway, he also got off the subway. He said “You’re beautiful.” Which wouldn’t be a bad thing to say if he hadn’t stared at me for 15 minutes.
When he asked my name, I didn’t answer. He said he wanted to make me “wifey” and that I should take down his number. I declined, saying, “No, I’m good.” He asked, “Why? You got a boyfriend? You think I’m ugly?” While I do have a boyfriend, I said “No, I just don’t want to talk to you.” He proceeded to talk to me anyway because he and most men do not respect women and their decisions.
Why do I have to give a guy an excuse for not wanting to talk to them? Most men don’t care if you have a boyfriend or not. They’ll respond with “you can’t have friends?” or “I just wanna chill.”
Last semester, in front of Dansbury, I was walking behind a group of girls and heard a guy call out, “I want her with the blonde hair!” Her friends’ hair were not blonde so she knew which one he “wanted.” She laughed but said, “I have a boyfriend.” The guy responded, “I don’t care, I can be your side dude.”
The 2008 survey conducted by StopStreetHarassment.org, also revealed 50% of women cross the street or take another route to avoid men and 40% avoid being alone at all times of day, not just at night. Women are uncomfortable walking through their neighborhoods alone.
I realized that my body belongs to no one else but me. My body is my own. We are not your entertainment and “damn, you’re sexy” is not flattering.
I don’t think that men don’t care. I think that men don’t understand. They couldn’t possibly fathom the fear of being a gazelle walking pass a pride of lions.
Email Brittany at: