Three men are sauntering down Hyde Street. I am walking to work with my dog, Buster. I see them as I turn the corner. I consider crossing the street, but there’s a larger group of men on the other side. My gut tells me these guys aren’t just going to let me pass. I brace myself for the imminent harassment. I approach and the tallest one sees me. He starts yelling. I think he calls me “baby.” I pick up my pace, and put on an unmistakable scowl. They surround me. The tall, loud one stands so close I can smell his cologne. “Good morning gorgOUS,” he says.
I feel the rage well up inside me. I just want to walk to work. He is in my way. He and his friends are being rude and making me feel unsafe in my neighborhood, just blocks from my home. I roll my eyes and say “ugh. don’t be that guy.” They look confused. As I cross the block, I hear one mutter “huh?” and another repeat slowly “don’t be that guy?” And suddenly, For once,I feel like I won that exchange.
Introductions should probably come first: hi, I’m Laura. I manage Don’t Harass Me, Bro’s Tumblr and Twitter feeds. I am here for a number of reasons and look forward to affecting change on the San Francisco streets and beyond.
A large component of this campaign is not only to add to chorus of voices standing up against sexual violence, but to direct education efforts towards people who may not know how bad things have gotten. So, with that in mind, I want to start with a story.
Once upon a time - or this morning - when I was walking to work, a man stepped into my path, sucking on his rotting teeth and leering in my direction. His oral hygiene is irrelevant, but for the fact that he was sucking so hard, I was a little concerned that he might pull a tooth loose and accidentally vacuum it down his throat. I was looking down at my dog, when I heard that teeth-sucking noise and saw two black shoes directly in front of me.
"Hel-lo beautiful. Good [exhale] morning" he said, as he studied me. His eyes taking in every inch and finally settling on my breasts. I push past him, avoiding eye contact and keeping as much distance between him and the oncoming traffic, and the alley where he could push me into isolation. I silently pray that the hand in his pocket isn’t holding his penis, or a knife. There is no one on the block but the two of us and for those few seconds, I play out violent scenarios in my head. I envision possible outcomes. I am afraid.
One way or another, something like this happens at least once a day, most of the time more than that. Sometimes, it’s a man blocking my path and sometimes it’s someone yelling as their car speeds by. Sometimes it’s someone hissing as I walk down the street. And sometimes it’s someone grabbing my arm, my thigh, my waste, my breast or my shoulder and trying to take me with them (see: kidnapping). Sometimes, it’s someone following me to my intended destination. No interaction is ever the same, and they exist on a spectrum. My experience this morning did not ruin my day, or leaving me wondering if I should start using the other entrance to my building, or change my address completely, but it is one more interaction to add to my totality of circumstances that makes me wonder whether or not my body is in fact my own. When I am outside, I never feel safe, unless I am with a companion. I am tired of living in fear. I am tired of feeling violated whenever I leave my apartment. I know I am not the only one.
As we embark on this journey, I will share with you - the internet - my many experiences with street harassment, the experiences of women and men from across demographics, and from different backgrounds. We start in San Francisco, but with enough voices we hope to take our campaign nationwide.