Jasmine Irving

Street Harassment – Leave Us Alone!

During the summer I wrote a piece all about positive travel and why women shouldn’t feel held back from exploring the world solo. As I highlighted, violence against women is a worldwide problem and is faced on home turf as well as abroad. Whilst I still feel empowered by being a female solo traveller, there is another side to the coin. It’s no plain sailing.

I am getting tired. Tired and frankly, pissed off, angry beyond belief. Too frequently, when I am just trying to live my normal life I am given the message that as a woman, my body is public property. I may as well have a sign above my head asking male strangers to touch me uninvited, harass me in the street and proposition me for sex whenever they fancy. I feel at risk, I feel scared and that makes me so frustrated. I can’t even put up an advert offering babysitting and language lessons without having a complete creep harass me with phone calls and texts about how he wants to “dominate” me.

Image via stopstreetharassment.org

Image via stopstreetharassment.org

I felt positive and confident about new students getting in touch to have lessons from me. Then some idiot comes along and invades my professional space, leaving me feeling sick, violated and worried.

I’ve had men, both in the UK and all over the world, follow me, grab me, shout sexual comments, and refuse to leave me alone. I hate that I have to carry this fear around with me everywhere I go. I use the word “I” where “we” would also be perfectly appropriate as I am in no way alone with this, it’s a collective issue. Women have had to learn to be able to detect in an instant the level of threat that a man poses when her personal space is invaded in public. That’s if we’re lucky enough to even get the chance.

And it can feel like we’re screwed either way because give him the benefit of the doubt and stop to chat, then it can soon turn nasty as you’re accused of leading him on or being a “tease.” Tell him out right where to go and he can get aggressive, after having his masculinity threatened which is the very thing he was trying to assert in the first place. Say a few polite words but remain closed and you get criticised for being “cold” or told to “smile baby.”

Seriously, would it be so fucking difficult to just leave the house and not have to face all this bullshit? I feel like women have to be constantly on alert, ready to detect the intentions of strangers and forced to expend energy on dealing with the perpetrators of street harassment. It’s certainly not fair on women and it’s also not fair on all the good men out there who end up being feared and having the worst assumed of them because of the mistakes of others.

This is a worldwide problem and probably happened to me just as frequently in some parts of the UK as it does abroad. It’s just that in an unfamiliar place it can make you feel that extra bit more vulnerable.

I don’t want to have to assume that any man who talks to me has bad intentions. I don’t want to have to be so wary of every stranger. I love meeting new people! Sometimes I feel completely paranoid. But every time my guts told me to watch out, I’ve been proved right and sometimes too late, all because I second guessed myself.

That’s one of the worst parts of street harassment, women are made to constantly question themselves. Was I too rude? Did I cause too much of a fuss? Maybe he was just trying to be nice? Or they end up feeling stupid for engaging with a man who seemed harmless and then turned out to want to hurt them.

My usual optimism has gone kaput today. It’s deflated. All I know is that we have to look out for each other, stand up for each other and never allow any kind of street harassment or violence against women to go unnoticed and unaccounted for. Luckily, for every creep, there is someone kind, thoughtful and understanding who is passionate about changing things for the better. So, let’s stick together and maybe we can educate these idiots into learning some respect.

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