Posted June 16, 2010on:
College Park, MD
I hope people are still reading this blog! I wrote a poem/spoken word piece about street harassment and I figured that others might appreciate my words, since I know I’m not the only person who experiences street harassment. Before my poem, I’m putting up a video about street harassment called “Walking Home.” I won’t spend a lot of time discussing why street harassment sucks, but it is an especially shitty situation because I have yet to figure out the appropriate way to respond. If you ignore the harasser or if you react, they will know that their words and behaviors affected you and they’ve accomplished what they intended (to harass you!).
I believe in the case of cisgendered male harassers, it has a lot to do with male privilege and entitlement. I also think it’s a matter of maintaining hierarchal relationships and societal power dynamics (male v. female, queer v. heterosexual, cisgendered v. transgendered/genderqueer), since it allows harassers to exert their supposed dominance over the individual being harassed. Their behaviors say in either a verbal or non-verbal way “you are weaker and of less value to me and thus I have the right to harass you.” I know many harassers plead ignorance, and there is definitely an element of ignorance in some instances of harassment, but I don’t believe that is the explanation for why harassers behave the way they do. Anyway, I hope this gives some solace to individuals who have experienced street harassment and empowers people to have conversations, call out harassers (when it is safe to do so), and check their own potentially harassing behavior. Also, check out the website for Holla Back DC!, a DC-based anti-street harassment organization.
I am not sorry for my curve
For the fine, rounded edges of my hips
The arm bare in summer dresses
You grab as if it’s yours.
You can keep whistling
But I don’t do tricks;
Nor do I lay down.
My ears are wide open and hear every word
But yours must be closed, because you can’t hear the tears I’ll no longer cry.
Your power is bullshit,
Your dominance, an illusion.
And PLEASE spare me from the “what? I was just playing!”
Or the “can’t you take a joke?”
And especially the “you’re just a dumb bitch/slut/ho/cunt/whore.”
The culture of fear you perpetuate is no game,
The only joke is you,
And I am only the labels I choose to take on.
What if I was your mother?
Your sister? Your grandmother?
Your girlfriend? Your niece?
Or any of the other women in your life you clearly failed to listen to?
I know my dress is short.
That’s how I like it.
So swallow your words,
Keep your hands to yourself,
And if you even think about harassing me,
I will find an opening in your head (perhaps through the ear),
Voyage to your brain,
And pick that thought right out of your stupid fucking skull.
With a bounce in my step
I glide down the street with no apologies.