I have written here before about the devastating impact of street harassment. Last time I pledged it wouldn’t be the last time I stood up to a street harasser. And I have followed through with my pledge – today when a man violated my personal space by pressing his body on mine, whispered in my ear, and attempted to follow me around to convince me to talk to him, going so far as to walk to every spot I walked to get away from him, I finally just told him to back the hell off. And he did. It doesn’t always work, and sometimes it’s too much of a dangerous situation to speak out. I did it in a crowd full of people and it effectively humiliated the hell out of him. For that fact, I am happy.
This article, however, won’t be so much about street harassment but about the trivializing attitudes that still exist towards it, as well as the questionable attitude towards what I’ll call “feminist rage,” even though I think it deserves to just be called justifiable rage towards patriarchal/misogynistic attitudes. Although I have written about street harassment before on social networking sites and received lot of validating responses, there will always be a few people who question the validity of my rage towards street harassers. I celebrate the people in my life who take street harassment, rape, sexual assault, and by extension the rape culture that surrounds us, seriously. I celebrate the people in my life who don’t wonder, “Did she provoke it?” or “Why is she so angry?” Because unfortunately, there are still people out there who ask the same questions when they hear about street harassment. These people are not necessarily men, but women themselves who have been harassed. This frightens, confuses and angers me, since these women personally have experienced similar violations, yet doubt others who dare to get angry about them.
A couple of people noticed my stories about street harassment and its frequency. And they wondered WHY did it always happen to me? Almost as if they were doubting my claims. I felt like I was under investigation, when in truth, I just happened to live in a neighborhood where street harassment was normalized to an extent where it happened on a daily basis. Not just to me, but to my sister, to my friends, to the whole female community. I didn’t know how to explain to them “why” it was me; I was even more confused as to why they CARED about the reason I was a target moreso than the fact that I was one. People who were closest to me asked me what “exactly” the harasser did, as if anything less than a black-and-white explanation could justify my anger.
This, of course, was beyond my comprehension. Why didn’t people take me seriously? Why is it that I had to explain each story, talk about how the harasser in question always came close to me, violated my personal space, and made me feel unsafe? Why was it that I was constantly bombarded by the philosophy that I should just “get over it” and let things go? While I understand that I shouldn’t give these harassers more power than they deserve, why were some of the people closest to me the ones who doubted the severity of the impact that incidents of street harassment had?
I will never know the answer, but I think it’s good to investigate why people are so against the idea of feminists just being, well, ANGRY. And rightfully so. Not angry for the sake of it, but angry because of valid reasons like rape culture, the pay gap, the restrictions on reproductive health, the sexual double standards that continue to be perpetuated.
I know there’s still the destructive trope of the “angry feminist” floating around, but I don’t see why we can’t interpret the rage of feminists as constructive rage, rage that may ignite change, create movements, create somewhat of a safer world, or at least keep one less street harasser out of our personal space. Let’s take that rage and keep expressing ourselves. Let’s use that rage to fuel constructive change in our communities. For those who tell us we are too angry, that we should let it go, let’s get angry at them too. I am tired of people telling me that I shouldn’t be angry, that these incidents are trifles I should let go of. I am also tired of DOUBT, the fact that there will always be a few who question why the victims are targets rather than wondering what the perpetrator had to do with it. Street harassment is part of the bigger problem of rape and rape culture, and it should not be obscured by people who dismiss the rage it should evoke.