That’s what a guy hollered at me from his car as I walked home from the university library today.
My first thought was, “This shirt isn’t even that tight or low cut.” Some asshole I don’t even know yelled at me as he drove by, and I wondered if I was wearing something I shouldn’t be, as if HIS opinion is what matters. And, even if I were wearing a tight, low cut shirt he still has no business yelling at me. He has no business identifying me with my reproductive organs.
I wasn’t even wearing anything to be “asking for it.” I was wearing a baggy t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers. I was wearing my backpack. It was the afternoon. I was coming home from the library.
But, you see, this is how it works: Street harassment is about policing women. It’s about keeping us in our place. It doesn’t matter what we wear, where we walk, what time we go out. Street harassment is about ensuring that women know our bodies are regulated in space, in time, and in our dress. It’s about making sure we know that our value to society comes from our looks (specifically our desirability to heterosexual men) and our subordinate social position in relation to heterosexual men.
Street harassment is about establishing masculinity in terms of women and heterosexuality. So long as men and boys think that the worst thing to be is a woman and the best (most masculine) thing is to be a man in sexual control of a woman, street harassment and rape culture will continue to be the dominant paradigm for women’s and girls’ experience of living in the world.
This two word phrase, hollered at me by a perfect stranger, made me doubt my own ability to dress myself, made me doubt my ability to walk safely in broad daylight between my university library and my home. It made me feel like shit. It made me feel like nothing more than object – well, TWO objects: my tits, because that’s all I was to this guy.
Men: Don’t tolerate this kind of behavior in other men. Call other men out when they treat women like objects. Call them out when they engage in street harassment. And don’t behave this way yourselves.