My name is Akilah. In my 26 years of life my experience with street harassment has been a troubling one. I’ve seen others subjected to this and I have been a recipient of this unwanted sexual harassment. I will not repeat all the vile and offensive things spat at me by various men but I would like to express my utter disgust and revulsion. It makes me sick and angry that men feel somehow they have the right and permission to just say what they please to women as we go about our days trying to make the best of life just like everyone else. Not only do we have other inequalities to face but we also have to be told abhorrent sexual things as we too struggle with life. It’s not fair. I have taken to wearing head phones or just not walking about as I would like to deal in order to avoid street harassment. There are no words I can use to express just how much I hate street harassment. It is NOT attractive and NOT wanted. STOP street harassment. It is just not OK.
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Your story resonates with me all too well. During my puberty to adult years I have dealt with this filth! The cat calling and stares into my shirt, the licking of lips etc. It drove me to extreme anger and I chose to wear only dark and “unattractive” clothing in hope of going unnoticed. When this failed, I simply ignored it all and thought I had become immune to the nasty behaviour. As I got wiser and more cantankerous, I decided not to let them take away my freedom. I yelled back things like “ That’s very disgusting!”, “ Shame on you!”; and for the men who thought they had more suave, I replied with a very stern “GOOD MORNING/EVENING” with the most uninviting expression. Now, I just don’t hear them let alone see them. And of course having a husband and child at my side most times is not exactly “sex appeal”.
But I, with my curious mind wondered WHY? why do these men continuously harass women? Why do they believe its okay to treat women with such lack of respect? The answer is simple :They get GRATIFICATION! Why would a stray animal keep visiting you? Because you feed it. I say this in reference to those girls/women who respond positively and reward men for the sexual innuendoes because they believe this is a validation of their beauty and attractiveness. Those girls/women who are lost because they come from homes where fathers are absent or are not involved in their lives enough or don’t remind them of their value and esteem. Those girls/women who come from homes where mothers are still growing up and unable to impart knowledge enough to combat this real- world challenge or teach by example.
Those men in the streets were once boys who spent time hanging with their fathers at shops/bars and observed this behaviour towards women, or whose fathers were absent altogether. Role models are simply missing or confusing in both cases. We forget that children learn with their eyes also.
Men/boys have gone for far too long without being held accountable for their actions that cause women and girls much suffering. “We” the parents are the core of this and other social issues we face, “we” the teachers, the religious leaders, or any other influential figures in society.
Mothers and fathers are the first two persons of the opposite sex that children interact with and this relationship sets fundamentals for all that follow. I do believe, however, with much empowerment and empowering women as models, girls can realise their worth, grow stronger and change this unacceptable culture.
I always say to the young girls in my immediate environment, we have one body and one life, we need to own them and take charge.
BEING BETTER MOTHERS AND FATHERS TO OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.