06 August 2011

The Freedom to Walk Down the Street

I’m getting really sick of being unable to walk down the street with some guy saying something. Someone staring in that lecherous way. Something making a gesture. A common. A look.

I was feeling exhausted after a long day, walking from Wayne’s car, carrying my shoulder bag, my beach bag, and my surfboard. These two drunk guys were walking in that way and I knew they were the type to say something. I vowed if they did, I’d knock my surfboard into them. Fiberglass hurts. They didn’t say anything to me, but then I suddenly heard Wayne (who was walking a little behind me, after having locked up the car) saying loudly, “You like my girlfriend?” I stopped, unsure of what was going on. He came up to me. “Those guys are disgusting.” I asked what they said, and he told me.

“I’d surf her.”

I fled. I ran after them, kicking off my shoes so I could catch up to them. I don’t remember what I screamed, probably something like, “What the fuck?” I really wanted to knock this big fat guy, who was probably at least double my size, with my surfboard.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean no disrespect,” he told me, probably thinking I’m a total lunatic.

Bullshit. Of course you meant disrespect. What did you mean, saying something like that?

I just want to walk down the street, free of suggestion. I don’t mind the occasional glance or smile, and wow, imagine if you met your partner on the street. But no. I never get anything normal. It’s always sleazy. I’m not a person. I’m a sex object.

Or that’s how they see me. And I want more than that. I am more than that.

I hate hearing, “Well, when you get old, you’ll miss the attention.” Attention? Is that what you call it? Bad attention, maybe. I want to feel safe, feel comfortable to walk down the street in whatever I wear.

Here are a few letters I would like to write to the sexual harassing assholes:

To the assholes that worked on construction on 151 Green Street in Brooklyn – I hate you. I hate that everytime I walk by, you have to put down what you’re doing to give me that look, you know what I mean, the one that makes me want to rush home and take a shower. Or you say something. I wouldn’t have minded if your building collapsed on you. You never showed me anything good.

To the assholes that constructed the Viridian Luxury Condos – You are a special breed of assholes. Five stories up, or higher, on little tiny dangerous platforms, you’d still find a way to make me feel like crap. Insignificant. You’d whistle, yell. I always hoped you’d fall, even though death is cruel. Remember: what you do comes back to you.

To that asshole who lives on my corner and hangs out at the ghetto Laundromat – You’re a pig. You really think I want to hear you say that crap every single day? And sad – that one day your little girl was around. You know that one day she’ll grow up and hear the same things I do? It’s not nice.

I used to want to move because of that asshole. Yeah, that’s how bad it was.

To the assholes who yelled at me from their gardening trucks when I was in high school – You know I used to get up at 5am, run, shower, and then go back to bed? Why did I do that? Because if I ran any later, the gardeners would be out, yelling at me from their trucks. It’s not a compliment. Some people said it was a cultural thing; I say it’s a fucked-up thing. A 15, 16, 17 year old girl does not find it a compliment. She finds it scary. She is miserable. She is embarrassed. She will get up at 5am to avoid you.

To all the employers who did little when I experienced harassment – Like when the guy with the black phonebook stalked me at the public library I worked at when I was 16. When I complained, the director yelled at him – and then told me, “Maybe you should dress less attractive.” (I wore skirts and dresses in the summer because it was too hot otherwise with our crappy air conditioning, and shorts were not allowed.) Or the asshole that would sit at the desk in the Boulder Public Library and leer at me as I walked by and say things – it was suggested I walk the extremely long way taking two flights of stairs instead of walking directly there. Or the IT person at another job that complained I didn’t say anything to the photocopier after being harassed – she being a woman, but at least the male IT person supported me.

This is fucked up.

This is fucked up that we just accept it.

I’m sick of rolling over. “Yes, please, give me another.” No fucking way. At those trucks that feel the need to honk at me daily when I run by (One major reason I prefer trail running) – I’ll continue to raise my middle finger at you. “It won’t change anything,” people tell me. But what will change by me saying nothing? I want to let them know it’s unacceptable.

Recently, after a guy said something to me, I ran up to him. “Why did you do that? Did you think I’d feel good after you said that? Was that a compliment? I don’t feel good, I feel uncomfortable and unhappy and miserable. That wasn’t nice. How would you feel if someone said that to your mother or your sister or your girlfriend?”

Because, asshole, you know people do.

That’s just how it works.

I refuse to be silent. Maybe I’m too aggressive, but I won’t be silent. I won’t take it.

I will not be silent.

I will rise.

Silence will not save us.

Silence will not protect us.

Suggestion - Fugazi
Why can't i walk down a street free of suggestion?
Is my body the only trait in the eye's of men?
I've got some skin
You want to look in
There lays no reward in what you discover
You spent yourself watching me suffer
Suffer you words, suffer your eyes, suffer your hands
Suffer your interpretation of what it is to be a man
I've got some skin
You want to look in
She does nothing to deserve it
He looks at her cause he wants to observe it
We sit back like they taught us
We keep quiet like they taught us
He just wants he wants to prove it
She does nothing to remove it
We don't want anyone to mind us
So we play the roles that they assigned us
She does nothing to conceal it
He touches her 'cause he wants to feel it
We blame her for being there
But we are all here
We're all... guilty


runnergirl training said...

Good post. I agree 100% & feel the same way after many similar experiences. Very frustrating.

Tiffany Guerra said...

Cherie... this resonates a lot. It's so easy to downplay this kind of stuff - in particular it's very easy for others to downplay it, especially having never been on the receiving end.
It feels like shit, and there is no justification for it. Thank you for posting and for refusing to take it anymore.

Kitzie Winship said...

Beautiful post on ugliness, Cherie. I doubt there's any woman who can't relate to this (unfortunitely) yet its so seldom confronted - at least not as directly as chasing a gross guy down the street with a surfboard! (So. Awesome.)

Hollaback groups are sprouting up nationwide, which speaks of a need and perhaps growing awareness of street harassment. Keep fighting the good fight <3

R is for RESIST!

Anonymous said...


I'm so sorry to hear that. But I'm so impressed that you went after those guys! So great to have a friend stick up for you and that you yelled at them for being disrespectful.

On another note, I found your site from Runner's World and was wondering if you were going to the Oct. 9th 10K Run and Fun Walk in Brooklyn. I don't know anyone that lives in NYC. I'm from D.C. and will be going to it alone. It'll be my first time in the city since 2008. So, it'd be awesome to meet some people who run and are from the city. If not, maybe you know some people who are?

Take care!


cherie said...

Hey Khadijah, I don't know about that race...I might be helping a friend pace a race so I'm not sure about that race. That does sound like fun. Where is the race? There are a lot of running clubs in NYC - I'm part of North Brooklyn Runners and we have 1-2 runs per day open to everyone (schedule on our website) - you can totally come if you're up to it!

Anonymous said...


The race is at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration on Fulton St. And thanks so much for the heads up on the running club! I'll def. check it out :)

This is random but it'd be awesome to get a really good hot dog while there--do you know a place?

cherie said...

hahah i'm a vegetarian so can't give you a hot dog recommendation. try yelp or time out new york and see if there are any lists of that in there. good luck!

Anonymous said...