‘Hey beautiful’ is the same as any other street harassment

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Source: http://leftycartoons.com/street-harassment/

It was a sunny day so I was wearing my shades, shorts and an airy blouse. I was already late so I hurried without taking the usual care of avoiding the dirty bar right in front of my house, where fat hairy middle aged men were already getting drunk at one in the afternoon.

A man shouted in my direction, it was something rude, but I brushed it off, making a mental note to avoid the place when I made my way back home.

Relieved to have passed the bar I continued to make my way to the metro station, but I hadn’t even walked half a block from my house when another middle aged man sat with two of his mates harassed me.

“Hey, beautiful”

I turned around and told him to f*ck off. I was absolutely livid. I work from home so I don’t go out as often as most people but that week, the three times I had to run errands I had been the target of some kind of disgusting comment that reduced me to a piece of meat.

He yelled back at me saying it was a ‘compliment’. The stupidest thing is that I started feeling guilty and like I overreacted, maybe he was just complimenting me, trying to be nice, right? Maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt and be nicer in the face of street harassment.

I was out to cover a festival for a known online magazine and was mentally planning how I would write it – I was concentrated, focused on my work. And then a disgusting middle aged man feels the need to point out that my exterior features are ‘beautiful’, completely throwing me off and making me jump. And there comes the feeling of vulnerability and the submission that feels mandatory because the man might lash back at me if I respond.

Don’t think for a second that I would be happier or more comfortable if the man had been young and good-looking though – street harassment makes you a disgusting human being no matter what you look like.

It makes me angry that certain men think that I am some kind of object to be looked at just because I stepped out of my house to go to work. And no matter the context it is always the same. I might be wearing a skirt, a hoodie, sweatpants, jeans, shorts, anything and I will still be harassed.

It makes me feel unsafe and worthless. Women are people – is that so insane to grasp? I am a person filled with dreams, intelligence, plans, ambitions, likes, dislikes, love, hate, anxiety. I am so much more than my face and my body.

Why do I have to write a blog post saying that I am a person?

Many people will tell me – wait a second, ‘Hey beautiful’ isn’t as bad as the other things he could have said to you. Maybe he really did mean to pay me a compliment and maybe he was just being nice. ‘Beautiful’ is a good thing. I should be flattered! After all that’s all women are good for: being beautiful.

Have we really come to the point where the best I can hope for is being treated as an object in a ‘nice’ way as opposed to not being harassed at all? Do I really deserve to feel unsafe, objectified and angry just for walking down the street because some creep’s choice of word ‘could have been worse’?

The use of the word ‘beautiful’ doesn’t fool me. It’s just a pathetic attempt to veil objectification. It’s the same as any other obscene comment directed at a woman walking in the street alone.

It’s not so difficult to figure out if a woman will welcome harassment: did she ask you what you think about her body? No? Then keep it to yourself.

And another thing I will never understand: what reaction do these men expect to get?

“Oh my gosh, sir, thank you so much. I absolutely needed the validation of a sad old man getting drunk on the street! Thank you so much for salvaging my self-esteem.”

I mean thank God a man told me I am beautiful! I was starting to think I am worthless since the last time I was harassed had been less than a minute before.

I am a person. Don’t forget it.

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Click on the photo for an awesome comic about street harassment.
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6 thoughts on “‘Hey beautiful’ is the same as any other street harassment”

  1. I agree with EVERYTHING in this. I’m only 16 and it happens to me all the time- it shouldn’t happen to anyone at all! And what annoys me more is when I tell people what happened and they ask what I was wearing, as if that would give these men the right to leer at innocent women in the street.

  2. Very well put. People think it’s okay because he called you “beautiful” & who doesn’t want to be told she’s beautiful? The problem is it is it points to the fact we are constantly being judged by how we look. We can’t even walk down the street without having our visual acceptability weighed. And what about when you don’t measure up? It’s just a flip of the coin from beautiful to far less kind epithets. It would be nice to be able to wear & do what I like without worrying about what the man on the street will have to say about it.

    1. exactly. and i felt (subconsciously and wrongly) somewhat responsible for wearing shorts but i shouldn’t have! it makes me angry. and i felt unsafe when i fought back so whats the answer?

  3. I love that there’s such a big outcry about this at the moment. I can’t walk to school/work without someone calling out to me, honking their horn or making me feel uncomfortable. I don’t think some people understand that a compliment from a stranger feels like harassment when a lot of women deal with this every day.

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