Not all men shout at me from cars. But the ones that do shout at me are the ones that make it unsafe to walk in my city. And you telling me that not all men do that doesn’t make my walk, or drive, or existence safer. It makes it more challenging to say, “This happened and it was wrong.” It makes it harder to call out this behavior for what it is – misogynistic, sexist, rape culture bullshit behavior. I don’t care that not all men are like this. I care that it happens. That it continues to happen. That it’s common. That it’s so common that when I hear a woman start talking about it with other women, those women can point to at least one similar incident that’s happened to them in the past two weeks.
–Courtney Meaker doesn’t care that it’s not all men.
[Content warning for street harassment.]
I walk a lot, just around my suburb, mostly in the afternoons after work. It gives me time to de-stress and plot books (or just imagine random scenes, or compose angry blog essays, or whatever).
I live in a very quiet, middle class suburb. Most of the people I walk past in the afternoon are retirees with dogs, or young professionals going jogging. A lot of houses grow fruit trees on the reserve or have chooks in their backyard. That sort of suburb, y’know the ones.
About two or three years ago, I changed the route I walk. My old route, you see, used to take me past the high school, the skate park, and the shops.
There’s a road near the shops. It has a McDonald’s and a retirement home. I walked up it every day for years without problem.
Then, one day, a car slows down next to me, a bunch of teenage boys leering out the window. They scream something. I don’t hear what, really. “Cunt” and “fuck” are there, I think. I’m not sure.
Then they drive off.
When I get home, I’m shaking. I get over it, because what else can I do?
Then it happens again the next day.
Then they day after that.
Then the week after that.
Always teenage boys in cars, slowing down just enough to assert themselves before driving off.
I spend the rest of the walk home hoping they crash their fucking cars. That their dicks drop off in sheer disgust at what they’ve got the misfortune of being attached to.
What else can I do?
In the end, I stop walking. The fear gets to me. Every time a car drives past, I flinch. Every time I walk past teens at the skate park, my heart speeds up. (For the record, the Skate Park Kids are fine, and I feel horrible for being scared of them when they’re not doing anything.)
(There are two other kids that catcall me, too. A boy and a girl, who live in a house down the end of our street. The house is… not the most salubrious in the suburb. Junk piled in the front yard, that sort of thing. In the evenings in the summer, the kids sit at the end of their driveway. I don’t like walking past them. I wonder why this sort of thing never used to happen when I was younger. Then I remember an old friend of mine telling me with glee how she and her brother used to walk behind another pair of kids on the way home from school, heckling them the entire way. For their hair and for their clothes, I think. Those kids ended up taking a different route. My friend was so proud of that.)
Six months pass, maybe a year. I don’t walk. I’m too terrified of the Boys In Cars.
This story has an ending, of a sort, in that I do start walking again. I find a different route, though; this one avoiding as many roads as I can. Plus I start wearing headphones.
And every time I hear a car slow down, I close my eyes, and try not to scream.