Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Fredericksburgh VA, Jacksonville NC, Los Angeles, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Palo Alto, Portland ME, Richmond VA, Rutgers University, San Francisco
Three years ago my fiancé Chris and I decided to embark on the simultaneously most rewarding and maddening journey one could ever take. We decided to become parents. After months of research and me whining every night, we became the proud doggy parents of the cutest black mystery mutt named Bailey. A year after that we decided since we both LOVED getting up 3 times in the middle of the night in the dead of winter to take one dog out, we would adopt a second puppy and do the same thing all over again…thus came our second dog, the most adorable little dachshund named Pika.
Not to brag, but I have to tell you, I am a kick ass dog mom. I spend more money on their food than I do on mine. I am about to pay 500 dollars to get their teeth cleaned (while totally forgoing whitening mine for my own wedding!) I buy them expensive toys from Planet Dog like a good Portland dog owner, and I pay 10 dollars each Saturday so they can play in an indoor dog park during the winter. And the kicker– I take them for long walks (yes, even in the winter, even though I slip on salt and sand!)
About a year ago I was forced to change the route of my daily dog walks. A group of men used to hang outside on their porch and as I would walk by with my dogs they would yell out things about my appearance. I couldn’t figure it out at first. I wasn’t wearing anything revealing, or looking like I was inviting their comments. But then I realized—I had been experiencing this same thing since high school, showing up wearing pajama pants and STILL getting unwanted comments. I was angry I had to change my routine, because I really liked the path I took on my walk. But I felt helpless; I didn’t know what to do, so my answer like many women’s solutions was to try to ignore the problem because I didn’t have an outlet to change it. This is why I’m so glad I found Hollaback! I now have a supportive community that has my back and a way to safely combat street harassment.
Sometimes I hear people sometimes defending street harassment—that it’s not a bad thing, I mean who doesn’t like getting compliments? I guess there’s some truth to that, I mean I like getting compliments too! But you know what? Street harassment is different than just getting compliments. Street harassment is invasive, it’s personal, it’s unwanted and unwarranted, and most importantly it makes me feel uncomfortable and fearful.
I am of course a woman writing my story and can speak only from my experience. I’m fortunate enough to know many great feminist men in my personal and professional lives who have told me of their stories of being cat-called or honked at. So I do know that men experience street harassment as well, and it’s never okay—but what I also know, is that the street harassment of women in entirely different. Because of gender inequities, because of power dynamics, because men don’t walk the streets at night in fear that they will be raped by women, street harassment of women is different. Because I can go outside in the middle of the winter, bundled up from head to toe, just to walk my dogs, and still be hollered at, I know it has nothing to do with my appearance and everything to do with men believing they have the right to invade my personal space, my comfort, and my streets.
I hollaback so that no woman ever has to put her head down when she walks. That we no longer have to look ashamed, or walk faster to get away. I hollaback so that we can finally talk about street harassment—how it’s not normal, how it’s not flattering, and how it makes us feel unsafe. I strongly believe that the personal is political. That when we all find a place to come together and talk about our experiences with street harassment, we’ll realize we’re not alone. That this issue is greater than ourselves, and together we can make our streets and our space safe again.
So, welcome to Hollaback, Portland Maine! This is why I hollaback. Why do you?
Author comments are in a darker gray color for you to easily identify the posts author in the comments