IV speaks : Street Harassment

Hey,
told you I’ll be back πŸ™‚

Singapore prides itself in being one of the safest countries in the world. So you would think that street harassment would be unheard of here.

I started getting harassed from the age of 16. I was filling out nicely and being the rebel that I am, I decided to crop my locks into a crew cut.
It was a statement aimed towards my family and extended family – I am not your cookie cutter mould of an Indian girl.

I have always loved playing around with androgynous style. It started at a very young age and I embraced not needing to dress like a girl in order to be considered one.

I was walking towards a busy train station when an older man in his truck rolls down his window, whistles at me and makes those sickening kissy noises while puckering his lips to get my attention. When I do turn to look at his truck go by, he licks his lips in a suggestive manner while his friend in the driver’s seat asks me “Do you think this makes you a boy?”..signalling obviously to my hair.

My face turned crimson.
It was bad enough getting hateful looks in school from the boys. I quickened my pace and for a minute, felt very scared and alone in the world.

Singapore is not immune to catcalls and trashy street talk from the opposite sex. It is a tiny, overpopulated country and you would think that would stop such public behaviour because they would most likely be overheard by someone else.

Yes they do often get heard by others in passing. Guess what happens when they hear it?

They walk on by. It is none of their business because it is not happening to them. They are thankful they are not the target in question.

I can point out several incidents over the years that have counted as street harassment. I have experienced it in Singapore, India, Australia. Different degrees and means of harassment but it Was harassment all the same.

So when I observed the uproar that ensued after people viewed the video of the girl in NYC walking for 10 hours straight, it drove my head into hyperdrive to the point where I was mulling over it constantly.

Sometimes, the blog topic chooses you instead of the reverse.

For those of you who may be unaware,
of the website Hollaback, it is a non profit organisation and movement to end street harassment. They created the above-mentioned video with the help of a viral video agency, in the hopes of shedding some light on the reality of catcalling and being pursued while walking the streets.

If you have not seen the video, you can view it HERE.

Don’t worry, the video is not Ten hours long! Although it might have been interesting to post several more tidbits of the video. Or not, but that’s not the point.

To the unknowing eye, men saying Hello while she walked on or asking her How her day was, was not as odd as that one fellow who followed her for sometime, walking beside her..persistent in the need to make eye contact. Or that dude who asks her “So you don’t want to talk to me?”

I don’t think Hollaback was quite ready for the overwhelming global reaction and response to the video!

It certainly got everyone talking.
There was a lot of flack directed at people (namely women) who believed this constituted as harassment.

I started following writer and publisher Elon James White on Twitter soon after this debacle started because he had a very tongue in cheek message for the men out there by starting the twitter hashtag #DudesGreetingDudes.

He asked a simple question that sparked this hashtag :

“If catcalling is non-sexual, unthreatening or even complimentary as some have claimed, why don’t men do it to other men?”

Here are a few tweets that made me
chuckle :

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Can you imagine the day we actually see this happen in real life? πŸ˜€

On a more serious note,
let’s not exclude our LGBTQ friends and family who have to undergo this as well. Also, Women of all races are cat called and wolf whistled. In fact, some races get the shorter end of the stick more often than they’d like.

People got up in arms about the fact that the girl in the video was White and it did not represent women of other races.

The idea was to start a conversation and follow it up with subsequent videos and dialogue on the matter.

It got your attention didn’t it?
You do want Your demographic to be represented in a similar themed video, don’t you? You wouldn’t have seen the need for that if not for the video..unless you were already in the works of conceptualising a similar video.

Let me just say this for the guys and girls who don’t see any harm in men trying to strike a conversation or who are making small talk when a girl or a woman is walking down the street : harassment isn’t solely for the more abrasive, aggressive forms of verbal/physical conduct.

Let’s set a few scenarios shall we?

You could be in a hurry to get to an important meeting and do not want
to be slowed down by a man who is walking in your path, refusing to let you move any faster.

You could be having a really bad day and don’t wish to smile or be friendly.

You could be on your way to fetch your daughter from pre-school.

For the men who greeted the girl with a seemingly innocent Hi or Hello, sure it may not appear to harass her. However we have to debate the chances of whether a guy is going to take the opportunity to pursue a conversation if she smiles back at him and says Hello. What happens next?

He will obviously not let you walk on without walking beside you or stopping you in your tracks to have further small talk.

Why do they want to make small talk anyway? Are they really That friendly and well meaning out of the goodness out their hearts, to ask a girl how her day is going?

I have yet to meet a guy who has stopped me in my tracks only to genuinely ask me How I was doing and let me pass after asking that question, without conjuring an expectation that this would lead to something un-platonic. Unless he was asking for donations or selling something of course.

For the girls who say that the attention pleases them and they don’t find it offensive in the least..well good for you.

I was 13 years old, sitting at the back of the bus on my way home from school when a man the age of my grandfather decides to sit beside me.
My innocence sees no wrong in that, until he brings his pecker out of his zipper and practically drools while stroking himself, staring at me the whole time.

I couldn’t tell anyone.
Who would believe me? I was shocked and repulsed by this old man. I started to view boys and men in a less positive regard. Time and time again, that outlook was reinforced with examples like shouts from across the street by idiotic school boys who wanted to chat me up. Did I make a generalisation? No. I was wary.

My first trip to India was so scary.
That head to toe look they gift you with as if undressing your body right there in the street with those eyes that don’t tire of staring. I was 15 but that didn’t stop some of the older men.

In Melbourne, men on the street would shout “Hey nice tits!”. Was I supposed to have blushed and given them a flying kiss?

It is not the seemingly innocent words that spill forth but the intent behind them that make street harassment a very real issue.

I do not owe a man on the street anything just because he sidles up to start a conversation. I am not provoking his manhood by ignoring his advances. I am not the cause for ants in his pants because I am dressed in a non-conservative manner. Not having a penchant for dressing like a girl when I was younger was not an
invitation for idiotic behaviour.

I get fat scanned, race scanned, sexually objectified just by stepping out of the door.

It is as if the world despite it’s globalisation and modern ways is reverting back to schools of thought that date back to the times we have only heard about. When it was black and white television, when women were not allowed to vote.

This isn’t Pleasantville folks.
It’s reality. The girl in the video has been given death threats for crying out loud. What did she do wrong?
Tell me that this isn’t a sign of the skewed perspective with how women are regarded.

You don’t have to agree with me.
But I do not apologise for my opinions.

Sincerely, IV (Indigo Violet)

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One thought on “IV speaks : Street Harassment

  1. Beautiful share lovely! Only by telling our stories sharing our truth and calling out this entitled and aggressive behavior. I’d love to see a dude greeting dudes movement by the way. They can also tell each other to smile for their viewing pleasure.

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