My Name Is Not ‘Ma’: Why Street Harassment Is Everyone’s Problem

*This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post*

god bless u

Image courtesy of Rob Bliss/Hollaback

If you’ve ever walked down a NYC block it is likely that you’ve heard “Hey yo, ma, can I holler at you for a sec?” or “ Damn, ma, you’re fine,” or “God bless you, ma,” or “But why aren’t you smiling?” as if women walk around all day smiling for no reason at all. If you haven’t been the victim of catcalling, then consider yourself lucky, but the reality for many women is that they’ve experienced some form of street harassment.

We are disrespected almost every day by men who feel they have a right to talk to us, approach us, or even go so far as to touch us without permission. Men, who believe we should feel flattered because they’ve noticed us or given us a compliment. From the time a woman walks out the door of her home in the morning, be it walking to the corner bodega or to school, she is forced to dodge the unsolicited advances from men just to keep herself safe and we are taught do so from a very early age.

By the time a young girl hits puberty she is faced with having to deal with unwanted sexual attention and harassment by her peers and older men alike. As she gets older and enters womanhood the harassment continues, and instead of educating boys and men on how to treat women, women are taught to accept and deal with it. It’s the reason we cross to the other side of the street when we see a group of men together. It’s the reason why we’ll speed walk like we’re preparing for an event at the next Olympic Games when a man approaches and begins walking alongside us. We’ve been taught to ignore it while our male counterparts haven’t been taught anything at all.

Women are not afforded the opportunity to express their feelings when confronted with harassment. Why? Because a woman who defends herself or vocalizes her discomfort risks the chance of the incident escalating by either being verbally abused by the harasser or even experiencing a possible physical threat. Because you know, “You wasn’t all that anyway, b*tch.” The thing is, women have a right to defend themselves and click here to read the rest