I pretty much follow only women on Twitter. And WOC mostly at that. It is very purposeful, and I think I can count on one hand the males I follow, and I believe they are nearly all contacts I made via This Week in Blackness (TWiB). Fellow Twibbies. Stand up guys.
What breaks my heart is that nearly every day – certainly 4 to 5 times a week, I see women’s experiences flow down my TL. Women tweeting about The Gauntlet.
What is that, you ask?
Well, The Gauntlet is what they have to endure each and every day as they go about their daily lives. I’ve had my own share of experiencing The Gauntlet too, though as often as I’ve become more of a recluse and when I do go out, I drive everywhere.
But at some point, I have to walk across a parking lot, walk around within a grocery store, stand in line somewhere etc.
Things get worse when you have to take public transportation like a subway, a bus or walk for any length of time to get to work, school, pick up your kids, a job interview, to the store, running errands – you know, everyday stuff.
The Gauntlet is what we have to endure while attempting to do that everyday stuff.
The street harassment that never stays just out in the street. From the moment you step foot out of your front door you are at risk for the abuse, the stares, the grabs, the yelling, the catcalls… the Everything.
What breaks my heart is seeing how pervasive this is. How it is dismissed so easily. How it is misconstrued as being no big deal.
It is a huge deal.
You want to talk about the war on women?
The Gauntlet is the warzone you have to traverse just to get to your job, your classes, the store, that doctors appointment.
This is not harmless.
This isn’t rare.
This is active harm being perpetrated on your Mother, your Aunt, your Sister, your Niece, your Wife, your Girlfriend…
Every single day. All the damn time.
I know intellectually what street harassment is all about. Just another horrific facet of the Rape Culture we live in. How it is the male exercising power and dominance over the female. The female is not a human being, just an object, or a body part or parts.
But really, what I’d love to know is what is actually going on in the mind of that man who does that hissing thing at me like I’m a dog, or insists that I smile, or who tells me I’m so fine and then when I don’t respond I’m all kinds of bitches. Existing solely for the ownership, use and abuse for any and all males in question.
Is it some sort of autopilot that kicks in? Did they learn it at their father’s knee? What is the end desired result?
50 years later we’re telling our grandkids how we met: Oh yeah I was just swept away when your grampaw hissed and hollered at me, blocked my path and demanded my attention, and told me something about my titties. It was love at first sight! We’ve never been apart since.
So what exactly is the end game? Is there even one? You see a woman walking down the street and the first thing you think of doing is behaving like some sort of brainless animal in heat?
What the hell??
I could post link after link, story after story. But I know from my admin page that most readers don’t click on links. But here is one that I encourage you to click.
I’m 11 years old and walking up the street, heading home after school. A man’s voice calls out: “Pssst. Hey baby, hey girl.” I just keep walking, and now he’s walking too, gaining speed behind me.
“Oh, you’re just a young thing. But you got a big girl’s body. Where’s your daddy? I’ll be your daddy…”
I keep walking until I’m almost running and I’m afraid in a strange way because he’s not exactly chasing me, but he’s following me and still talking at me. I walk fast and never look back until I am home.*
“Hey baby yo baby hey ma why you walkin’ so fast smile baby come here come back hey I just wanna talk to you pretty girl fine fuck you then bitch you think you’re so special huh you stuck up ho get back here I’ll show you bitch…”
Last year I was walking near Times Square one afternoon when a man approached me from the other direction and said “Oh my God you’re so pretty” as he grabbed me by both my shoulders. People near me scattered, and two grown able-bodied men ran into a nearby store and watched from behind the door.
I subscribe to no gender-based damsel in distress narrative, so I certainly didn’t expect them to swoop in and save me. Besides, I knew I could take this guy in a fight if he hit me and so — record scratch — WAIT — what the fuck world are we in where I can go from walking down the street to preparing to engage a stranger in hand-to-hand combat on a crowded sidewalk in broad daylight “if it comes to that”?
True victory would be a world where I can walk outdoors from point A to point B without feeling like I’m under attack.
There are so many more examples in that article and again, I encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. Especially if you are male. Most women won’t have to read it, because they already know all too well that one woman’s 30 year experience.
This isn’t flattering attention. This is predatory. Feeling hunted and attacked and fearing harm isn’t fun or flattering. This isn’t an occasional thing that happens to just a few women, now and then. This is pervasive, chronic. It is abuse and harassment pure and simple.
What breaks my heart again, is that, like my experience, and countless others – the bystander syndrome that occurs.
Grown men who don’t behave this way need to call out and put a stop to the men who do.
Fathers need to teach their sons not only how to behave, but how NOT to behave. When your loved one tells you about her Gauntlet: don’t be dismissive.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read about significant others responding with: “Oh, trying to make me jealous, bragging about all the attention you get?” or “Enjoy the attention, you’ll miss it when you get older” or the victim blaming response: “What were you wearing? What were you doing? Where were you?”.
And this is from the “decent” guys, the ones who’d never dream of being a perpetrator in a Gauntlet. However, if you are not part of the solution, you are for sure part of the problem.
If you remain neutral, cloaked in your decency and do nothing…
The millions of us in this country, the millions of us around the world will have to live our whole lives – 3 decades already for the woman who wrote that article – enduring The Gauntlet.
Do you care?
It takes so little to stand up and say STOP when you see someone needing help.
Why do I keep calling men out to stand up? Because it is way past time for them to put their brethren in check. Instead of scattering away – step up. Instead of the cowardly comment of supposed support as you exit the scene – stick around and have your say and put and end to it.
If we could stop street harassment, abuse and The Gauntlet on our own, it would have been stopped. We can’t do it alone, and we need fathers, brothers, uncles and sons to step up and come correct.
This is a male problem and males need to fix it. Time to join your sisters on the front lines and fight with us side by side.
If you – male or female – have not heard of this, nor have experienced it: That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Count your lucky stars and go find out what you can do to help out.
As a freshman in college I went out on Halloween to participate in the annual celebration that doubled and sometimes tripled the student population. It was UCSB’s version of Spring Break. Me and my gal pals had a blast. I found out later in the new year that annually there are just tons of rapes, sexual harassment, assaults etc that go on during that “fun” yearly festival of parties.
My dorm mates and I had experienced nothing of the kind, and saw nothing of the kind going on that night. But I joined up at the student-police liaison corps when I found out how horrible that night is for so many women. Up to that point I had been clueless about that problem on campus. BUT: I didn’t dismiss it because I hadn’t experienced it.
I participated in, and joined campus groups that worked with university officials on raising awareness of rape, sexual assault and harassment. I wanted to be able to do my part to help with campus safety and be on patrol for next year’s festival. I stepped up.
Trust & Believe this has happened to your mother. Trust & Believe this has happened to your sister. Trust & Believe this is happening to your little 11 year old niece.
The two-fold approach is needed. While teaching those male children coming up, how to conduct themselves, you can be stepping up everyday and shutting down this madness.