“My body isn’t up for public debate”

“Oh my god – what the hell is that? Looks like every thunderstorm and earthquake ever.”

I had just left my office at 16th & K to grab lunch down the block when a man sitting on the curb shouted this at me. In just a few words, I had become a “that,” and my body had become a public object, its fatness compared to natural disasters. I didn’t respond. I never do when harassed, usually because I am too shell-shocked in the moment. But the comment stuck with me, more than most usually do, because of its specific focus: my weight.

I quickly tweeted about the incident, musing that maybe on my way back to the office I would grab an ice cream cone to eat as I walked by him.

It’s no secret that I am fat.

However, in a world where fat bodies, especially feminine fat bodies, are seen as undesirable, sexually and otherwise, my experience with street harassment has always been affected by my appearance. A common misconception about street harassment is that when comments are made, the goal is to express a compliment.

While I also get these sorts of unwanted remarks, oftentimes my size is either admonished, as in this instance, or fetishized.

A few years ago in Foggy Bottom, a man came up to me to tell me he liked big women and that I reminded him of his ex-wife. And while I have never experienced it, other fat people have been approached by complete strangers concerned about their health and offered diet and exercise tips.

Fat and other non-normative bodies should not be up for public debate. Regardless of whether we’re walking down the street in a sundress or working up a sweat in the gym, it is never appropriate to comment on the state of someone’s body. My body is my domain and it not up for debate about why you like it or how it should change.

And besides, why would I want to change: didn’t you know fat women are as strong as thunderstorms or earthquakes?

– Submitted by Michela M. 

“No, I Wasn’t Asking for It”: Harassment at a Club

street harassment dc collective action for safe spaces

 

Location: Soundcheck nightclub / 14th & K
Time: Late Night (12am-5am)

I went to this place because one of my favorite DJs would be there playing for the first time. I went alone because none of my friends wanted to go with me, and I was ok with that, but since the moment I got there I was harassed 5 times. It was all kinds of harassment, verbal and physical, but the most disgusting of it was this guy that approached from nowhere, grabbed my waist and slapped me three times on my butt.

I was so horrified and mad that I turned around quickly, yelled at him and punched him, he instantly walked fast through the dance floor and left. Needless to say I couldn’t find him later.

This makes me so angry because no one seemed to care, even if there was security all over the place and waiters were there too. They probably thought I was there to hook up with someone, because you know, I was alone so maybe I was asking for it.

This is the thing, I am Mexican and currently living here, so I understand my looks may be slightly different from the local girls but that doesn’t make me “exotic” –like one guy asked to a girl next to me, if I was her “exotic friend.” I am tired of the stereotype of the Latina bombshell, hyper sexualized in media. I am a regular girl trying to have fun ON MY OWN and I deserve respect. No, not all Latinas have a “sexy” accent (dude this is my accent! Stop fantasizing about me talking “dirty” to you!), not all Latinas want to “sexy dance” in the middle of the dance floor (this other guy was insisting on dancing close to me and touching me even if I said NO at least 3 times). I just wish guys could understand that not all women alone out there are desperate for male company. We are free to be wherever we want without feeling paranoid and having to reject drinks ‘cause maybe one of them has rape drugs. I just went to a freaking nightclub to enjoy my DJ’s favorite music and I returned home disgusted and anxious ‘cause I felt vulnerable just by being alone. My body is not a public space. Hopefully more places join your safe bars program!

Submitted 3/14/16 by “AEB”

 

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Share your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system: Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. You can program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.

If you need assistance in coping with public sexual harassment or assault, please contact the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) 24/7 crisis hotline at 202-333-RAPE (202-333-7279).

Repeated Verbal Harassment: “I will break your neck.”

Location: 16th & L St NW, Washington, DC
Time:  Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm)

Last week I was walking from the Metro to work and a white man was sitting on the sidewalk with a tin can. I had a mug in my hand, and, as I passed, he yelled at me: “I will knock that right out of your hand, you whore. I will break your neck.” I reported this to an officer who was down the street and didn’t see him again for a week. Today I was walking to get lunch with a coworker and he was sitting on the sidewalk asking for money. I’d heard him shout a racist slur at the woman in front of us, so I ignored him. He then yelled at me and my coworker, saying “I hope you choke to death on the next cock you suck.” We had no choice but to walk by him again coming back from getting lunch. This time he yelled at us again, saying, “So you would rather give your money to immigrants but not me? I break your fucking necks.” I reported to the police again today.

Submitted 5/4/15 by “NM.”

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Share your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system: Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. You can program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.

If you need assistance in coping with public sexual harassment or assault, please contact the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) 24/7 crisis hotline at 202-333-RAPE (202-333-7279).

Street Harassed in Farragut North: “I Felt Threatened, Which Only Amused Him”

Street Harassed in DCLocation: Connecticut & L St NW, Washington, DC (Farragut North)
Time: Night (7:30pm-12am)

I was leaving a meeting around 8pm and headed towards Dupont. The moment I stepped out of the building, I noticed two men walking in front of me. I was in a rush to get somewhere, so I walked past them, and I suddenly heard their conversation getting louder. They were talking about me–commenting on my looks, my body, and what frightened me most, how I was walking away from them. They started commenting directly at me, asking why I was walking so fast and trying to get away from them. I crossed the street, and they eventually went in another direction, but I kept an eye out until I made it to my next destination.

I’m usually not afraid when men harass me on the street, mostly just irritated. This, however, was one of the few times when I not only felt threatened by their words, but could sense their amusement towards my fear.

As someone who advocates for women and public safety, I wish I could say that I had the courage to stand up for myself, but unfortunately, my fear of “this could get way worse” trumped all of my frustrations, and so I just kept walking.

Submitted 10/30/14 by “K.”

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Share your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system: Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. You can program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.

If you need assistance in coping with public sexual harassment or assault, please contact the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) 24/7 crisis hotline at 202-333-RAPE (202-333-7279).

“How Do I Decide What Is And Isn’t Street Harassment?”

street harassment in dc

Location: Farragut Square
Time: Morning Rush Hour (5am-9:30am)

I struggle with the word harassment. Is it harassment if it’s not a creepy interaction? Sometimes I feel like they are being polite and just complimentary, but they are still in my space and the interaction is simply unneccessary. Or is this me excusing them from their actions? I feel real conflicted about this. I am approached nearly daily here in DC but most of the time – 70% I would say – they are polite enough and cordial. How do we categorize this grey area?

For example, this morning I was walking from the metro to work thru Farragut Square. A man in a suit sidles up next to me, keeping pace with my fast walk. He sort of casually says, in a familiar sort of tone as if I knew him, “Have you ever been told you are a black man’s dream woman?” I say yes as I keep walking. He says, ok, have a great day and boards his bus. And just last night a man on my bus, as it started to get empty moved from his seat in the back to the one next to mine to tell me he liked my tattoo. Then he says I’m beautiful and could he contact me. I tell him no and he persists a few ways until I tell him I’m a lesbian. He then asks if I want to buy weed. I mean? So I don’t necessarily feel threatened, but I am very aware that at any moment things could go awry depending on their response to my reaction.

Thank you so much for the work you all do. It’s important and is making a difference. I look forward to your posts weekly.

Submitted 10/16/14 by “SW.”

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Share your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system: Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. You can program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.

If you need assistance in coping with public sexual harassment or assault, please contact the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) 24/7 crisis hotline at 202-333-RAPE (202-333-7279).

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