Most women feel uncomfortable passing by men on the street. Because we dread they will talk to us and all that could possibly follow (ranging from being called a whore or being followed to far worse in some cases).

Aurélie Wielchuda Europe, PCS, Women

Yesterday evening, I walked past Brussels’ famous Rue des Bouchers, a street known for restaurants’ waiters harassing tourists into eating there. I figured that being alone and in a hurry they would get I wasn’t a target. They did, but it didn’t stop them from talking to me and I got about ten comments on the 50m long streets ranging from “can I come with you”, “hello sexy lady”, “Rrrhhhh”, “hello princess… why don’t you answer? You stuck up bitch”, etc… And please do not believe that anyone ever dresses provocatively (which shouldn’t be a criteria anyway) on a cold November night in Brussels.

I took another way home and some of my friends felt compelled to walk home with me after the restaurant. Because of that, I generally avoid the city centre and stick to bars and restaurants near my place.

Some of my friends systematically take a taxi home, which is obviously quite a budget and takes going out to another level. Some make detours to avoid certain streets or just as I do don’t go out in certain areas. Some gave up on ever wearing a dress when going out. Some make sure they always have a male friend available to walk them home.

All in all, we all make adjustments that infringe on our freedom. And yet, many people don’t get the problem.

This video on street harassment went viral on the internet last week and led to a lot of comments:

Many women said they could totally relate to the video and men were surprised to see the extent of the problem.

I’ll pass quickly on the very idiotic comments (hello soru 1984 and your “dress properly and not like a whore, with some logos on your butt, then maybe a nice guy will talk to you for once” & tcsdef “she goes on being a stuck up, self-victimizing CUNT fuck this fat bitch, she isnt even that hot”) because this is just the average haters comments you can expect when speaking up as a woman.

What struck me far more was that many men and some women didn’t understand how 5,000 “hello beautiful” or other things that seemed like compliments could possibly be understood as harassment and why women seemed unhappy with it. I am sorry for stating the obvious but when women walk on the street they’re not walking on a runway. They don’t do it to get attention; they mostly just want to get from point A to point B.

And yet, random strangers feel entitled to not only have an opinion on them but also to share it with them, quite often in a disrespectful way. Because it isn’t about the compliment, it is about the unsolicited comment on your appearance that makes you constantly feel objectified. Imagine if as a guy you had almost everyday people passing by saying things like “that’s quite the beer belly you got here mate” (because no, not all comments are nice), “nice arse”, “why don’t you smile, SMILE, I said smile, it makes you look ugly when you don’t”… Not that pleasant, is it?

And I’ll pass on the uncomfortable staring (which you know will continue on your butt when you’ve finally passed the awkward guy) and the whistling.

Another problem with those compliments we “should” answer to according to the commentators is the question on the how to? By answering, women have good chances of the guy trying to engage in a conversation, following them, asking for a coffee (and for a justification if they don’t want to. Don’t think the fact that you don’t want to is going to be enough. You better be some other guy’s property if you hope to get rid of this one. Even then, some “aren’t jealous”).

Plot twist: you then have a good chance of being called a bitch. Which you will too if you don’t answer in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, not all “good morning beautiful” ends up in a woman being called a bitch. But some do and this is why most women feel uncomfortable passing by men on the street. Because we dread they will talk to us and all that could possibly follow (ranging from being called a whore or being followed to far worse in some cases).

Ps: I am very sorry for the vulgarity of this page. Yet even more sorry that this has to be many women’s daily life.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
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Aurélie Wielchuda

Aurélie is a feminist based in Brussels.

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