Stephanie Phillips is a London-based freelance journalist and content writer, specialising in music, race and feminism.
Originally posted at Black Feminists UK
To mark International Anti-Street Harassment Week, we are writing about our experiences of street harassment. For posts by Anouchka, Lola, rashné and Simi,please see NYE, ‘Are you even black?’,Refusal(S): Street Harassment in Bombay… Under ‘Western’ Eyes and Something Happened
When I was asked to write this post for Street Harassment Week I thought it was an impossible task because in my mind I had never experienced street harassment. You see, I live in my own little world and generally spend my time skipping through the streets of London with a smile on my face and a Pixies song in my head (it’s Tame at the moment). While this is an enjoyable experience I realised I probably wasn’t seeing the world for what it really is. Lo and behold when I went over my many repressed memories I realised that I had been a victim of street harassment.
One day when I was on my lunch break, walking through the banker-polluted streets of Farringdon, I passed the crossrail construction site. There were two builders standing outside and when I walked towards them one guy opened up his arms, smiled broadly and said to me, “You make me happy”. I should have thought of a good comeback or questioned him about why he felt it necessary to say that to me but being my naturally cold self I just ignored him and walked past.
You’re probably thinking that wasn’t a particularly dramatic or hurtful experience. As he said I made him happy and, really, if all I had accomplished in one day was to make someone happy then I’d be pretty proud but we have to think about the privilege behind the act. Even though masked in a friendly manner it is an egotistical act, born out of misogyny, which makes a man think a woman needs to know that he finds her physically attractive. It will make her day when she hears she has nice tits. Just because something is hidden in friendliness, jokes or banter does not mean it cannot be vicious.
The worst part is that I can’t even recall half the times someone has called out to me on the street because it has become so normalised in my mind. It could have happened ten times. It could have happened 100 times, I can’t recall, and if you can’t recall what was wrong it makes it harder to see it the next time. This is why initiatives like Street Harassment Week are so important because it gives women time and space to think about what happened to them and gives them the courage they need to fight back in the future.