Ask any woman of any shape, size and color how many times they have been catcalled on the street and their answer will likely be something along the lines of "too many to count." Street harassment has been exhaustively documented, deplored and discussed, but there seems to be no end in sight to the social malaise that plagues all women, no matter their appearance.
Erin Bailey, a 25-year-old woman in Boston, is one among many challenging society to do better. As someone who does fitness training for a living, Bailey often posts pictures of her workout sessions and results on her Instagram page.
But in a recent blog post on her website, Bailey took on a serious matter. She detailed her almost-daily encounters with street harassment, listing some of the worst as examples.
One took place in a park:
Earlier this summer I headed to a local park in the South End of Boston to push myself in an outdoor bootcamp workout I was testing for the upcoming week of classes I teach. It was a hot Saturday afternoon and halfway through my workout I had a guy come over to me from across the park and start talking to me from a few feet away. I took my headphones out thinking he was asking me something, instead my ears were filled with profane things he "wanted to do to me".
Another as she passed a parking garage:
Last week I was going for a run before work to clock four miles for my half marathon training. I ran past a parking garage that has an attendant in the front to direct traffic between cars exiting and people crossing. A thankless job, I smiled gave him a wave to thank him and kept running. I took two steps before he yelled after me a "MM HMMMM". Like he was salivating over a steak.
Even outside a 7-11, Bailey could not escape being followed and chased after.:
Walking out of the laundromat I decided to sneak in the 7Eleven next door to see if they carried my new favorite ice cream brand so that I could come grab some after class. A man so kindly held the door open for me, I thanked him and walked inside. They didn't have the brand so just 60 seconds later I walked back out and he was sitting on the other side of the street watching me come out. I turned down the side walk and he crossed the street to follow me. He even yelled at me to stop and wait for him.
The question she posed was, "What do I deserve?"
"This is about 5% of the harassment I have been a victim of this year. And this isn't even the worst of it. What about the nights I'm out with my friends and just because I have heels on and am at a bar it gives anyone the right to hiss, yell or even grab me or my friends," she asked. "Or what about the gym. Or what I like to think is my safe zone. The one place I feel men should respect me most because there I feel like we're on the same playing field. There I feel the most empowered. There I feel the most belittled by the comments, by the glares and by the entitlement."
Am I supposed to stop going to the park? Am I supposed to not run in downtown Boston in the broad daylight? Am I supposed to not go to 7Eleven or the laundromat at 6PM on a Wednesday night? Am I supposed to not go to the gym? I am careful. I don't go to dangerous places alone. I don't run in dodgy areas by myself. I carry keys on me, and soon pepper spray to put my Moms mind at ease. But that's not the point. What do I deserve?
Bailey used her experiences to lay out exactly what all women deserve: to feel "empowered for bettering ourselves"; to feel "sexy in our own skin without feeling like we're here to bait you"; to "speak out without the threat of you lingering on our minds."
What women deserve, she wrote, is more than how society treats them now.
Bailey's post has resonated strongly with many people, racking up more than 1,300 comments on the page. Many women shared their stories of being harassed on the street, though there were others who took pains to note that Bailey would not be harassed so often were she less attractive, or advise her to take these interactions as compliments — rationalizations that have been thoroughly discredited, because why should the onus be on women to change their behavior and attitudes, and not the men doing the catcalling?
Which is exactly why the 25-year-old is speaking up about her experiences, in the hopes that it will make people aware that this type of behavior is wrong, as well as to encourage other women to make themselves heard. "Apologize if you need to, but make sure you're moving forward and make sure you're not the problem anymore and working to make sure the problem isn't there," she told the website Uproxx.
"The thing to learn from my story is to take a look at your actions and the actions of those around you. If something's important to you, say something."