After going through The OpEd Project‘s public seminar about how to have a public voice, including how to write op-eds, in 2010, I began writing op-eds on street harassment. I quickly learned not to read the comments, but today, as I did research for an op-ed, I went back to the comments of my second op-ed — the first one where I shared a street harassment experience. Ugh, most of them are upsetting.
I was 27 years old, on a business trip in Oregon, and had a scary experience while running. In my op-ed, which opened with that experience, I connected my verbal harassment experience to recent stories of men raping and murdering women runners to explain why my experience scared me. I concluded with suggestions for what needed to change so that women runners would be safer.
Most of the commenters were quite upset with me and very dismissive. These are excerpts of just a few of their charming remarks:
“Wait til you lose your looks, become middle aged and the male attention stops. Then you’ll really have something to complain about. Lighten up honey.”
“If common cat calls bother her then she should grow a thicker skin and if she is scared then she should learn to protect her self. She should be happy that she has the ability to run and is pretty enough to get a cat call once in a while.”
“Find an appropriate place to run where other runners go. If you choose to just run along the side of the road in spandex or tight shorts, you will receive catcalls. That is just human nature.”
“Ms. Kearl, your picture, unless it’s been photoshopped, suggests you’re attractive. I assume that at least one reason you run is to remain so. If you’d like to avoid whistles, stop running and put on fifty pounds.”
“I would like all women to express their appreciation of my physique when they pass me. I feel harassed when they dont. I am thinking of writing a book which details the harassment of this silence. I call it “Start Public Complements: Making Public Places Welcoming for Men”. I want laws passed that make it illegal for women to pass a man and not make a positive comment about their physical features”
“Boo hoo lady get over your self. Life must be hard for you with your big problems. Grow a thicker skin and learn how to protect your self.”
“A review of Ms Kearl’s web page makes one think that Ms Kearl must seek out this type of harassing response in order to support her thesis for the book. Male predators are a very serious social danger, especially to younger women and this questionable attempt for publicity only demeans the real problem and the need to combat it. (I hope the obvious satire of the above comment helps you to appreciate how misguided Holly’s position is!)”
When I’m in the thick of street harassment activism and largely surrounded by people who get it, I can forget how many people simply do not. They think it’s no big deal, a compliment, or our fault.
In reading these comments, I am very glad that the national report on street harassment will be out on Tuesday proving this is a pervasive problem that negatively impacts people’s (primarily women’s) lives. I hope it can make a difference!Share on Facebook