Does sexual harassment become more tolerable over time?
March 29, 2011 1:45 AM Subscribe
Does dealing with sexual harassment on the street get easier or harder over time? When formal redress isn't possible, are there ways of thinking about that can minimise the pain it causes?
I am considering moving to a non-Western country where street harassment of women -- both local and foreign -- is very common. I have very sound personal and professional reasons for wanting to make the move, but an incident today left me wondering whether harassment will make my experience there unbearable.
I rebuffed a man's advances on the street, in the Western country where I currently live. He proceeded to follow me for several blocks, yelling and calling me a white bitch, a whore, a racist and a slut. I wasn't hurt in any way, yet hours later, I'm still alternating between white-hot anger and a sort of nervy, looking-over-my-shoulder anxiety. It's slowly dawning on me that in the country I'm considering moving to, this kind of harassment could be a weekly, perhaps daily experience. The risk of it escalating to physical or sexual assault will be significantly higher, and the opportunities for formal redress will be minimal. Somehow, I will have to learn to accept street harassment as a part of my new life.
So, I'm looking for answers. As a feminist, I'll never stop believing that harassment is just plain wrong, but does it get easier to deal with over time? Will it gradually become part of the wallpaper of my life? Will I ever be able to laugh about it? And are there ways of thinking about harassment -- or responding to it -- that will minimise the mental and emotional impact it has on me?
[Answers that seek to blame victims or deny that harassment is a problem are...not welcome, thank you].