Photo by newagecrap via flickr

This was a few months ago- my husband (then my fiance) and I had just finished a birthday dinner at Fogo de Chao on Pennsylvania Ave NW. I had dressed up for his birthday, but did not look slutty. I was wearing a black sleeveless dress that came just above my knees with black ankle boots with a heel- my outfit was classy with a little trendy flair, I thought. We exited the restaurant and walked across the side street so that he could go to the ATM for cab fare. I stood outside the little room the ATM was in for a few reasons- I felt pretty safe doing so, it was really nice out, and the main reason, it also smelled extraordinarily bad in the vestibule. I figured I would keep an eye out for a cab as well.

As I was looking down the street at oncoming traffic, a fire engine drove by. It was not on its way to an emergency, as its lights and siren weren’t on and they were driving at a somewhat slow speed. However, they honked their loud siren at me and started cheering out of the window. This was of course just as my fiance was walking out of the ATM. He was offended that men in uniform would do that, and to tell you the truth, it made me feel like common street trash and that they treated me like a hooker. Even if my fiance was outside with me and it happened, nothing could really have been done. He may have yelled after the fire engine, but that wouldn’t have accomplished anything. I was really embarrassed and am still embarrassed when I think about it. I even felt embarrassed on behalf of my fiance, as I thought others may have thought he was with a hooker. I don’t know if that’s rational or not. It makes me want to cover up more when I go out, but I shouldn’t have to . I was dressed quite nicely, yet I still was treated in this manner. It was disgusting.

Submitted by Jen on 5/13/2010

Location: Pennsylvania Ave @ Fogo de Chao

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7 responses to “Firefighters

  1. So, if she were a prostitute this would be OK?

  2. I’m sorry this happened to you. I just want to say that you didn’t deserve this, regardless of what you were wearing. The same would go for sex workers, or “street trash”, whatever that means. Everyone should have the right to be free from harassment.

  3. Golden Silence

    I agree that there is a lot of emphasis on what the contributor was wearing. You could’ve been wearing a burka, a pair of sweats or you could’ve been walking around butt naked and those firefighters still would’ve acted like that. What you are wearing when harassed doesn’t matter.

  4. Write to the fire department and tell them what happened.

  5. Though I sympathize and relate to the discomfort, embarrassment, and anger you felt in this situation, I am also frustrated by your language with regards to sex workers (or, as you called them, “street trash”). Taking such a hostile attitude toward folks who have sex frequently (for work and/or pleasure) is a judgment call that helps to perpetuate the toxicity of street harassment – REGARDLESS of a person’s dress or sexual proclivities, it is NOT okay to be sexually harassed. I think Holla Back DC! needs to encourage its posters to be antiracist AND sexpositive, regardless of the poster’s own personal sexual habits. The culture of shame that surrounds sex in our society contributes heavily to the existence and rationalization of street harassment.

    • We wholeheartedly agree. We kept the language in because for two reasons: 1) we currently don’t have a policy to edit beyond racial/racist descriptions and 2) we wanted to create a dialogue among HBDC! community about how public sexual harassment, regardless of your social status/job/dress code, is not right. Would you like to assist us in crafting the policy language? What do other people think?

      • Definitely! If you put a call out for suggestions, I’m sure a lot of folks would be interested in helping out, too.

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