A Letter To My Harasser

Dear homeless man who sits in front of the Starbucks on M Street every morning,

I don’t need you silently going “Morning, beautiful” at me every time I walk past you. I hate getting called “beautiful” by a random man on the street. I know what I look like and I don’t need you telling me that. The only people who are allowed to compliment me in such a personal manner are family members, friends, and my future significant other. All others need not apply.

Sincerely,
Woman Who Knows She’s Beautiful and Doesn’t Need Strange Men Telling Her That

Submitted by Woman Who Knows She’s Beautiful and Doesn’t Need Strange Men Telling Her That on 7/26/2010

Location: In front of the Starbucks on M Street (near Wisconsin Avenue)

Time of Harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify

3 responses to “A Letter To My Harasser

  1. hmmm… i’m all for us being able to feel comfortable wherever we go. as an advocate for homeless people, i can’t help but wonder if the *type* of strange man is a bigger issue here. i mean, was it necessary to point out that he’s homeless?

  2. Golden Silence

    I didn’t get the vibe that his being homeless was the issue, I thought it was just a descriptor. For all we know if it were a man in a suit that could’ve been mentioned, or a guy in a car, or this or that. I don’t think he was being maligned for being homeless.

  3. I think this is a philosophical difference I tend to have with some other social justice advocates.

    And here is why. I believe its a person’s right to choose who addresses them in affectionate or sexual terms. I believe it is also a person’s right to decide what type of person can address them in affectionate or sexual terms. To me its a question of boundaries.

    Street harassment is about gendered humiliation, power tripping, and sexual baiting carried out by the harasser. No matter what the OP’s personal prejudices may be about homeless men, the fact remains that she did not violate his boundaries – she didn’t throw her coffee at him and call him names as she walked past. He violated her boundaries not the other way around.

    I think social justice advocates have yet to come up with a framing of street harassment that adequately reflects these power dynamics. For instance, when a homeless man harasses a woman walking by, is it about him asserting the little power he feels he has over what he perceives to be someone weaker than him? Its like, I don’t have economic power, but by god have I got gender power.

    How do we affirm his dignity as a person in general, without making excuses for his inappropriate behavior or minimizing the victim’s experience by reminding her about class prejudice?

    Was it necessary to point out he is homeless? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe its important in the context of the story – she sees him everyday, etc. Maybe its not at all important to us reading it, but its important to her. I don’t know that its necessary, but i’m not absolutely convinced that it is unnecessary either.

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