One typical victim-blaming justification of street harassment goes something like this, "What did she think would happen when she went out wearing that?!" The logic underlying such a comment seems to be that the only women who are groped, ogled, or verbally accosted on the street are ones who choose to buck social norms of modesty by improperly displaying their sexuality—and the conclusion that follows this strain of logic is that there is no other possible reading by the men who observe this type of "non-normative" behavior than to perceive it as an invitation for all types of commentary and conduct, from the annoying to the illegal. Many feminists are all too familiar with this wrongheaded sentiment when it comes to sexual violence and harassment, but the news out of France recently has caused me to consider its relevance to another gendered freedom, or rather lack thereof, in France: the state prohibition of Muslim women wearing the niqab in public.
When I was in college, I decided to try my hand at being one of those too-cool-for-cars biker girls who dons a punk rock sticker-clad helmet and a rolled up right cuff—the phase lasted approximately two weeks. A friend I had a jealousy-crush on had gone out of town for the summer and when she mentioned that she needed a place to stash her ride, I heartily volunteered to keep it. I'd hoped I would become as hip as I thought she was, all critical mass and tattoos. But like most attempts at fitting in made in haste, this one wasn't entirely thought through.
You know, I was gonna start off with a standard intro, but that was mucking up my flow, so I had to switch it up in order to get unstuck. If you've spent some time around these parts, you may remember my original Bitch blogging series, a two-parter called On the Map, where I provided a slight peek at feminisms that exist around the globe. It's been a year since that gig ended, and I am thrilled for the opportunity to return for a new series—this time about an issue I've been struggling with for two decades that has picked up steam in the mainstream: street harassment. I use the word "struggle" intentionally because of its multiple meanings, and if you continue to read Takin' it to the Streets (which I dearly hope you do!), then you'll soon find out what I mean.
The game is called "Hey, Baby", and it is a game about street harassment. It is a first-person shooter where you play as a woman walking around a city fighting off waves of men who approach you while repeating "classic" street harassment lines, everything from the notorious "Smile, baby" to shouted rape threats. Killing the harassers results in a gravestone popping up with their line engraved on it.