Or, “My Face Is In Cosmo!?”
Have you seen the latest Cosmo? I don’t assume that our supporters are regular Cosmo readers, but sometimes you find yourself in the doctor’s office with nothing else to look at. I would not say that I fall into their demographic (no matter how much they would disagree). Sure, I’m a 29 year old white cis-gendered woman, but I’m below the poverty line (and therefore I avoid caring about fashion and other costly vices), I already communicate well with my partner of 6 years (we value honesty, trust and a GGG lifestyle NOT focused solely on his pleasure, but our pleasure) and I prefer a realistic view of beauty (a little more nature, a little less Photoshop).
But, like most of their readers, I have experienced street harassment. When they sent out a request to the Hollaback! network in hopes of learning more about street harassment, I volunteered to tell my story. Here is what they report on page 182 of the March 2012 issue of Cosmopolitan Magazine:
… Adds Dr. Stone: “If you were brought up to feel confident and capable, being groped – and then unable to take action against the offender, is an unsettling, disempowering feeling.” That sense of powerlessness continues to haunt Shawna Potter, 29. While she was walking down a bustling, well-lit NYC street one night with a male friend, a 20something guy going the opposite way closed in on her, grabbed her butt and have it a squeeze and then sauntered off. “My friend suggested I forget all about it, but I couldn’t,” she recalls. “For a long time, it made me feel like a target or an object, and I still feel this weird passivity and weakness when I’m on the street or in a public place. I’ll walk past a group of men I don’t know and worry, Which one of these jerks is going to the the next one to grope me?
So, that sounds really sad, right? Seeing it in print I wondered, Am I that pathetic? Friends have seen the quote next to my picture and asked “Wait, really? You don’t strike me as someone who needs any more confidence.” That’s what I thought! Only child, front person for a co-ed feminist punk band, all around loud mouth: is it all an act? No. Being afraid of strangers instead of greeting them with a smile is an act. Crossing the street when I don’t have to is an act. Self-policing my style of dress just to avoid leering, comments and groping is an act. I believe in the good in people, but because I am female-bodied I am forced to put up with the gender-based violence our society permits. Reading the Cosmo article I threw my hands back into the air, giving up all over again. Then I remembered MY story, in MY words, that I originally submitted to the author:
For my friend, the moment of danger had passed; the guys kept walking. I doubt he ever thinks of that moment. But for me, I think of that time I was groped on the street in NYC every time I walk past a group of men I don’t know, especially when they are laughing. I have to remind myself that there were no magic four-letter words that could have changed the situation, and that my friend and those two other strangers were in the wrong for not taking the incident seriously enough to even ask if I wanted to press charges. One time of being touched inappropriately by a stranger on the street is one time too many. Sure, maybe one time of being stared at or hearing “Nice Ass” from a stranger on the street wouldn’t be a big deal, but it happens consistently when I’m in public and always makes me wonder, “Which one of these mouthy jerks is going to the next one to grope me?” That is no way for anyone to live, but it is a daily reality for women around the world. This issue resonated with me so deeply that I was compelled to start my own chapter of Hollaback!
Oh yeah, I found a way to empower myself in this world. I decided to get up and do something about street harassment. I decided to help others while helping myself. I’m glad Cosmo decided to take on this under-reported human rights issue, and that our bestie Stop Street Harassment got in some good tidbits, but I guess I take it for granted that people already know that it can and does psychologically effect victims (male/female/gender-queer) in a negative way. I thought we needed to hear more about all the things we can do in the moment for ourselves and for the world (HOLLA!). If Cosmo has to educate its’ own readers that it is OK to feel embarrassed/shocked/degraded/vulnerable/angry/depressed/annoyed after being groped, then Hollaback! has some more work to do. Luckily, we’re up for it. Watch out street harassers, we’re after you, and Cosmo has our back.