Jenny Stanley is a just a woman who was recently trying to get home one night in Dublin, as usual, when she had a series of interactions with rambunctious young men. What kind of interactions do lone women most frequently have with groups of rowdy dudes, you ask? Street harassment!
Stanley admits the evening was only unusual for the amount of harassment, but the intensity of it pushed her to the tipping point. She wrote this open letter to the Irish Times, addressing both women and street-harassing men:
Sir, – I would like to share with you my recent experience of being a young woman in Dublin city.
It was a Saturday evening, 10.45pm on Camden Street. For me, this was the beginning of my journey home from work and the source of overwhelming feelings of degradation, objectification, anger, fear and raw sadness... As I looked around me at the all too familiar (yet, at the time, harmless) scenes of energetic groups of friends enjoying their weekend, I sensed it was a particularly busy night. There were significant numbers of all-male groups coming from all directions.
Now, upon reflection, I can find no word more suitable to describe these groups than “packs”, based on their behaviour towards me, one another and other members of the public. As I stood at my bus stop, the wolf whistles, comments on my physical appearance and “hellos” loaded with intention began and brought with them those well known feelings of self-consciousness, awkwardness and embarrassment that I am certain countless women in Dublin face on an irritatingly regular basis.
Stanley says she was just trying to get through the "usual" ordeals when things started to get heated:
It began with one group member looking directly into my eyes, pointing at me, turning to the others and announcing, “I fancy that one.” That “one”. To which another member replied in agreement, suggesting what he might like to do if he got me home. To which another added further details to this imagined scenario in which I was an object with the sole purpose of fulfilling their desires; details which filled me with pure white rage and, if I am honest, questions around my own value as a person.
If I can be seen in this way, I must not be perceived as an equal member of society by these people. Right? My thoughts were supported by the roars of laughter that followed as the group passed me by. They laughed, I became filled with fear. I was alone and it was now screamingly obvious that not only was I a source of entertainment for these groups, but a target.
Stanley decided to move on to another bus stop to get away from the first group, noting all the other lone women trying not to make eye contact with anybody, a monologue about how she could have reacted going on in her head:
I thought to myself, “Why don’t we say something back? Why don’t we tell them that we deserve more than to be objectified in this way? Why don’t we explain why we respond to their ‘compliments’ of how attractive we are with a stare of distaste rather than the gratitude they so clearly feel entitled to?”
But her night wasn't over:
As I got off the bus, I heard thrashing against the windows and looked up to find yet another group of males. They taunted and made sexually explicit gestures towards me out the window.
I walked home. I opened the door and sat in my kitchen. I cried. I was so very, very tired. I knew then that just because I was home it did not mean it was all over. I too am exhausted, not only for myself but for those who have had and will have similar experiences, and the innumerable amount of men who do value and respect women and anyone who believes that gender should not influence a person’s right to be viewed as an equal in the eyes of another. – Yours, etc,
Will this be the letter that finally convinces men to leave women in public alone? Probably not, but better to publish a rallying cry for accountability and action in a newspaper than to just cry in your kitchen.