“Speak the truth, even if your voice shakes”

The quote above is borrowed from a friend’s cover photo: the side of the house spray painted with these words in black. I first came across the photo about a year ago and immediately found it powerful, but never have I really felt its true meaning until this evening. 

I was walking down a sidewalk near a busy intersection in San Francisco. A car was pulling out of the gas station on the corner. As I walked by, I heard “daaamn.” I felt my blood boil a little, but I didn’t turn around and kept walking. But then, he got more bold: “Would you do me?” That I couldn’t handle. Remembering the promise to myself the last time I experienced street harassment, I was determined to do something this time.  I took a deep breath, turned around and gave him a hard stare, and then flicked him off. My heart was pounding and I immediately began to picture him retaliating in a violent way, but he only said something inaudible as I continued walking.

Was my response slightly immature? Yes. Should I have said something instead? Also yes. But I couldn’t.

Just yesterday I was talking to a friend of mine about street harassment. She told me about her recent experiences on public transportation, and how silencing it is. You want to say something, but somehow the words evade you. You are silenced.

I couldn’t let that happen again. My “voice” shook, but I fought back. I had power instead of being powerless.

And next time, I hope to have even more courage. I want to say something. I want to ask this person what they get from this. I want to know why they think it’s ok. And I want to tell them that they are contributing to a larger system of violence against women, and that it needs to stop. Women have the right to walk down the street and use public transportation without being harassed.

And even if it’s hard, I will do it.


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