I have lived in several neighborhoods around New York, where walking down the street was a daily challenge to ignore that catcalls tossed my way. While the attention can be flattering (rarely), it can be straight up offensive or even scary, and it’s mostly a nuisance. Can’t a girl just go to the subway in peace? And, really, how are you supposed to respond to several men just randomly tossing words your way? Talking back would just invite more uninvited conversation, or in the worst case, could lead to aggression. No one really wants to stop, and launch into a 10 minute explanation of why it is insulting and demeaning to holler at ladies walking down the street. While I got used to just pretending I didn’t hear it and always keeping my headphones in, (though I actively wondered if any women were like, YES you called me pretty, I WILL stop and talk to you), after moving to an area where people no longer yell to me on the street, I realized how relaxing it was, and that the simple behavior was really a form of harassment that kept me tense an on edge. There was no good response.
Now artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has taken her work to the streets to call attention to street harassment, and put a voice to all the words that women were thinking, but were too intimidated/in a rush/annoyed to say. Her portraits feature strong, defiant women looking you in the eye, and remind you that women walking down the street don’t owe other pedestrians and lurkers a thing. She wants to point out that women aren’t responsible for smiling, or providing an emotional response just because guys feel like noticing them. They are modeled after real women, and their encounters to capture multi-background and cross-neighborhood experiences.
She hopes to expand her work to capture even more diverse experiences of how women of different races, sexualities, and classes experience harassment, and how women interact with others in public spaces. For now? I am just happy that what myself and my friends have so often thought is now being put into plain view. And, if you happen to see one pop up in your neighborhood, just point to it for your street harassers to read as you walk by. The pictures will do the responding for you. Check out more photos from her collection here.
I can’t even tell you how many times I went to the health center on my college campus for a cold and a cough, and ended up being questioned about my sex life. Their go-to diagnosis was, “Well, she’s probably pregnant (or if not, maybe she has an std).” I always assumed it was because I attended a Jesuit university that the nurses were a little paranoid about sex outside of marriage, and wanted to discourage it at all costs–even when it was not medically implied. Yet, this article on Women In The World of The Daily Beast and a more recent health care experience made me realize that maybe it’s a phenomenon other than that. For me, in college this line of questioning was nothing more than a minor annoyance/funny story to tell in the caf about the health center’s continued incompetence. Both of my parents are medical professionals, so I learned about your more basic illnesses and how they should be treated at a fairly young age. With that knowledge, I was able to bring the nurses around to medicating my true illness (usually a sinus infection) without a lot of unnecessary pregnancy tests.
But for some, it isn’t that simple. When doctors jump to the conclusion that all young women are, to quote the author of the article, “reckless harlots,” it can jeopardize their health by ignoring the real problem, create unnecessary stress, fear and shame, and subject women to needless (and often costly) medical procedures. What is going on in medicine today that leads practitioners to lean towards sexual shaming when ladies visit the doctor’s for unrelated ailments? And are men being subjected to the same line of questioning when they visit a doctor for the sniffles?
Catherine Schurz contacted 20 hospitals and urgent care facilities on the East Coast, and found that many organizations agreed with this line of questioning for women of menstruation age. They admitted there is no standard policy for testing women for pregnancy or STIs, and many said they would test for pregnancy without permission, and without even asking if the women was sexually active first, if they had any inkling the women could possibly be pregnant and withholding the information. And while I thought I had left this type of sentiment behind with college and university health centers, I experienced the same type of treatment in a Manhattan ER after I fainted and hit my head pretty hard. After hours of waiting and wondering when they’d check to see if I had a concussion, a doctor swung by, confirmed that my pregnancy test was negative, and discharged me with the advice that I should take some advil and see my primary care. Though many questions and a whopper of a head ache remained, at least I wasn’t pregnant? It makes me wonder what leads doctors to doubt the information that women are providing them is true, and what contributes to their inklings that a woman is withholding potentially telling medical information.
Have you run into this experience with doctors?