[Cut for length.]
I’ve always been told that misogynistic abuse from strangers is something that happens to all women [...]
In some ways, I’m grateful that I seem to have been “spared”…but I’m also confused. Because, since I know this happens to all women, has been that street harassers, dick pic dudes, etc. don’t perceive me as a woman. And that doesn’t seem to make sense either. While I’m certainly not “traditionally feminine,” I don’t typically pass as masculine-of-center unless I really try to. And so it’s always left me with this feeling of, like…apparently, I’m so ugly/unappealing/worthless that I don’t even deserve street harassment. And that’s a fucked up way to feel. Especially because I’ve always felt so alone in it.
Anyway, I guess my point is just that it really helped me to hear a) that I’m not the only woman who doesn’t experience this and b) some helpful critical analysis about what might be going on with that. Thanks. <3
I think there are plenty of women who don't experience street harassment. I've never been mistreated in the ways that the comments you were responding to talked about, either. I went through a scary period when I was just hitting adolescence, somewhere between 13 and 14, when men were bothering me and paying a lot of uncomfortable attention to the fact that I was becoming an adult woman. With the ... skinny and the curves and shit. Then I got mild acne. I can't swear to the fact that it filters out guys who are are just going by what I look like, but I had to deal with random, I-like-the-look-of-you based hassles for less than one year. (And that was long before fucking me would have been remotely legal.) I'm still skinny and curvy. I can't tell for sure what it is about me that makes me not get street harassed, but I'm a lot older now and it's never been a problem. Unless you're counting that one, short window of yuck.
The idea that a problem is only a real problem because it happens to all women is innately flawed. It's rooted in the invalidation of women. We should be arguing that women have this problem, and just as a result of that, it's worth taking seriously. I don't care if it's only happening to conventionally attractive women, or even women who wear makeup and skirts. It needs to stop. The relevant question is how do we create a world where all people are treated with respect and can be comfortable in their skins? How do we create sufficiently serious social consequences for being an entitled dick that guys cut that out? And I also think we need to lay it at the feet of mainstream feminism that, with as long as it's had to address street harassment, that problem has lingered decade after decade.
I also feel inclined to bring up that ... you're not the first person I've heard express that they thought there was something wrong with them for not being harassed. And I sort of get it. Society tries hard to convince people that having normal experiences (even negative normal experiences) is desirable. But I have friends who straddle the line in such a way that whether they get cat-called depends on whether they're going out of their way to fit the stereotype of femininity. It fucks with their head, because they never have control over whose attention they attract, and that can be quite scary. And yet, being treated like no one notices they're female is something they've been conditioned to internalize as a sign of failure and unattractiveness.
I can go out wearing no makeup, no bra, nothing a het guy would avoid wearing, and to the extent that I'm making a statement with my clothes, it's "shut up and mind your own business." And that's what people tend to do. But the reason I can do that day after day without emotional wear and tear has something to do with my self-concept being caught up in other things. I don't appreciate knowing that anybody else finds me sexy. I don't have the internal conflict and ambivalence of someone who feels (and was conditioned to feel?) like their gender is an important part of their public identity. The upside is that I can go wherever I want with the expectation that no one no one who wants to express "I'm attracted to women" will bother me. If there is a downside, I guess it's that cute, normative guys mostly ogle more feminine-presenting women. But I have my own ideas of what I want in an intimate partner, and they don't overlap much with "normative." So that hasn't been a problem.