"I won’t allow myself to be oppressed by anybody’s belief system." -Janelle Monar
When I was thrown in the headlines for my Twitter/Tumblr commentary on the saga that is Azealia Banks vs. Perez Hilton, I knew I needed to occupy some space to expand this matter - hence my xoJane piece “How I Landed In the Ring with Azealia & Perez”.
It’s about the weight of our language, about our society’s creation of victims-villains, and about how we must all - media makers, famous folk and pop culture consumers - hold one another accountable for our biases, words and actions, no matter what bodies they come from and the ones they hit.
My commentary on the homophobic and misogynistic slurs rapper Azealia Banks threw at repeat transphobe/misogynist Perez Hilton via Twitter were screengrabbed to much attention yesterday. There’s only so much one can say in three 140-character posts so I must expand this a bit.
In no way am I an Azealia stan (I haven’t followed her career beyond seeing her on one of my fave shopping sites ASOS.com) and my tweets should not be taken as a defense of her foul speech (I’ve heard from others that she has songs with lyrics blasting trans women). Slurs are slurs especially when thrown with hurtful intent - no matter who the offender.
My tweets should be taken as a criticism of the media’s habit of highlighting black and brown celebs who say horrible things, while a gentle touch (or blind-eye all together) is utilized when white celebs say equally transphobic or misogynistic things.
The media’s selective treatment of these situations needs to be called out.
We must analyze who is at the helm of these stories/bylines/institutions and why certain communities/people of color are demonized, publicized and labelled as more homo/transphobic, and why the use of “f*g” or “f*ggot” is an outright slur that raises much frenzy, but “tr*nny” is seen as more of a debate (or ignored all together) when used with the same vitriol intent.
I returned home today shaking. I was angry, frustrated, disappointed, relieved, frightened, hopeless and hopeful. I had just had lunch with my best friend Wendi. We ate at Whole Foods on a rainy day in the Lower East Side of NYC.
I’m frankly, and I know this is bad, desensitized to the fact that men hoot and holler at me on the street. I’ve learned to block that out despite the irritation. I’ve learned to accept street harassment as a daily part of my life, as common as seeing a rat in Tompkins Square Park.
On my walk home from lunch, I encountered a man who would not take no for an answer when it came to making my acquaintance. His sense of entitlement over this public space and my personal space astounded me.
Though I returned home unharmed and can gratefully say that he did not touch me, I was shaken up and took to Twitter to express my feelings and share my experience of #streetharassment, which has sadly become so normalized in our society.
Here’s my story:
Leaving lunch from Whole Foods, a man passes me on the sidewalk & extends his hand for me to shake. #streetharassment— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012
When I did not shake this stranger’s hand, he says, “Don’t act like that.”He then changes directions & walks beside me. #streetharassment— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012
He keeps his hand extended: “Come on!” I tell him to pls let me walk in peace. He begins singing “The Girl From Ipanema” #streetharassment— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012
A woman behind me says, “She doesn’t want to talk to you.” He says, “Well I won’t stop until she shakes my hand.” #streetharassment— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012
I say, “I’m sorry but I do not shake hands with strangers.” He counters, “I’m not a stranger anymore…” #streetharassment— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012
”..I’ve been walking with you for minutes now.” Me: “Against my will. Yes you have. Please leave me alone.” #streetharassment— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012
People pass. I wonder if they see it as a grand courting gesture, as if a woman should be used to this kind of attn. #streetharassment— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012
At a light on Allen&Houston, I turn to say “You’re making me really uncomfortable. Pls just let me be.” I feel vulnerable. #streetharassment— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012
"Stop being so stuck up," he yells at me, adding, "God bless you." He turns around and walks the other way. #streetharassment— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012
Never experienced #streetharassment to this level in my life. I was afraid he’d follow me home (even made plans to possibly go elsewhere).— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012
I want to feel safe, to walk home w/o some stranger injecting himself into my stroll. This should never be seen as normal. #streetharassment— Janet Mock (@janetmock) August 1, 2012