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Myself and some friends are members of an activist group which has a number of peripheral associates and we have regular public events in the city. At a recent gathering, I had already been made to feel very uncomfortable with one older males inappropriate sexual jokes directed at me, when later in the day as I was standing alone deep in thought he found it necessary to commandingly say “Smile for me, honey”. This sort of harassment royally shits me because it’s subtle, insidious and can be overlooked and passed off as someone trying to be friendly. As one of the few women in the group, I am often the target of gendered discrimination and this time, I wasnt going to shrug it off. So, I confidently told him I did not appreciate him telling me what to do with my face and could he please not say it again and he just laughed at me.
I walked over to him and assertively told him my reasons why I found it offensive, during which he talked over me, laughed again, said he was just being friendly and then told me I was being ridiculous. Thankfully another friend overheard and said he agreed with what I was saying, but that didn’t seem to change the harassers mind.
He offered a disingenuous apology which shut down any further discussion. I walked away feeling incredibly frustrated and disempowered and I’m now questioning whether I want to be involved in a group that has him as a member. I’m not sure if this quite counts as street harassment, but I’ve certainly been told a number of times by men I know and strangers in public to “Smile” for them like I’m some performing monkey. Why the hell do they do it?
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