Dear Strange Men: Stop Telling Me to Smile

Writing at XOJane, The Root's contributing editor Helena Andrews wonders whether a culture that encourages imagining women as slightly inferior to men is behind the annoying street harassment that she experiences.

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Andrews smiles for the camera. (Via XOJane)

Writing at XOJane, The Root's contributing editor Helena Andrews wonders whether a culture that encourages imagining women as slightly inferior to men is responsible for the annoying street harassment that she experiences.

... I knew walking past the bus stop would be problematic as it's the equivalent of a construction site. I got maybe three cart wheels away when a man yelled out how beautiful my hair was. I smiled, nodded, said "Thank you" and keep on pushing. But, of course, it didn't end there ...

None of the microaggressions that I experienced in the last two days were life threatening, not in a physical sense anyway. I wasn't touched, but I still felt threatened and  reverted back to the safe baseline of feminine politeness when all I wanted to say was, "Mind your fu**ing business," or, "I'm not afraid of talking to you, I simple don't want to," -- or silence.

I'm ready to wrestle with my own limitations and to start re-imagining my part in this screwed-up social hierarchy. First, I'm gonna figure out a stock answer, a go-to, for when I don't want to speak or otherwise engage with men. I'm gonna recite it like a mantra until it's written on my bones. I'm thinking something assertive and lady-cop sounding like, "Your attention is unwanted. Stand down. Now." But I'd rather it rhyme because I'm ridiculous.

What do you say to men who try to make you play by their rules?

Read Helena Andrews' entire piece at XOJane.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.

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