WOMEN

HuffPost Her Stories: Don't Tell Me To Smile

Plus: Why are women still doing Bikram yoga?
Let's have an honest discussion of the struggles women face as they walk through the world every day.
Let's have an honest discussion of the struggles women face as they walk through the world every day.

Hi, readers!

How often have you been greeted by an inappropriate comment, whistle or stare while walking down the sidewalk? 

I distinctly remember waiting for a bus one day while I lived in Washington, D.C. A man approached me on the sidewalk and said hi. Not wanting to appear rude, I responded and then went back to looking at my phone. But he didn’t leave. Instead, he asked for my number. When I refused to give it to him, he asked if I’d go out with him. When I said no and that I had a boyfriend, he asked for my number again and launched into reasons I should give it to him. Thankfully, the bus arrived, I got on and he didn’t try to board it. (There’s always that moment where you worry the guy might just follow you endlessly.)

Over the course of my decade in the city, I stopped making eye contact with others on the sidewalk and always put in my earphones as I walked around. (That way, you can’t hear half the comments, and you can more easily ignore the ones you do.) I moved back toward my Midwest roots earlier this year, landing in Cincinnati, and now I’m struggling to find the right balance between not being a rude neighbor who doesn’t say hi and avoiding unwanted comments and attention.

And that’s why Lauren Messervey’s recent piece for HuffPost Canada struck such a chord with me. It’s an honest discussion of the struggles women face as they walk through the world every day.

“I believe that more than ever, it’s important for everyone to be more aware of the fear many women face in being approached by men they don’t know, especially when both engagement and rejection can herald violent consequences,” she said.

Lauren told me she wrote the piece after hearing about a woman whose baby was shot by a man the woman rejected. The story “got under my skin,” she explained. 

“I don’t shy away from controversial topics because I think that they give people the tools to ask questions and share their own stories,” said Lauren, who wrote a piece earlier this summer about why she shouldn’t need to tell men she meets in public that she’s married. “If something is taboo, it only elevates the need for further discussion and examination.”

What instance of unwanted attention sticks in your mind, and how do you react to those you encounter? Share your story with me.

And keep walking down the sidewalk however works for you.

Until next time,

Follow Lauren Messervey (@laurenmesservey) for more musings on women and gender politics, and follow HuffPost Canada (@HuffPostCanada) for more news about Canada and beyond.

Bikram Choudhury teaches a yoga class in 2000. 
Bikram Choudhury teaches a yoga class in 2000. 

Yoga guru Bikram Choudhury faces several lawsuits, an arrest warrant and allegations of rape and harassment. Yet women are still paying him thousands of dollars for the opportunity to attend his yoga teacher trainings. Choudhury is continuing to hold trainings for his brand of heated yoga in Mexico and other places, and many yogis are still attending Bikram-branded classes worldwide despite the allegations against the practice’s founder. “It’s bizarre to me that people still go to these trainings,” yoga instructor Jessamyn Stanley told HuffPost U.S. “I find it very hard to understand how someone could look [at the allegations of rape] and have questions about what happened.”

Martina Pastorino and her dog, Kira, walked 422 miles across Italy to raise awareness about violence against women.
Martina Pastorino and her dog, Kira, walked 422 miles across Italy to raise awareness about violence against women.

“Walk with your head held high. It is not true that you are weak. Indeed, it’s just the opposite.” That’s the message Martina Pastorino, 29, has for female victims of violence. HuffPost Italy spoke with Martina as she completed a 422-mile journey across Italy with her dog, Kira, to raise awareness about the number of women affected and to show that “to be a woman is to be strong.” She is thankful more women have been filing claims and seeking support over the past few years, but worries there hasn’t been an emphasis on changing the culture that leads to such violence or enough action from the government. “I realize that the road ahead to reach concrete and increasingly effective actions to combat violence against women is still an uphill struggle,” Martina adds.

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