Ashley Judd Says F the Patriarchy

Hey Fox News: Harassment Isn’t a Compliment

Hey Fox News — street harassment, and behavior like it, is neither “chivalry” nor “just a  compliment.”

Right-wing media is losing its collective shit this week because actor and feminist Ashley Judd spoke out about a sexist incident at the airport. Last week, Judd posted a Facebook live video from the airport, sharing an experience of what she calls “everyday sexism.” As she was going through security, Judd explained, an airport employee touched her unnecessarily — after she had already told him off for calling her “sweetheart.” Sure sounds a lot like sexist street harassment to me.

It’s the kind of demeaning, sexualized interaction that women face every day, when strangers feel free to shout at us and touch us simply because we exist in an airport or on the street. As Judd pointed out, incidents like this are so routine that it’s “easy not to speak up, particularly when it’s so easy for someone to say, oh, ‘I was just being polite.'” She shared the video to call attention to precisely this kind of normalized sexism.

Then she got on her plane — and right-wing media discovered her video. Anti-feminist media personalities were quick to jump on her, mock her, and trot out all the age-old defenses for gross sexist behavior. On Fox, right-wing radio personality Dana Loesch hit the “dismissing street harassment” trifecta, claiming: it’s a “compliment,” “chivalry is under attack by third-wave feminism,” and “there’s no sexism here… if she thinks she has it hard she should ask women in Saudi Arabia.” (A reminder: Loesch is best known for starring in that terrifying NRA ad urging viewers to buy guns to defend white supremacy).

Feminists have been refuting this garbage since the dawn of time, but apparently, it’s not sinking in for Loesch and friends. So for the folks in the back: Harassment is not a compliment. It’s not chivalrous. A total stranger walking up to you, touching your body, and calling you a romantic nickname, is not a compliment — it’s a belittling experience that reminds women that we’re often seen as sexual objects first, and people second. Wanna be chivalrous? Treat us with respect, not like we’re lesser beings you can talk down to. And don’t act like you’re entitled to touch our bodies simply because we’re women with the audacity to exist in public space.

Sure, any one, isolated incident catcall might not be that big a deal (maybe). But these incidents aren’t isolated: women experience everyday sexism, well, every day. And over time, being repeatedly treated as lesser-than by strangers can make anybody feel small.

Ironically, the Right-Wing Outrage Machine is proving Judd’s point that everyday sexism is routine, excused, and normalized. Catcalls and unwanted touches are so common that these Fox hosts don’t see what’s wrong with it, and can’t imagine a world in which men and women could interact without them. (Here’s a hint: do you touch random bros on the street? No? Great, then you should be able to extend that basic courtesy to women, too.)

That, after all, was Judd’s goal all along: to show what’s wrong with our normal. Kudos to her for speaking out.

Photo Credit: Jezebel.

Sejal Singh is a columnist at Feministing, where she writes about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice. Sejal is a Policy and Advocacy Coordinator for Know Your IX, a national campaign to end gender-based violence in schools, where she has led several state and federal campaigns for student survivors' civil rights. In the past, Sejal led LGBT rights campaigns for the Center for American Progress. Today, she is a student at Harvard Law School and a frequent speaker on LGBTQ rights and civil rights in schools.

Sejal Singh is a law student and columnist at Feministing, writing about educational equity, labor, and reproductive justice.

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