'Christen's Inbox' From Christen Brandt Shows The Ugly Truth Of What Happens After A Woman Speaks Out Against Harassment
Gird your feminist loins, ladies and gents, because things are about to get infuriating. In early February, a woman's Facebook post describing a recent experience with catcalling went viral, and like most viral stories involving women, the attention that followed was somewhat mixed. On one hand, Christen's Inbox, Christen Brandt's response to the online harassment she experienced after speaking out against street harassment, is a master class in irony and how to handle negative attention — but on the other, the fact that she faced more harassment after speaking out about harassment speaks volumes about the treatment of women online.
In the original Facebook post, Brandt, who co-founded the nonprofit She's the First, recounts a story that makes it clear how little street harassment has to do with the victim's actions. According to the post, she was walking through a subway station in New York when a man commented on her legs. Although Brandt ignored him, he followed her and continued harassing her. "It was the 'thank you' that got me," she wrote. "As if my five inches of legging-covered skin were there for him."
To drive home the point, she included a photo of the parka and boots she was wearing at the time. Brandt did everything society tells women to do to prevent street harassment: She ignored him, she kept moving, and she was barely showing any skin — yet none of that worked, because that's not what street harassment is about. Rather, it's about the sense of male entitlement that allows men to treat women like objects for their entertainment every time they step outside.
Here's where the extra-infuriating part comes in: After her post went viral, Brandt was inundated with comments and emails. Some were supportive, but others were... less so. To showcase the amount of harassment she's facing, she created the website Christen's Inbox, where she collects the more notable offenders.
"When the responses started hitting my inbox, all I could think about what how each one of them was proving my point — both people's stories and experiences of harassment and sexual violence as well as the vulgar notes from men," Brandt told Bustle over email. "At that moment, I realized I didn't have to just talk about the harassment women face, because I could show it. So I did."
As you can imagine, the result is a treasure trove of male entitlement, with many comments instructing Brandt to lighten up and learn to take a compliment.
Of course, no discussion of entitlement would be complete without some mansplaining and a reminder that things could be worse.
Fortunately for your faith in humanity, it's not all misogyny and harassment; Brandt also uploads messages of support from both men and women.
"I get a few positive stories or notes of encouragement each day as well," she wrote. "And that's been amazing, because on the day you realize there's someone threatening to gut you like a pig on Yahoo, those notes are the only reason I can take a deep breath and close the browser window."
"Ultimately, I think [my post] struck a chord because it's true: It doesn't matter what you're wearing, all of us experience street harassment, and we're all sick of it," Brandt wrote. Unfortunately, a problem this widespread and socially-sanctioned isn't easily solved, but as long as women keep speaking out, we have a chance at effecting real change.
"Ultimately, I hope that by showing the problem at hand, it becomes much more difficult for anyone to say that it doesn't happen or that it isn't that bad," Brandt continued. "I mean, as I'm writing [this], someone just tweeted '#fapfapfap' to my personal Twitter account. It might be easy to dismiss my experience or my story, or even countless other women's stories — but how can you discount what's in front of you in black and white?"
Check out more messages at Christen's Inbox.
Images: Courtesy of Christen Brandt