Essays — August 7, 2014 9:09 — 0 Comments

Women Against Street Harassment: Relinquishing Victimhood for Light – Piper Daniels

I’d like to begin, if I may, with an act of imagination.

Imagine for a moment that privilege is a house. Imagine this house is so beautiful, you want for nothing, and live all your life in the room where you were born.  Whether this insular living constitutes any wrongdoing is debatable, but one thing is not: A person who spends his whole life in one room doesn’t know much about the world, or even what happens in adjacent rooms, and because of this, it is difficult to assign merit to his judgments.

“The first resistance to social change,” said Gloria Steinem, “is to say it isn’t necessary.”

When men of considerable privilege suggest that I am “playing the victim,” as they sometimes do, what I want to say is, “Wait till you’ve had a dick in your mouth and a gun to your head, and then tell me all about playing the victim,” but I don’t, not anymore, because I’ve learned over the years what a self-administered poison bitterness can be.

This is not to suggest there is no such a thing as self-victimization, or that it isn’t something I’ve struggled with myself.  Many years ago, when I was newly nineteen and had just been raped for the second time, I reasoned there must be something—an aura or an odor imperceptible to me—that signified my body as a premium location for violence.  In order to snuff out even the tiniest flicker of light that might draw a person near, I shaved my head, plucked out my eyebrows, ace-bandaged and duct taped my tits flat to my chest.  My only friends were drugs and books.  I wouldn’t let anyone close to me.  On the El, if anyone came near me, I’d scream.  In the streets, anyone who touched me would be pepper sprayed and shoved into oncoming traffic.  And if anyone tried to follow me home, I would burn him with the hot of my cigarette.  Believe it or not, this invasive harassment happened (still happens) all the time.

What I know now that I didn’t then: The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.  What felt initially like brave retaliation was actually just the manifestation of some reversed victimhood.  I was, in essence, seeing eye to eye with the men who harassed me, except I was the only one suffering because of it.  I was the one rocked by bitterness who moved through the world alone.

To be honest, there’ve been times when I pitied myself.  But in the last few years, I’ve held up every experience that should’ve killed me, and I let the air and the light pass through. I believe down to my bones that the darkest, bleakest moments of our lives will come to something, that they have prepared us to participate in something bigger and brighter than we could ever be.

So on this day, I am pledging to you that I, Piper J. Daniels, am committed to implementing intelligent, creative solutions for fighting street harassment, solutions that illuminate and dismantle rape culture while building strong, safe communities for you, and me, and all of our allies.  But in order to fashion from those brutal moments weapons of beauty and light, I am going to need your help.

Over the next several weeks, I will be curating a series for the Monarch Review that seeks to examine street harassment from multiple perspectives.

To share leads or personal experiences with street harassment, email me at  All emails, of course, will be kept confidential.

For more information about Women Against Street Harassment (WASH):

–Follow us on Facebook:  and Twitter:

–Tune in this Sunday, August 10th to 97.3 FM KIRO RADIO at 2 and 6 p.m. to hear more about WASH and street harassment.

–Read the street harassment series curated for the Monarch Review, and know that you are not alone.



Piper Daniels is a poet, a graduate of the University of Washington MFA program and a wonderful dancer.

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The answer isn't poetry, but rather language

- Richard Kenney