And He Called: Stop Street Harrassment

(And) he called [va-yikira]… (Lev. 1:1)

“I don’t care how she’s dressed, it’s not OK!”
“I don’t care how she’s walking, it’s not OK!”
“It’s not a compliment…It’s street harassment”

Vayikra” is a singular masculine verb (all action in Hebrew is gendered). These are the first words, and the Hebrew name, of the Bible book known in English as Leviticus. We know from context that the implicit “he” is God and that God is calling, from within the newly constructed Tabernacle, to Moses. But this year [2012], our reading of Vayikra — (Lev. 1:1-5:26) in the annual Torah cycle — coincides with “Stop Street Harassment Week,” and I’m hearing those words a little differently.

Vayikra is the first portion in a long series of instructions for the sacrificial system, designed to restore balance in the universe when a wrong has been committed, intentionally, unintentionally or even unknowingly. YouTube is not exactly the Tabernacle, and videos are not sacrifices, but I do believe that StopStreetHarrassment.org has managed to make powerful use of tools at hand.

As I watched “Shit Men Say to Men Who Say Shit to Women,” I realized I was crying. Gradually, I came to understand that I heard these guys speaking across the decades and the miles to all the men who yelled shit at me in my youth, to all the men who intruded on me, who made the streets feel less safe for me, for other women and for gay and transgendered folk.

And as I heard these young guys tell others — including those men, now gray as I am or gone, who once hassled me — “it’s not OK,” I felt a balance restored to the universe. These guys cannot atone for mistakes of others. But they did, powerfully, repair something for me.

And he called….

“Are you serious?”
“You’re embarrassing me, man.”
“Stop it.”
“It’s street harrassment.”

Amen. And thank you!

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