What Do You Do When You Experience or Witness Street Harassment?
Was thinking about a few things in regards to my post yesterday and reading your stories of unwanted attention and harassment. I find myself depressingly unsurprised at the accounts. This crap is all too common.
A few years ago I made a decision to try and talk/fight back against harassment I experienced or witnessed. I live in New York, so hardly a day goes by when I don’t see it happen. Depending on my situation at the time (rushing to work or alone on a dark street or whatever) I will try to get the guy’s attention and say NO! really loud and like I’m talking to a dog. No! Bad man! Baaaaad.
If I’m the target of the comment or catcalls, I sometimes say something nasty. You know what really gets them upset? Insulting the size of their penis. I didn’t think it would be so easy to insult a guy, but it really is. (Sorry guys!)
Sometimes I don’t jump to that right away. Once I was walking down the street and a guy passing me said something like, “Girl, you are so fiiiine,” and I stopped and said: Excuse me, but that’s really inappropriate! We ended up having a loud debate in the street about how he was just trying to compliment me and put a smile on my face (there’s that fucking ‘smile’ stuff again…) and how by saying something nice about my appearance he was attempting to bring something positive to my day. No matter how much I tried to impart on him that random comments from strange men tend not to make women feel that way at all, and how would he feel if someone did that to his mother, made any impact on him.
Since I have a camera in my phone, I try to take pictures of the guys and tell them I’m uploading them to the Internet with the caption “Skeevy Asshole.” They don’t like that, either.
Every now and then I’m not alone when I do something like this. And it’s usually without warning. I’ll just be walking down the street, talking to a friend, then I’ll whip around and shout, “Leave her the fuck alone!” while my clueless friend is left wondering if I’ve suddenly gone mental.
Once they understand what I’m doing, people get kind of upset with me. On some level that’s understandable. People have gotten into physical altercations over less. Which is why I only do this when I feel relatively safe. On a crowded street, near open restaurants/stores, mostly during the day. However, the objection isn’t always just about that aspect. Some get embarrassed as if what I’m doing is somehow more horrendous than what the guy is doing. Like my acknowledgment and anger about it are breaking a social code we have in our culture. Men will harass women and women will deal with it individually as best they can.
That doesn’t cut it with me, though. Because I know how it can feel when the harassment is happening. Standing on a crowded street and having some man try to intimidate you and no one does a damn thing about it. I hate that feeling. I have no idea if the women who are being harassed appreciate my actions or even know about them. They may be trying so hard to ignore and get by that they just register someone yelling, but not about what.
I admit, I’m also doing it for all the times I found myself in that situation and didn’t fight back or tell the guy to go to hell; when I was intimidated and even scared. You’ll never hear me tell anybody that their response or reaction was incorrect or wrong or that they should have been stronger/fought back. I’ve heard guys say things like that and it’s complete bullshit. I’m glad for the times when I have the wherewithal to tell harassers to go to hell, but I forgive myself for the times I can’t.