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The other day while returning home from the city centre on the bus (number 3 if you know it!) I was a victim of street harassment. As anyone living in a city in the UK knows at the back of a bus, on the top level, you will often find groups of young men smoking pot and playing loud irritating music from their phones. On this particular afternoon at 5pm I was walking down the bus isle to be confronted with a barrage of catcalls, starting with ‘that girls got ladders in her tights’ (maybe not overtly sexist or sexual but lets face they would never comment on a mans clothing in this way), this proceeded to more sexual comments ‘got a nice face though’ etc… This was a little intimidating and I decided to ignore them, as in this situation I felt totally powerless. However a girl in front of me on the bus starting confronting them saying ‘we’ve had to listen to you the whole journey and now your harassing a girl, a total stranger you don’t know’, this led to incredibly sexual and insulting remarks directed to her regarding her weight, sexuality, clothing from around eight young teenage boys, around the ages of 15-19. This resulted in a very loud slagging match across a busy bus. Without a doubt confronting these boys made the situation worse, and although I felt I should join her and stand up for myself I said nothing but thanked her and told her it was pointless. I did not want to face more abuse and insults, and frankly put myself in a dangerous position by starting an argument about street harassment. Immediately after this even a man behind me started to mutter things in my direction about slashing peoples faces open and how he had a gun. I feel slightly disappointed that I didn’t stand up for myself in front of these boys but this only would have given them fuel for more harassment. But unless women assert themselves how will it ever end. A catch 22.
The saddest thing about the entire experience was the fact the boys did not see anything wrong with their initial comments, saying things like ‘you don’t even know me girl, I’m not like that, I respect girls’. They did not see this as in anyway a type of sexual harassment.
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