Natalie’s story: In the workplace it is illegal to make sexual comments like this, why is it ok in the street?

This isn’t about one particular incident, this is about the overall attitude of men. Today it was sunny so I walked from work to the bus stop without my coat on and I felt vulnerable. Vulnerable! How ridiculous is that.

2 men who I walked past made some sort of sexual animalesque grunt at me just as I passed them and another guy in a group said something offensive. There was the usual classic of a group of builders making comments. I was wearing black tights and a dress with a baggy jumper over the top and I actually caught myself thinking ‘i’ll never wear this dress again without a long coat’. I think it was mainly because I was on my own, as these incidents seem to be about power.

It is intimidating and undermining for this to happen so much that it is normal. The sad fact is that I thought that somehow I had to adapt. I have to have an armour to walk to and from work!!!!!!!!!!

In the workplace it is illegal to make sexual comments like this, why is it ok in the street? Like many of you, I wish I knew what to say. ‘F off’ makes you look angry and mental. A disapproving stare seems to have no affect and the act makes me feel so pathetic that I don’t feel capable of making a witty banterous put down. What shall I do tomorrow?


3 Responses

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  1. Sophie says:

    I just attended a hollaback workshop today (which was awesome and made me want to visit this site) but here’s the advice they gave us, more or less:
    -carry yourself with confidence. as you said, these incidents do seem to be about power. walking proud, the leader of the workshop said, seemed to reduce the amount of street harassment she encountered.
    -if you feel comfortable doing this, turn and look at the guys and say, in a calm and clear and even voice, “stop it”
    -don’t argue or engage in any other way. say what you want to say and then walk away. try and keep from yelling/swearing/seeming uncalm.

    as simple as these suggestions seemed, i walked out of that workshop feeling confident and empowered.

  2. natalie says:

    Thank-you Sophie

  3. Cathryn says:

    It is not about what WE can do to stop this happening. I refuse to accept any responsiblity for these situations. It doesn’t matter how you act or what you wear. I have had experiences where confidently addressing the problem has encouraged men, as they see any form of interaction as a come-on. I have meekly crossed the street to avoid groups of men and I have pushed through them. The effect is the same – fear and humiliation. The problem is all about power.

    We do not get intimidated in the street because we aren’t walking confidently enough. We do not get raped because we are wearing heels or revealing clothing. It is not us it’s them! It is all about power.

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