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Walking back home through the park at 6pm, with my 2 year old daughter, a group of men between 20 and 40- 4 in total sat drinking on a bench. One waved at me, then they began to shout at me ‘Slag’, ‘Slut’, ‘fat bitch’, ‘fucking slut’ etc. It would have been bad enough alone, but I was with my little girl. I didn’t respond, just ushered her out of the park with a heart heavy with the knowledge that this will no doubt happen to her some time in the future.
BY CARA COURCHESNE, cross posted from her blog quarter.life.crisis
Yesterday, I was in a meeting where the topic of street harassment came up. The only man in the meeting asked me (sincerely and without being an asshole) the difference between someone who is genuinely trying to compliment a woman and someone who is actively engaging in harassment-like behavior.
A basic “what not to do” list is what I came up with.
1.) I am at work and you think it’s perfectly appropriate to comment on (any part of) my body, my tattoos, or my clothing. I used to be a waitress and one of the worst things – besides having a serve screaming toddlers – was having to deal with men who thought that because I was bringing their sandwich to their table, I wanted to be a part of their sandwich.
I do not want to be part of your sandwich. I smiled at you BECAUSE IT IS MY FUCKING JOB AND I AM BEING PAID TO BE NICE TO PEOPLE.
Generally, your waitress does not find it attractive when you lean in and make a comment about her “really, really, really nice hands” while your wife is in the bathroom (true story); when you put your phone number on the check (this screams that you’re terrified of me and/or you realize that you being a dick); when you ask if I want to sit down and have a drink (I’m at work, you tool); or when you decide to ask me really probing questions about various aspects of my physical appearance: “Is that hair real?” No, it’s fake and I reattach it every morning. “What does your tattoo mean?” Fuck off – in Dutch.
2.) You are at work and you think it’s appropriate to comment on (any part of) my body, my tattoos, or my clothing: When I’m in line getting my coffee in the morning; when I’m walking by your construction site; when I’m going to a meeting at your place of employment; when I am walking on the sidewalk and you lean out of the restaurant where you’re some sort of middle management to tell me that you would tap my ass; or really anyplace where I can call your boss and say, “Hey, Employee Douchebag is, well, being a douchebag on work time, and I’m not so sure that’s what you’re paying him to do,” is probably when you don’t want to engage in sexually harassing me. I will call you on that shit.
3.) I am walking my dog and you are driving by. I have a few reasons why I walk my dog. They are pretty simple. She has to pee/poop/needs exercise or it’s a nice day. That’s really about it. I’m not walking my dog because I feel like listening to your asshole comments about my breasts, because I enjoy hearing you yell “I want you to suck my dick!!!” out of your car window, or because I want you to ask me how old my dog is as a roundabout way of talking about numbers so you can get mine (true story). Chances are, I have thrown on the clothes I wore yesterday or I’m still wearing what I wore to bed, I haven’t had coffee, and I don’t want to talk to you. I want to scoop the dog’s poop and go back home. Don’t pull up next to me to talk to me unless you’re asking for directions. Fran will go Cujo on your shit. Really.
4.) At the gym. I hate going to the gym with a strong, burning passion that rivals little else. So, first of all, I’m not in a good mood when I’m there. Second of all, I want to leave as quickly as possible. I’m not there for social hour. This means that I don’t want you to come over and strike up a conversation about my glutes, and I don’t want to hear you muttering comments to your friends about my…workout style. And if you’re one of those guys who walks around the gym talking on his cell phone, that goes double for you.
5.) Really, anywhere. I have a right to be anywhere I need/want to be without having to listen to individual men or groups of men comment on anything about me – my hands, my hair, my glasses, my tattoos, my breasts, and my ass. I have a nice ass, I have awesome hair. I know that. I don’t need you to tell me.
The answer to the question, “How do I make sure that a woman knows that I’m making a genuinely nice comment and not being a street-harassing jerk?” is actually a simple one. If you think that you might be overstepping a boundary, you probably are. If you are taken aback by a woman who responds “negatively” to you when you were “just trying to be nice”, remember that she has a right to respond to you however she chooses and chances are, she has just had enough with comments directed at her physical appearance. Take it from me – it gets exhausting and actually makes me feel unsafe when there are multiple comments directed at my business.
And if you have a “poor little you, you’re so attractive, it must be so hard to be so attractive” response, then you need some serious education about your ignorant shit.
This is the worst that has happened to me, (I seem to be a constant target of catcalls, and I don’t even dress sexy, like that should matter, just a shirt and jeans) and this happened to me 2 yrs ago at a bus stop. My car was not working at the time and was taking the bus. A drunk was walking towards the bus stop and I saw his lips move as trying to say something and I of course ignored him as I always do (since I have my headphones on) but this time this man had the audacity to stop in front of me to continue to try and talk to me while he touched & massaged his “baggage.” I had a long coat on, sunglasses, and headphones. Shocked and disgusted as he was only 2 feet away from me I immediately shoved him with the umbrella I was carrying as there was a possibility of rain that day…Looking back I wished I would have pushed him harder onto the street to make him fall onto oncoming traffic or hit his “baggage” with the umbrella to make him fall into fetal position. I was so embarrassed and humiliated because no one around me did anything and the one lady that was also waiting for the bus just 6ft away from me look up and down on me as if I did something wrong.
BY EMILY MAY
This sign was found by Blank Noise Project, an amazing anti-street-harassment project in India. The sign looks like progress, but is it really?
Let’s talk a look at the language. You might already know that “eve-teasing” in India is similar to “catcalling” in English, or “piropos” in Spanish. But “misbehaving” also has a double meaning. In the blog’s comments Pranavi writes, “”Misbehaving” […] not only pertains to sexual harassment but also “obscene behaviour” by couples. Thus the [sign] effectively encourages moral policing along with warning against sexual harassment of women.” An alternative translation to the sign: no PDA’s and no street harassment.
But what does it mean when we conflate consensual sexual behavior (like PDA’s) with non consensual behavior (like street harassment)? Back in the 1920’s there was an anti-street harassment club called the Anti-Flirt club. The name makes me cringe today (because flirting rocks!) but the term “street harassment” didn’t come about until 1981, so flirting was the only option. But today’s translation misses the mark.
In my mind, a world without street harassment is, to put it bluntly, a sexier world. It’s a world where everyone has the right to be who they are. That day. That minute. That hour. And let’s face it: we’re a lot of things. On any given day we can be happy or sad, bundled-up or sun-kissed, shy or sexy. And that’s what makes us awesome. And we should have the right to be who we are, and feel what we feel, without comments from the peanut gallery.
As countries around the world seek to address street harassment through public service announcements, what phrases would you recommend they use?
Okay so I’m a 14 year old girl from Washington and I just recently took a trip to New York for the FIRST time with my cousins & their friends. So it was my first day in New York and I was SO excited to go site seeing and to take a ride on the subway. So as I was waiting for the subway this 30-something year old man kept staring at my cousins & her friends but then he stopped his wandering eye on me & started looking me up and down. It made me feel sick because that’s never really happened to me…I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen in Washington but I’ve never really noticed I guess. Well he stopped looking me up & down but then started staring at my legs & licking his lips, which I thought was hillarous because he kept trying to look to see if he could look up my dress which he obviously couldn’t cause I made sure I kept my legs crossed and I never really wear short revealing dresses. Anyway his friends were on the other side of the room so he walked right in front of me trying to look down my dress and still looking at my legs. As he walked back in front of me with his friends he then said “Hey sexy!” and did a little shy wave knowing that my Aunt was near by. At that moment I felt so sick I didn’t know what to say or what to do because this had never happened to me! Then it happened like it was fate my cousin stretched her legs out while he was walking & he was to busy staring at me like I was a piece of meat so then he FELL! I couldn’t help but laugh not from his pain but from the fact that my cousin had done this accidentally while I was tongue tied thinking what to say. IT WAS DEFINITELY FATE. He was so embarrassed even though he still stared at me and made gross remarks I still felt like the real winner as he left for his subway!
As an eleventh grader I waited at a bus stop on a busy street in full daylight. I saw a pickup drive in front of me and then, as the driver saw me sitting alone in my uniform, slam on its brakes. The truck pulled into an alley next to me and the driver hurried over to me, offering me a ride. He insisted it would be faster than the bus.
I was instantly amazed that this was happening to me. Did he think I was that stupid? I was terrified that someone with obviously harmful intentions was approaching me so brazenly. It was amazing, though, how simple his ploy was, and how he anxiously repeated the offer as if repetition would change my mind.
I pointed to the bus, now thankfully in sight, and told him no, over and over. He kept insisting. Finally I ignored him, since I had no pepper spray. The worst part was that I was afraid to reach for my cell phone to call for help. What if he had been armed, and decided he couldn’t risk help coming for me? Finally, as the bus pulled up, he gave up, hurried into his truck and drove away.
I can’t believe that this happened to me in broad daylight, in such a public location. Although nothing so frightening has happened to me since, the incident convinced me that none of us are ever quite safe.
I got some pepper spray and now carry it at all times.
I was on my way to the bus station today, walking behind a woman on her cell phone, when I heard a man say in a leering voice, “Well, hello, beautiful.”
The woman in front of me ignored him. She didn’t seem to notice that she was the target of his attentions.
“Hey!” He yelled, growing belligerent and glaring at her. “I’m talking to you!” She glanced over, fearful, and kept talking on her cell phone, trying to continue ignoring him.
Apparently satisfied with her reaction, the man snickered loudly and walked ahead of us. I was filled with rage and wanted to step in, yell at him to leave her alone (as I often wish someone would do for me), but I realized that I was one small woman in a secluded road behind the post office, and he was a large man who already didn’t care about women’s boundaries. For safety’s sake, I didn’t intervene, but I felt sick, sad and ashamed for my entire bus ride home.
I am normally on the receiving end of these encounters more than once a week. This time, I was not actually the target of sexual harassment, but seeing it happen to someone else was just as bad. What I wouldn’t give to be able to DO something without endangering my own life. These creeps walk around with impunity, harassing and intimidating and victimizing people, yet confronting them means preparing for violence. I hate to give them even more power by not stepping in, but what can I do?
The man met up with some of his buddies at the bus station. I snapped a photo from behind.
After reading all of the stories here and realizing that this happens to other people, every day, I decided I might as well write down my own first experience.
About nine years ago I went on a trip out with my family to Ribchester – it was all good, we went to the museum etc etc. This part doesn’t really have much bearing on the story, it’s just a bit of context. Anyway, we stopped at a playground for a while because it was a sunny day. When I went through the gates into the playground, a group of about three or four boys stared me up and down – they can only have been about ten years old. One of them took it upon himself to tell me that I had “nice tits”. That was it for me, the day was spoiled. I continued to think it was my fault for wearing a vest – now I think about it, it was the heat of summer. It was really, really hot. And I have just as much a right as anybody else to wear what I like.
I was eight years old and these sorts of comments have been directed towards me constantly since then. It isn’t a compliment, it isn’t something I should be grateful for. It is sexual harassment and I am not going to take this shit any more.
Oh, and if I could go back to that point when I was eight and experienced my first harassment, I would tell that prick exactly what he could do. Age is no excuse.
I live in Guatemala City and I cannot walk down the street alone without getting stares and comments. When I walk with my boyfriend, nobody ever says anything. But alone, every 2 or 3 men I pass on the street feels he has the right to call out to me, and it makes me angry and scared. Angry because it’s so disrespectful and they don’t have the right, and scared because as a woman walking alone, it could be so much worse than an obnoxious comment. I want to react, to call them out, but though I speak Spanish well (I’m from the States), I’m not so comfortable as to be able to challenge a random stranger on the street, especially since I can’t predict the way he’ll react. That feeling of powerlessness to call them out on their behavior puts me in an even worse mood. I tend to walk around on the street now *trying* to look angry enough to do some real damage in the hopes that it will scare some of them off. Today I finally lost my patience. I screamed the only Spanish-language obscenity I know at an employee of a fancy restaurant who called to me from the door, “Hola amor, where are you going?” (in English) It’s not the worst thing I’ve heard, but it’s what I get so many times a day it’s like a broken record. I’m not sure he heard, but the man on the street certainly did, which I felt a little bad about – it was not directed at him. And then not even 20 seconds later, a man on a motorcycle stopped at a light tried to get my attention with “ch ch! ch ch!” (The sound is used to get people’s attention here, and I cannot begin to fathom how many times I have heard it). Still fuming from the last guy, I flipped him off as I walked by, and then when he sped by he yelled something angry at me. I know that my reactions were immature and probably not the best way to deal with it, but I actually felt a little better afterward. I don’t have the energy or the responsibility to explain to every man who catcalls me why it’s inappropriate and offensive. And most of them probably already know it anyway. I get so frustrated not being able to react, and today, I *was* able to react. I’ll work in better responses, but I’m proud of myself for not feeling helpless in today.
Reading the entries on this site have made me so angry about street harassment, and given mine more context, but it has also helped me feel stronger to do something about it. Ignoring it doesn’t work. It doesn’t stop, it only gets worse, and the people who do it will just keep doing it if nobody tells them off. If they think will get away with it, there’s no incentive not to catcall somebody. Even if you just scream something at them, they know at least that it’s not appreciated nor tolerated by their target and maybe, eventually, they start to think about that… hopefully.