Hannah’s Story: Boys need to learn harassment is not cool
I live in southern Colorado and until recently have not had to deal with much street harassment. I generally commute using my personal vehicle and therefore am not on on the streets very often. However, recently a friend and I have taken up jogging at the Riverwalk, a very pretty newer development to our downtown area. In the last couple of weeks, we have been honked at and whistled at by people driving past, which happens so quickly there’s no chance to respond. Yesterday though, I finally got a chance. We had just started our run when a group of about 6 boys standing around with their bicycles (yes, boys, maybe around 12-13 years old) began yelling at us from across the river. They were shouting to get our attention and doing the classic “my friend wants your number!” and other things I didn’t quite catch. My friend and I initially kept going, but then it suddenly dawned on me that I had my phone. So I stopped dead in my tracks and walked back over. I pulled my phone out and told them I wanted to take their picture. They got nervous looks on their faces and asked why. I started yelling back that shouting at women (my friend and I are in our 20s) was not appropriate and I was going to tell their parents what they were doing. They quickly ran behind some trees so I couldn’t get their picture. I then yelled at them, asking them if they were so big and tough to holler at women in public why were they hiding now? They got pretty quiet then and my friend and I continued our run. I didn’t feel threatened at all, but I did want to embarrass them by loudly calling attention to their inappropriate behavior to all the other pedestrians around. It must have worked, because we did not see them anywhere around again as we finished our run. One thing that did bother me, though, was that immediately afterward I felt like I needed reassurance that I had not overreacted. My friend was very supportive, which helped. But it wasn’t until I told the story to my husband and he agreed that my reaction was okay that I felt better about it. I knew in my head that I did the right thing in calling out harassing behavior, but it was uncomfortable to realize that the social pressure to stay quiet, not make a scene, etc. is still so ingrained. I don’t think this one incident will change the behavior of those boys overnight, but I hope that next time they will think twice and be nervous that their target will react like I did and not let them get away with it. I only wish I could have actually talked to their parents. Unfortunately, I suspect that as long as I continue jogging in public (which I fully intend to do) I will have plenty of opportunities to continue to hollaback.