Claire’s story from San Fran: The most badass bystander story of all time
I’m usually the person targeted for harassment, since I’m tall and multiracial (and confident), and therefore the most visible woman on any given block. But just now I witnessed an egregious harassment of another woman, and I followed up with the harasser, as I would hope others would do for me (but have NEVER done.)
A big man (at least 6’2″, maybe more, and maybe 220 lbs or more) lurched out of an alcove at a small woman (at most 5’4″ and 120 lbs, maybe 25 y/o or less) who was walking down the sidewalk. He went at her fast, but slowly enough that she could get out of his way. But, since he held his arms out in front of and behind her, she could only get out of his way by going sideways. He pushed her across the sidewalk and into a car, where she ducked under his arm and kept walking. She bumped into me because she was busy looking behind her at the man, who was leaning into the car, laughing at her.
This all happened too fast for me to react to it. Now, as you can tell from the photo and video I’ve included, the man is poorly dressed and dirty, clearly down and out, possibly a drug addict. I do understand the rage and the invisibility of men like this, especially when you add on the racial component and the pressure and invisibility that comes with that.
HOWEVER, it is NOT OKAY for an oppressed man to take out his rage on a woman, or on anyone who is more vulnerable than he is, or on whom he can become violent.
I had a few seconds to decide what to do. He was still lingering just a few steps ahead of me, adjusting himself to the success of his harassment. At moments like this, I have to figure out if I’m going to be harassed myself. If I see a potential harasser up ahead, I’ll generally cross the street to avoid them. But this time, I decided to take the initiative, because I was so angry about what he did to that woman.
I stood still on the sidewalk as I thought about it. During this time, a family of two women and two little girls came down the sidewalk and the man lurched out amongst them, although I’m not sure this time if he intended to scare them or if he was just substance-addled. But that was the last straw for me.
I pulled out my phone, switched to camera mode, and walked past him, glaring at him as I went. As I expected, he started to follow me, saying something to me (I don’t know what, I had my headphones on until I turned my camera to video mode.) I started snapping pictures of him and, as soon as he saw me doing it, he walked away from me. He kept ducking into the building alcove, hoping I’d walk past. I tried that one time, but he just came back out and continued following me, so I continued snapping pictures.
Then he turned down a street to get away from me. Unfortunately for him, I’d remembered my video camera and switched to video. I turned the corner and did a little interview with him, which you can see in the video. Of course, he denied it all. Too bad I didn’t get pictures of the harassment.
He took off down the street and I followed him for a block and a half. He kept looking back to see if I was following. I stopped taking pictures, but I kept my phone held up. Finally, he walked down an alley to get away from me and I let him go. I wonder if that’s the first time in his life he’s had the tables turned on him like that. He sure didn’t like being harassed or followed.
Let me emphasize here, though, that it was the middle of the day, there were lots of people around, and I’m pretty tall and imposing-looking. I don’t necessarily recommend that other, smaller women turn the tables quite so thoroughly on a big man who was willing to get physical with a woman. It could be dangerous.
To ensure that every bystander is as amazing as Claire, donate to the “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Claire has already donated, as if she wasn’t already badass enough.