BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
A blogger out of the U.K. has an excellent suggestion that we would like to reiterate: “Operation Creep-Be-Gone”. Have you ever marveled at what street harassers get away with in public? Has there ever been a time when you were being followed, catcalled or made to feel unsafe in a public place and why, despite all the other people around you, you still felt unsafe or threatened?
The inspiration for “Operation Creep-Be-Gone” came from this blogger’s particular experience at witnessing another woman being harassed:
I saw a woman, on a busy Euston Road at 6pm, being hounded by a man. He wasn’t being outwardly aggressive, but he was sliming round her like a slug in an overcoat, asking questions and ignoring all clear signals (headphones in, one-word answers, refusal to make eye contact) that she wasn’t interested.
I caught the girl’s eye and mouthed “are you ok?”, to which she shook her head. So then I had a decision to make, quickly. To barge in like the Green Cross Code Man and say “STOP, letch! She doesn’t want to talk to you. RETREAT,” before blasting him with a sonic ray gun, or the alternative; pretend to be her mate. “There you are!” I cried, launching myself on her (for if I’m going to do a good deed I may as well get a hug out of it). “Hi!” she faked, as I dragged her away. Then we stood together on the pavement miming friendly chat like a couple of am-dram actors, while Slug Man stared, lingered, and eventually slithered off back to his cabbage patch.
While this blogger rightly stepped in to help, she noted, “There must have been 20 people within view and earshot standing nearby, yet nobody else paid the slightest attention.” Does our fear of bringing unwanted negative attention onto ourselves influence a decision not to step in to assist someone, or is it because many still dismiss street harassment as a legitimate threat?
Regardless of the reasons behind this seeming ambivalence, this woman’s story serves as an important reminder to speak up, not just against your own street harassers, but to the street harassment of others, as well.
…nobody’s saying you have to leap in with your handbag swinging. Even a stern glance or a calm, disapproving presence could help. A well-timed ‘tut’ might still go some way to helping these lowlifes learn that harassing us for the simple crime of possessing ovaries is Not Ok.
The idea behind Operation Creep-Be-Gone could go a long way toward combating not only the actions of street harassers, but to countering the quiet, implicit acceptance of anyone who witnesses another person getting street harassed.