I spend a lot of energy on a daily basis considering how to best respond to street harassment. What I want is a quick, sure-fire way to shut down the harasser without any follow-up conversation or possibility of leaving them thinking the behavior is flattering, while also avoiding provocation of violence or retribution.
It’s not easy to fit all of that into a three-word phrase you can yell at a passing car.
Earlier this week, as I walked my bike up the hill to my house (yes, I am that lazy, but it’s a serious hill), I had an interesting encounter. When the car pulled up next to me, passenger hanging out the window, I braced for the worst – instead, “Hey, hey miss – how much did your bike cost?”
I was so confused at the non-harassy inquiry, that my response came out a confounding combination of multiple possible answers: “Not enough!”
The passenger barely got out a “…What?” before the driver took matters into his own hands and left me to my reflections.
I should acknowledge, I have a fairly hilarious track record of this; once, as a colleague commiserated about a dreary Monday over the coffeemaker, I responded in a combination of “Mondays are the worst” and “Can’t it be spring yet?” The result: a very hyperbolic, “It’s the worst Monday yet!” (What? Indeed.)
This most recent experience left me wondering – what if I just responded to all street harassment with a ridiculous non-sequitur? Would it stop the conversation in its tracks? Prevent escalation? Give the harasser a moment of pause the next time they consider commenting on a stranger’s derriere?
Yesterday, I happened across a reference to Jenna Marbles’ video How to Avoid Talking To People You Don’t Want To Talk To. The answer, she says, is in The Face – and I couldn’t help but think that this might translate exceedingly well as a response to street harassment. Who needs a three-word retort when this is an option? Go on, click through and give it a watch.
What’s your favorite response to street harassment? Would you try The Face?