Hollerin’ Season

Image: Flickr / chriscardinal

Yesterday I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some yogurt to go with dinner. On my way in, a store employee lingering outside smiled at me. I smiled and nodded and walked in. On my way out, I vaguely heard someone else calling to me, “Hey baby! Baby!” Quietly, then louder and more insistent.

I hurried through the parking lot, trying to ignore the person cat-calling me. The store employee who had smiled at me earlier then started calling to me from 30 feet away as I headed to my car. “Hey miss lady! Alright now!” I glanced at him, and it was clear he didn’t want anything but my attention.

Annoyed, I got into my car where my dog was waiting. As I was exited the parking lot, another man flagged me down, pointing to my headlights. Thinking something was wrong, I slowed to a stop. He smiled and said, “I like your dog.”

Me: “Thanks.”
Him: “Are you single?”
Me: “No.”
Him: “Are you really not single?”
Me: “On my way to my man’s house right now.” [True fact: The easiest way to get a strange man to leave you alone is to tell him that you’re someone else’s property. Equally true fact: It doesn’t always work.]
Him: “Do you want to make a friend?”
Me: [Blank stare, preparing to pull off]
Him: “Well, do you need some CDs, DVDs…?”

I drove away.

As harassment goes, it certainly wasn’t the worst I’ve experienced. Neither of these men made remarks about my body or called me a bitch because I wasn’t receptive. Neither of them blocked my path. (All of these things have happened to me. All of these things have probably happened to all of the women you know.) It was just a deluge of unwanted attention. I joked about it — the bootleg DVD offer was funny — to my boyfriend when I got to his house. But I was joking because it was so infuriating. And I knew that if I were at the store with him, it wouldn’t have happened. Being a woman alone in public means I can’t even buy a tub of yogurt without fielding unwanted advances.

I left that grocery store never wanting to go back. I’ll avoid it if I’m by myself. Here’s the thing street harassment apologists don’t seem to understand when they say “don’t get offended just because a man says hello to you.” It’s just plain stressful being approached by multiple male strangers — especially when I don’t know how they’ll react to my disinterest. I’ve been yelled at, I’ve been cursed out, and physically intimidated. I’ve also been wished a blessed day. But the unpredictability is what makes it so upsetting. Even as I make the choice to avoid certain places, I hate it, because it’s just another example of the ways street harassment limits women’s access to public spaces.

Of course, I don’t have a choice much of the time. Standing at the bus stop on Rhode Island Avenue on fine mornings means being called to by all kinds of men who are sitting, bored, in their cars on their way to work. There are different methods of dealing. There’s snapping back, there’s being silent, and there’s being polite and dismissive. Still, the result of each tactic depends solely on the guy and whether he’s willing to leave me alone; it has little do with whether I desire to be left alone.

It seems there’s only one thing to do when warm weather arrives and, as my friend Dayo puts it, “hollerin’ season” has arrived: Put my game face on.

78 Comments

Filed under D.C., Sexism, Women

78 responses to “Hollerin’ Season

  1. I would pay good money to read a study about the type of men who engage in street hollarin’. How can a behavior that is greatly reviled still be continuing in 2011 if it achieves nothing?

    • Depends on how you define “nothing.” For some men, I think the goal is simply to get attention — negative or positive — from a woman they find attractive. Others may get off on upsetting/bullying a woman. Others might be doing it to show off in front of their friends.

    • You’ve got to remember the fundamental truth of the Creep: for the Creep, percentage is meaningless, only total. So the Creep throws it out there over and over again, and eventually, he has so many attempts that eventually he strikes gold. And in this way he will increase the total, even while he has an abysmal percentage. This isn’t restricted to street hollering, mind you, but to a whole range of come-on behavior. Some might say that nobody ever actually responds positively to street hollering, but I think that this is not in keeping with some unfortunate truths of human nature.

      • Eric

        What’s worse is when they actually tell you that this is their strategy. My generation of men is awful at social skills :/

      • Julian Sanchez

        Mmm, I dunno. It might be true for, say, cold approaches in bars—where a persistent creep will often end up finding SOMEONE to go home with at the end of the night, and the number of rejections they get on the way doesn’t really matter. But I think the ROI for most of the dudes hollering at random women on the street has got to be damn close to zero. Mercifully, I don’t find it all that easy to get into these guys’ headspace, but it really doesn’t seem like it’s done with the expectation of, like, actually taking a girl home or even getting her to go out with him.

        Obviously I don’t have nearly the same level of direct experience as Shani—so it probably behooves both of us to defer to her assessment—but I share the sense that this is more about mere recognition, positive or negative, than a literal expectation of action, even 1 time out of 100. These are mostly guys who would otherwise be sexually invisible to the women they’re harassing. In the best case scenario, maybe they DO get a smile or a friendly comment back—and you know, huumans enjoy being recognized by pretty people even when we don’t sleep with them. Even when the reaction is indifferent or hostile, though, they’ve *forced recognition* of themselves as a sexual presence. Probably there’s actual research on this somewhere, but my gut feeling has always been that the core thing is an attempt to rebel against a feeling of invisibility.

        That said, the capacity for self delusion in the realm of sex can’t be underestimated; it’s certainly possible some of these dudes really do manage to convince themselves that maybe THIS one will be interested…

        • mwing

          “Even when the reaction is indifferent or hostile, though, they’ve *forced recognition* of themselves as a sexual presence.”

          Yes, this is it exactly. It’s guys for whom a passing woman *has to be made* to pay some sort of attention to him. It’s about who owns public space and who must acknowledge whom.

  2. Jeffrey

    How did you meet your current boyfriend? I’m assuming that one of you started a conversation with the other, and there was the distinct possibility that the other could have considered the advance “unwanted”.

    • Julian Sanchez

      On our planet, there are norms about when it’s appropriate to initiate a conversation with someone you don’t know, and yet further norms about when it’s appropriate to signal sexual interest. Only extremely rarely is it appropriate for those two times to coincide.

    • Julian Sanchez

      I will grant this—lots of the venues in which people meet potential partners are (sometimes deliberately) protected by class barriers. Bars cost money; websites require a computing device and at least moderate literacy; the size of one’s extended social circle will often be a function of both tech connectedness and professional status… Educated, moderately affluent professionals have a whole lot of opportunities to meet new people in contexts where it’s considered socially acceptable to strike up a conversation with a stranger, establish prospects for future contact, and EVENTUALLY signal sexual interest when there’s a sense the other person is likely to be at least somewhat receptive. And I guess I can see how the cold approach on the street might start to seem like the only option to someone without access to those other venues.

      • Julian, I think that’s a fair point — but I would also argue that all people tend to date those who are in their social networks, first and foremost (this is why journos date journos, or whatever). But these guys hanging out in front of a grocery store have families and friends and places that they go to socialize — they just might be different venues to the ones I frequent. To that end, I think your point upthread about being sexually invisible to certain women is a viable explanation for why this happens.

        • CrazyYahoo

          Wow, so you’re basically just saying that you’re annoyed by these guys because they’re in a social class beneath you. As long as you get hit on at some social function with people who are in your social group, it’s ok. But some dirty, uneducated guy? Scary.

          You are why men hate women.

          • Stu

            Don’t be such an ass. It takes an extreme, probably intentional, misreading to read that as such.

            Saying someone runs in different social networks as you doesn’t mean they’re below you. But people have friends. They associate with their friends, and the friends of friends, at places other than the fucking market.

            As a guy, I have to say, shut the fuck up and stop insulting random women just because you feel you can. You’re why men hate men.

          • Uncle Sam

            CrazyYahoo – I’d love to see your reaction if two or three random women you didn’t like started shouting at you across a parking lot – hey baby! hey baby! Especially if they were bigger, stronger, and just a little bit insistent.

            The most annoying thing about hollerers is the mentality – like a child’s – that any women who’s not a stuck-up bitch is going to love having their attention. She’s going to want it, they think, even if all they’re sending out is lust and frustration, or letting the girl know they just see a body they want to hit and forget. Either they think they’re the shit, or the frustration is just boiling up and they’ve got to say what they need.

            Grow up. This isn’t going to get it done.

    • ryanwc

      My guess is she wasn’t
      a) ignoring his first 7 attempts to say “hey, baby, baby”; nor
      b) driving in a car with the windows rolled up, and actually moving forward, when he used a ruse to stop her;

      There’s not a fine line between normal attempts to start up conversation and rude harassment.

  3. Bonnie

    “another example of the ways street harassment limits women’s access to public spaces.” Oh, gimme a break. I can’t stand when statements like this make the rest of us women look like pussies. Learn how to handle people and get over it. You do this by learning to control the unpredictability factor that gives you so much anxiety.

    Do the unexpected yourself. Make it funny. Carry around cards that read “I’m sure you’re a nice dude, but do you really think yelling at a woman is the best way to earn her respect and attention? (Hint: no.) What might be some other ways you could approach women?” and hand them out, smile, and walk away if you want. Sometimes, though, be willing to give them quick advice on picking up other women. It will surprise them, they might respect you, and you will have learned that you aren’t nearly as wimpy as this post makes you seem. Plus, they might not be so quick to think of every women as an easy hollerin’ target.

    People are just people. DVD dude was just trying to make a buck in a world that isn’t making it easy, and the others were just trying to make themselves feel powerful in a world that doesn’t make that easy either. And you must be cute or they wouldn’t have come up to you. Learn to be brave and sympathetic, and you win.

    • Kal

      Right. As a woman, either you come up with a whole plan for “winning” by printing and carrying and handing out cards – and being prepared to deal with whatever kind of reaction this gets – or you’re a “wimp”. On the other hand the men have no responsibility to, y’know, not be jerks to strangers. It’s almost admirable how sexists (of both genders) manage to disparage both men and women at the same time.

    • Regan DuCasse

      Bonnie, I don’t know what world you’re living in, this has nothing to do with a woman being weak. Street harassment, has no predictable outcome no matter HOW you react. You can’t know whether it will extend to physical assault or not. It’s impossible to tell. Young girls aren’t trained to pick up on what this signals, and even if they do, what could they do about it? The fact that males behave this way at all, isn’t harmless and it’s not fun for the target of such attention. And sometimes females are outnumbered on the street.
      You talk a good game, but you are unsympathetic. Maybe you’re physically a big woman, maybe such attention is rare for you from males you can keep your distance from.
      It doesn’t matter. This isn’t YOU or about YOU and what YOU’D do. I don’t care.
      This situation shouldn’t be happening, and it’s perpetrated in ways that males are allowed to get away with it. And they shouldn’t. Telling young girls they should be flattered by such attention is part of the training they get not to challenge males, no matter how they are acting. It’s a manner of teaching girls to accept this as part of life and to get over it.
      We’re teaching already civilized girls to accept uncivilized male behavior, while not training the males to be civilized or accountable for their bullying tactics and behaviors.
      The fact that you call another female weak for not having the wherewithal to physically challenge a male or even two, makes me wonder what you’d REALLY do if such a situation actually threatened you.

    • No. DVD dude could let it alone after she made it clear –and she did–the first 5-6 times that she didn’t want any attention. She gave him lots of breaks, but he felt entitled to her attention, and he wasn’t. And if you “hand out a smile,” he figures he did the right thing, whereas the right thing is to leave people alone if they don’t want any attention. What if a door-to-door salesman keeps pestering somebody that wants to be left alone? Are they right, and their target wrong because they weren’t “brave and sympathetic” enough?

    • Nancy

      In spite of the name, I find it hard to believe that “Bonnie” is an actual female, based on the comment.

      Just the casual insult of using the word “pussy” to mean wimp – and of course what Bonnie is suggesting is that women “get balls” in order to be full, courageous, non-oversensitive human beings. And Bonnie is either too stupid, too callous or too afraid of “political correctness” to avoid using gender-based insults.

      And obviously the fault is of women for not liking the street hassle and for not being ready for a goddam asshole teach-in every time some asshole slob decides to amuse himself by annoying you.

      Bonnie is either:

      a. a man

      b. a woman who lives in a gated community and never has to worry about street hassles.

      c. Ann Coulter

      • I dunno. Teh internets are infested with women who really wish they could be The Cool Boys. They identify with men by sticking up loudly for the worst-behaving losers, and diss women at the drop of a hat. And they use terms like pussy and grow a pair (in fairness, so do I) partly for shock value. Because for some folks, you can’t really love men unless you hate women.

  4. sunnyinaz

    I’ve never done anything remotely like this, or seen this happen between two sober adults. Are you sure the guys wasn’t nuts and you may have missed it?

    • Amy

      Are you, by any chance, male? As the article mentions, men rarely harass women when other men are around. Likely because they believe that when a woman is with a man, she’s his property, and it’s not cool to mess with another man’s property. The point is that if you’ve never been a woman alone in a public place, it’s not surprising that you’ve never seen this. But the fact that you’ve never noticed it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening all around you pretty frequently.

    • Nancy

      Well obviously things are different on your planet.

    • Uncle Sam

      Sunny, I went a decent way in my adult life without seeing it. But then a woman I was dating was catcalled when I was nearby. We were going out and she was wearing a short black dress. Couple of knuckleheads driving by decided to slow down and catcall her. Blew my mind. I couldn’t believe anybody did that outside of the movies. She told me no, it’s what happens sometimes – she just didn’t want to complain about it. Since then I’ve started noticing it more. There are a surprising number of jackasses out there.

  5. Niasia

    It’s sad that Bonnie thinks a woman is a wimp if she doesn’t like to be HARASSED. It happens so often and it can be very uncomfortable. You can be nice and jovial in turning them down and they still act aggressively. Gawd forbid they take your rejection the wring way. That may lead to a tirade of disrespect. And when they physically make you uncomfortable how is the woman being a wimp if she gets frightened. I have had men follow me at times. Of course not all advances are uncomfortable and some men take a NO just fine. But others get aggressive and intimidating. Maybe we should brandish weapons.. Way to show them we’re not wimps.

    • Andrew

      Niasia,

      “You can be nice and jovial in turning them down and they still act aggressively.”

      That is when we as guys MESS up big time. When that happens, it is OUR fault and that’s just terrible.

      But Bonnie does make a valid point for when a guy doesn’t cross that line, and just goes about his day.

  6. SAB

    When I lived in New York, if I saw a guy coming toward me who I sensed was going to say something stupid or annoying, I would start talking to myself as if I was “touched.” Very effective.

    • Andrew

      Question:

      What if one of those guys said, “Excuse me, sorry to bother you, but I think you look lovely……and have a good day.”

      Just curious.

      • Stu

        The people who are polite aren’t the problem. It’s the people who aren’t that are the problem. Very few people just come up to you and say “Have a nice day,” and if you miss that polite nothingness, so the fuck what?

      • I thought a lot before taking the bait, but ok: “have a nice day” is always polite and welcome (except when it’s passive-aggressive, which happens), but “you look lovely” makes me wish I could leave my bathroom and not be evaluated by my looks when in public spaces, and then given strangers’ unasked opinions.
        Another thing lots of men think it’s polite and helpful: “It’s a great day, you should be smiling.” “Be positive.” “You’d look great if you were smiling.” It’s not polite, it’s patronizing, and just drives home the way that, no matter what her own feelings and desires are, in public places a woman’s function is to serve as landscape decoration for men, who are the real persons, and they’re a failure if they don’t provide a view that’s pleasant enough.

        • Nancy

          Exactly. The men are reminding you that we live on a planet where male privilege is still the rule.

          Women in the US aren’t attacked for dressing wrong the way they are in some places, but it’s exactly the same principle at work – all men have the authority to judge women – any woman.

          It’s only the degree to which any man can punish any woman found insufficiently modest/friendly/attractive/unattractive/etc. that changes from place to place.

          • wickedzeus

            So let me get this straight, saying you look lovely is a reminder that male privilege is the rule in this country?

            I’m all for the right to be let alone, but this seems a bit much no?

            • Galatea

              Being judged on your appearance, unasked, on an average of once a week now that hollerin’ season is back up? Yes. That is a constant reminder of the patriarchy.

              Leave her alone. Smalltalk about the effort she put into fitting into the feminine mold this morning is not actually pleasant to receive.

  7. Travis

    There are definitely more and less creepy ways to approach women (the two examples you give pretty pathetic-seeming), but excepting truly creepy behavior, the difference between an annoyance and a date is likely whether you find the guy attractive. I’m sorry it’s annoying to you, but if men don’t approach women, they don’t go on dates. This doesn’t in anyway excuse bad behavior–name calling, yelling, comments about your body–but have some sympathy for the guys that earnestly and respectfully try to strike up a conversation with you. Your desire not to be annoyed doesn’t necessarily take priority over their desire not to die alone.

    • stef

      Uh, yes, it does.

      • Travis

        Compelling argument.

      • Oh come on, he explained it in simple words, how can you not understand that men’s desires have priorities over women’s desires? Once you get your priorities straight you’ll see that harassment is not a bug, it’s a feature.

        • Nancy

          Yes. These men are only trying to perpetuate the species and they have to do it by whatever means necessary so you bitches are going to have to take one for the species. Now STFU – a man is here to explain the way things work.

    • Julian Sanchez

      Anyone pathetic enough to be trying to meet women this way probably deserves to die alone. Soon.

      • Andrew

        Pathetic enough?

        If you do it in a cordial manner, and are quite respectful, and you actually do strike a colloquy, why is it “pathetic?”

        • Kat

          Which is why when a woman says “Sorry, I’m not interested,” please move on. If we’re interested back, you’ll know. If we’re not, you’ll know.

          Also, to your earlier comment about a polite compliment, in my personal world, I say thank you and go on my way, since you know, I’m married and don’t feel like making friends with random guys on my way to the office.

          However, men being nice isn’t street harassment. Street harassment is men yelling at me, staring at me with open mouths while honking horns and not looking at the road when all I want to do is walk to the post office. Street harassment is men getting in my way to talk to me when I don’t respond to their first statement or I don’t give them responses they like. It’s construction workers yelling obscenities at any female who walks by.

          Ok, last point, pathetic refers to the name calling and other “holla”-ing, not trying to meet someone while acting like a civilized human.

  8. Lindsay

    “the unpredictability is what makes it so upsetting.”

    This is exactly correct. My experience is that the ‘okay but just overly friendly’ guys are a little aware of this and seem to try to remove some of this unpredictability, by approaching where there are other people around, etc. So the street-hollerers have already defined themselves by a clear desire to create discomfort, not just create an opportunity for approach. Plus I’d guess that if what Julian writes above is at all accurate, at least a few of these guys (who get off on creating this kind of uncomfortable power dynamic) are potential rapists under the right set of circumstances. That’s why it’s not possible to entirely manage the unpredictability, per Bonnie’s advice above.

    To your point about the easiest way of making yourself off-limits being to ID yourself as someone else’s property: I’ve learned the difficult way that some guys interpret “I’m on my way to my boyfriend’s house right now” as an opportunity – I’ve heard several variations of “he must not appreciate what he has, or he wouldn’t let you go out alone” from persistent harassers. I use “I’m meeting my older brother in a few minutes” instead – it seems that older, presumably protective brothers are more to be feared than absent boyfriends, in their universe.

  9. Tony

    Most people understand where the lines are and how not to cross them. That said, this kind of behavior is inevitable in a society where men are forced into the role of sexual aggressors. Women don’t approach men, so men MUST approach women. A man who is not actively pursuing women is celibate. So, given that all straight men are forced to do this, regardless of how suited they are for it, some of them will F it up. The mentally ill will F it up very badly, become aggressive, and so on. The conversation you recount in the post, to me, describes a man who is clearly mentally ill, homeless, or emotionally disturbed–a desperate individual in one way or another. He’s more deserving of your pity than your indignation.

    • stef

      Women do approach men. Just the ones they like & are interested in.

      When out in public, a woman’s first responsibility is to her own safety.

      • Travis

        Maybe the men you approach are annoyed by your attempts to start conversation.

        This wouldn’t make you a bad person. It makes the process of finding romantic companions messy and imperfect.

        There is a difference between being bothered by interested in you and actual harassment. Any discourse about the topic that doesn’t differentiate the two isn’t worth having. Not every advance will be welcome, whether it comes from the man or the woman. This doesn’t mean any man who approaches a woman who isn’t interested is a sleazeball. He doesn’t know until he talks to her.

        So yeah. Be safe. Be skeptical if you want. But if you think every guy who says hi is a rapist, I guarantee you that you are missing out on a lot of great people.

        • Not sure why you assume stef (or anyone) would think “every guy who says hi is a rapist.” But more importantly, they don’t have to be rapists. Have enough encounters with men who get aggressive or angry or physically intimidating when they don’t get the response they want and one comes to realize that this isn’t about sex or romance, it’s about power.

          • Travis

            All I’m asking you to see is that there is a flip side to this. No one is defending the two jerks in your post, but Tony’s right: men who don’t approach women are celibate. For a lot of us, it’s not like we’re going to get enraged or that we get off on the power. It’s that starting a conversation is practically the only way to meet new people.

            It sucks that jerks and weirdos like the ones you describe make a lot of women nervous about any spontaneous approach. Everyone loses. I’m just not down with this vibe that talking to a women is somehow committing an unreasonable, shameful act. I’ve gone out with women I’ve met in grocery stores and on the subway. The subway woman and I almost moved in together (story for another day). It must be annoying to get approached all the time. I’m sorry for that. But the only ones behaving poorly here are the jackasses who won’t take no for an answer, not every guy who wants to chat with you.

        • Nancy

          They don’t just say “hi” asshole. If that’s all that ever happened it wouldn’t be a big deal. But often they say “hi” and if you respond without hostility they take that as the go-ahead – no matter WHERE you are or what you are doing.

          Why is it that every time there’s a thread about women being hassled some asswipe has to come on with the standard “what about the poor menz????”

          Every fucking time.

          • Travis

            I’m obviously making a distinction between guys who earnestly try to strike up conversations and the honest-to-god jerks who threaten, don’t take no for answer, make comments about women’s bodies, etc. I hate that crap. No one should have to put up with it.

            Not sure what I said to earn the title of “asshole” and “asswipe.” But whatever.

          • one of the poor menz...

            I’m sure most people reading this post know and understand what it is like to be scared. Have you ever given any thought to what it is like to be a gentle giant (I’m 6’6) who is regularly shunned, shied away from, and feared every. single. day. I would venture to bet that I see signs of abject fear in peoples’ faces at least as regularly as a beautiful woman gets catcalled. Being a feared ogre doesn’t exactly make you feel good about yourself.

            For instance, the day in the grocery store when I politely picked up the orange that had fallen out of a woman’s basket and quietly, so as not to surprise her, got her attention to return it to her. She looked at me with complete and utter fear and refused to approach within reaching distance so I could give it to her. I didn’t touch her to get her attention. I didn’t approach. I called out, “Miss… miss… I think you just dropped this orange.” We’re in a well-lit, public place and I couldn’t have been more polite if I offered her tea and a scone, and I ended up having to walk back to the produce section to put an orange away. I know. Maybe she’s had something happen in the past with a man that triggered this fear. That’s legit. In the same sense that a white man is legit in forever hating all black men because he was once in a bar fight with one…

            Here are my points: 1. There are two ways to achieve equality- bring everyone up to the same level of respect and dignity, or bring everyone down. 2. Treating men in a particular manner based solely on the fact that they are men should be anathema to anyone who believes in true and complete equality. When a woman makes a decision that a man is an asshole based SOLELY on the fact that he is a man, she is just as guilty of sexual discrimination as the man who catcalls out a car window.

            We live in a society of fear. This fear leads to a circumstance where negative interactions have become primary due to the fact that positive interactions are never given an opportunity to start. The vicious cycle perpetuated by this fear leads to a situation where, if I smile at someone, I might rape them. It’s not fair and it’s not right.

            Some would counter that the world is neither fair nor right, but I reject that logic. Isn’t the whole purpose of this discussion to achieve a true sense of fairness? Aren’t we supposed to be promoting dignity and respect for every group? The refusal to acknowledge men as individuals may give you the opportunity to reclaim some sense of lost power, but “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” This shouldn’t be a conversation about women’s rights. It should be about _People’s rights_.

    • KaiEm

      wtf is wrong with you people? don’t you have book clubs, choir practice, raiding guilds, encounter nights, office socials…… I don’t know I’m a total dork, so this is how I meet my friends and partners (I happen to be a WOMAN who sometimes asks out MEN, and also *gasp* OTHER WOMEN), but surely there must be some sort of cool person equivalent to socializing? Only approach someone with the goal of initiating sexytimes if you already know them, otherwise you’re a creep, in my book.

  10. Sean

    “The easiest way to get a strange man to leave you alone is to tell him that you’re someone else’s property.”

    I disagree with your formulation here, but I do it respectfully. You describe him as “my man” and refer to that phrase as commodifying YOU? I propose that feeling like property in a relationship is based on the disposition of the people involved, and not inherent to the cultural understanding of relationships.

    I prefer to think of it as bringing in [the spectre of?] your partner as backup: “not only do I not want to date you, someone else doesn’t want me to date you also.” I do this too, and I’m a male with a female partner. She should be all to happy to be volunteered, and neither of us belongs to the other.

  11. TheBiboSez

    My Dearest Beloveds:

    My apologies to you all – I’ve argued for a long time that women are NOT fragile, emotional cripples and that they do NOT become hysterical at the slightest hint that some undesirable man might have an open, if brief, sexual attraction to them.

    I stand corrected. My bad.

    The Bibo Sez “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).

    And that is what the Bibo Sez.

    Bless you!

    • Stu

      What a patronizing prick.

      It’s pretty clear from all the women commenting here that this is not a “slightest hint,” but something that women have to deal with all the time, and it’s not about brief sexual attraction, it’s about harassment.

      And now it’s about pricks who say that even voicing their irritation with it makes them hysterical.

  12. stef

    What works for me is the “New York walk” – fast, assertive, with no eye contact and no talk back. On public transportation, earbuds and sunglasses also help, as well as getting up at once and changing train cars if necessary. I don’t put up with any b.s. in public.

    • That implies that women who get harrassed are responsible for not having the right tough attitude to scare the harrassers away. When, in fact, if the harrasser is determined enough, he’ll find a way.
      I keep earphones with me even if I’m not listening to anything, to signal I’m not interested in conversation, and I lost account on how many times someone will insist on talking, block my way physically, wave his hand on my face or poke my shoulder until I take the earphones off and listen to what he’s saying.
      Also, I was raised with my mom telling me that her friends used to complain about the drivers at the taxi station, and cross the street to avoid passing near them, but that she never showed fear and that “if you carry yourself with dignity everybody will respect you”. Then, when I was 11 and molested in the middle of the street while going to the bakery, I thought it was my fault for being undignified in some way that I didn’t know about, and didn’t tell anyone for fear that I’d be punished for provoking it, until I was 28.

  13. Jim C.

    “What works for me is the “New York walk” – fast, assertive, with no eye contact and no talk back.”

    That makes sense to me because I think if there is any hesitancy these particular people will latch onto it as weakness or a possible opening. I don’t think there is any need to entertain it at all. There is no ‘being nice about it,’ because it is them being rude in the first place. As a dude in the city, I have to treat aggressive panhandlers the same way. They sense weakness and it encourages them. With me, they know they aren’t getting anything.

    I saw something on TV a long time ago, 20/20 maybe, where some street hollering guys were asked afterward if it would bother them if someone was talking the same way to their sister or mother, and they both said, “Of course.” They sort of got it then, I guess.

    • Something else I was thinking today while I was out is that, if you look meek, you get the harrassers that like easy marks. If you look tough, you get the ones that like to knock bitches down a notch to put them in their places. No strategy is foolproof. Seriously, if you don’t get harrassed is just sheer luck, it’s not because of what you did to protect yourself.

  14. annapurna

    i have to walk four blocks to get to my subway station in brooklyn, and what kills me is that if i walk on the east side of the street it’s miserable – i get grabbed, stopped in my tracks, yelled at and called all manner of names for not responding to advances like “yo bitch, why don’t you smile for me?” but on the west side of the street? nothing – it’s a pleasant walk to the station without incident.

    i agree that its not unreasonable to expect men to approach women, or even vice versa. and its not even the unpredictability of it for me – it’s very predictable as to when i’ll be harassed and when i won’t (east side of the street v. west). it’s that it’s just a constant barrage of comments from men who are my father’s age and are doing it solely for the purpose of getting women agitated. i’ve had men in my neighborhood wish me good morning, say hello, normal things – and i respond in kind because it doesn’t bother me. it’s the creeps – the ones who invade my personal space and won’t take no for an answer.

  15. Really great post, Shani. You might enjoy this cartoon I drew about street harassment.

  16. Stu

    What my fellow guys seem to not understand is that, if a girl doesn’t seem to want to respond to your advances, even if it’s what you think is just a friendly “hello,” is that it’s much more likely to be your fault than the girl’s fault.

    My girlfriend deals with this all the time, and it pisses me off, not because I’m afraid of these guys horning in on my territory or anything, but because it shows they’re not respecting her as a person and instead want to harass her. She’s good at dealing with it, but dammit, she shouldn’t have to be good at dealing with it; no one should have to put up with that.

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  18. Bloix

    Once again I’m reminded that the world I move through without disturbance every day contains within it the much more unpleasant world that women live in. That grocery store, that parking lot, is one place for me, and a completely different place for Shani.

    The closest I think I’ve ever come to feeling the difference was years ago, when I was visiting Guatemala for a few weeks. Late one night when I was walking back to my hostel there was a drunk lurching on the sidewalk who started talking belligerently to me. I’m not a big man and in the US I would have been concerned for my safety, even frightened – and it could have ruined the evening for me even if nothing at all had happened. But in Guatemala I was much larger than average, and this little guy barely aroused pity in me.

    It wasn’t a big deal, but it was a minor revelation of how a public space can be perfectly welcoming and pleasant for one person, and utterly threatening and hostile to another.

  19. j

    sounds like a race problem

  20. Jared

    When I worked at Blockbuster in high school, I remember that we actually had to change the policy of requiring employees to say hello and smile to all customers when they entered the store. Turns out about half the male population was under the impression that female employees who say hello to customers were really interested in them.

  21. Pingback: Street harassment snapshot: May 1, 2011 « Stop Street Harassment!

  22. Malcolm

    I think that with some, maybe most, men who act rudely don’t have any intention of picking anyone up. The behavior itself is the goal; to engage in sadistic bullying of women. ANY reaction by the woman provides some measure of satisfaction to the aggressor. I cringe when I read some of the suggestions for women in the comments above. If you react in any way to the sexual bully, you are throwing gasoline of the fire. If I were a woman walking through a tough section, I would try to walk more like a man, exuding a street-wise, bored, been-there-done-that, heard-it-all-before air. That’s not a very appealing target for the predator, who instead is looking for a very feminine, easily frightened. doe-like creature, who he knows doesn’t want to be picked up. None of this applies in many ethnic situations, where that kind of behavior is learned at their daddy’s knee. That just has to be blown off, as its not going to change.

  23. Ali L.

    I grew up in NYC. I loved growing up there, but just about every day of my life (seriously) from mid-teens until I moved away in my late 20s, I had men whistle at me on the street, whisper in my ear as I walked by (“heyyyyyy baby”), follow me down the block, tower over me and play the “oops, you can’t get past me” game, etc. A few times my ass was slapped as I was walking home or pinched while I stood in a crowded subway car. If you’ve never lived through sort of chronic harassment I don’t know if you can really understand how much it affects so many of the things you do – can I wear this outfit outside without getting bothered too much? can I go out to that party if it means walking home from the subway late? etc.

    I always felt angry; I often felt scared. When I was more angry than scared I could sometimes tell them to fuck off; other times, based on the situation (time of night, location, number of guys) I didn’t dare, for fear that they’d decide to “teach me a lesson”. But yes, this sort of thing does happen, and it’s not women making a mountain out of a molehill or being “pussies”, and it happens all the time in cities all over the world. (Like the author, I was advised to wear a fake wedding ring when I went traveling solo in Italy; I forgot to buy one, and was constantly approached by men who completely ignored the book that my nose was stuck in and would not leave me alone until I told them that I was waiting for my “husband”. You’ve all seen the famous 1951 Ruth Orkin photo of a rather upset young woman trying to get past a group of men, right?)

    A filmmaker named Maggie Hadleigh-West made a documentary in 1998 called War Zone (there’s a trailer at that link), where she turned the camera onto the guys who harassed her as she walked around NYC and interviewed them about it. It was really fascinating to see the men’s different reactions to being the focus of unwanted attention themselves.

  24. Golden Silence

    I’ve noticed that since the weather’s warmed up the harassers are back in full force. It’s so annoying.

    Thanks for sharing your story. The troll upthread who referred to you as a “p***y” needs to get over herself.

  25. UU

    Personally, I identify with what Shani has written. I do not like any kind of street harassment or street disburbance of any kind. I don’t like it when a guy say, “you look lovely today,” and more than I like it when a guy says, “hey bitch, im talking to you!! answer me!” I act in a civil manner in both cases by smiling and walking past but I hate it. I hate when guys say that and I hate the automatic response to just grit my teeth and take it every time. I act in a civil manner, those guys don’t and we as a society condones this behavior in guys. We barely teach them how to talk to their FELLOW HUMAN BEING and for the STREET HARASSERS they exploit this social dynamic to exert their power upon and specific group of people (i.e. women) and for just guys in general, they don’t realize that some people (i.e. women) don’t want to hear that they “look gooooood” or ” you look lovely,” “have a blessed day,” “jesus loves you” or whatever. Some people don’t like the false pretenses these guys pull when for example asking for directions and then asking for the person’s number.

    I don’t feel for nor care about the guys who think its unfair for others to think of them as potential harassers or predators and then complain to the wimmenz about the poor poor menz that would be stuck all alone if they didn’t approach women in the hopes that one of them would give them the time of day. If they really were concerned there’s nothing stoping them from making some kind of group or coalition to tackle street harassement and perhaps teach guys the signs and signals people give when they are interested in them, instead of approaching everyone and hoping something happens. And teaching guys that PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO WALK AND BE WITH IN A SPACE TO BE LEFT ALONE. I give that right to the people that I come across on the sidewalk, on the bus, at the store, in a park, what have you. If people think that is unfair, then no one is stopping you from creating “third spaces” like cafes or clubs or whatever to have a space where its clear that flirting, or “pick up” is one of the main objectives. Furthermore,

    1. Harassement of any kind is unacceptable, when people see it, they should say so, this goes doubly for guys in the “what about the poor menz” group.
    2. Just because a guy is trying to talk to, flirt with, or strike up a conversation with someone, doesn’t mean that person has to respond, especially in the way the guy hopes they would.
    3. People have no right to invade the personal space of others in such a way that they are uncomfortable and should get the hint that they should not do so when “trying to get their attention.” This goes for physical space and audiable space.
    4. A person saying “no” or “not interested” it means “NO!!!” or “NOT INTERESTED, PERIOD!” it DOES NOT!!! mean “YOU SHOULD TRY HARDER, I’LL EVENTUALLY CAVE.”
    5. The POINT of street harassment is display of P-O-W-E-R, that’s it. Even when the person is saying “have a nice day” or “you look lovely today” unexpectedly because they can always use it as an excuse to disturb others and not the recipient get upset because hey “they were just being polite”. Its like a kind of “positive harassment,” still disturbing others when its not mutual to get some kind of reaction from them. Just as a “positive stereotype” like “all asians are good at math” is still a disparaging stereotype as all of them are nonetheless, a “positive harassing” comment to someone else is still harassing. If people want to do that, save it for a space where its more appropriate.
    6. We should be teaching this to the young people, especially the boys, because I’m tired of the double-standard that boys are taught and allowed to express and feel confident in knowing that they are full-fledged autonomous human-beings at the expense of others. The young people should also be taught how to properly address others in the public sphere and hell, why not teach them the ways of woeing and flirting and properly rejecting others and how to take rejection in a proper manner from their person of affection. This problem will not go away if, we keep doing the same thing and hope some kind of change comes done the line.

  26. Pingback: Metro Transit Police Isn't Taking Street Harassment Seriously - City Desk

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