Like many women, I get shit on the street. I get harassed and leered at, and it makes me uncomfortable. It’s quite disempowering, because I don’t want that attention, but there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I hate it. Sometimes it happens among my clients at work, a homeless day program where I have a little more leverage and can tell people to knock it off. On the street, I have to be a little more…. careful.
I was going to write an open letter to street oglers, things that I wish I could say to them. But there’s nothing I could say that they would hear. There are only things I can do right in that minute. Things that would not be aggressive or even perceived as aggressive. (‘Cause that can lead to threats.)
So I took to Google, hoping I would find some suggestions, and curated some favorites from here and here. I would love your opinions on them.
1. “Make a fart noice. Or else actually fart.” If someone comments on my posterior or otherwise gestures to my behind, make a fart noise. I like that so much that I may just make a fart noise every time I walk by a man. A pre-emptive strike.
2. “Bark.” A “bitch” is a female dog. So when you’re called a bitch, respond as one – by barking. I think that would at least have an element of surprise and embarrassment for the dochenozzle that is harassing you.
I ain’t no hollaback girl. Check out holdback.org for info on fighting street harassment.
3. When you call someone out for leering at you, and they say, “What? God gave me eyes.” Say, “But not a brain, clearly.” I’ve done that one and it’s worked.
4. “Dude, does that EVER work for you?”
5. When people tell you, “Smile!” Say, deadpan, “I am smiling.” I’ve done this one, and it’s hasn’t been as effective as I’ve wanted, but it’s taken our minds off the shit they’re trying to pull. I’ve also said, “What do you think I am, wallpaper? I’m not decoration.”
6. “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but what do you really think that is going to achieve?”
7. “How would you feel if I did that to your daughter or sister?” If properly executed, this one can be life-changing.
8. Turn around, look at them, and give a big spluttering laugh. That would probably be best when caught off guard.
9. Give them a withering look and say, “Run along now.” Actually, this may be taken as a challenge… You know, the kind the ignant fucksticks have to rise to.
10. “I beg your pardon, what did you just say?” I haven’t tried this, but I like it – to make them repeat themselves. And maybe, once they do repeat themselves, say it again, just as many times as it takes for you to pass.
11. When strange men call you “honey,” (or baby or baby girl), call them “woo gums.” I haven’t tried this, have you?
What do you think of these options? Have any of you tried them? What do you like to do, or what have you seen/heard?”