It was an unseasonably chilly summer night back in the mid-aughts, and I was walking off another marathon argument with my boyfriend, who still wasn’t home from work. Nocturnal strolls had been a habit of mine since my teens; three nights a week, I’d sneak out the backdoor of the third-floor walkup I shared with my mother, headphones blasting, feet headed east. Most nights I was able to walk about without incident, but other nights—like this one—I wasn’t so lucky.

I was taking a break on a bench right around the corner from our North side Chicago apartment when a cab stopped in front of me.

“Come get in,” the driver orders, a bald man with a Nigerian accent.

“Nah, I’m good. I live around here. But thanks,” I say.

“How far do you live? I can take you.”

“No, really. I’m fine. Thanks.”

He gets out of the car, engine still running. “You’re too pretty to be out here by yourself.”

I’m not sure how he could tell, what with the hoodie of my Notre Dame sweatshirt covering my head. I thank him for the compliment in a tone conveying complete disinterest.

“You wanna take a ride with me?”

I don’t answer, and when he starts to approach the bench, I hop off and start running like Karl Malone from a paternity test. Thankfully, he doesn’t follow me and a few minutes later I’m back home, clutching my boyfriend in tears.

I’m not some cute, spunky little white girl in a romantic comedy; telling a dude “no” can have life-threatening consequences. Like being punched in the face and shot in the abdomen. Or getting shot in the backseat of a friend’s car. Hell, traveling with a male companion isn’t even a foolproof plan anymore. So while Luna Luna’s Alecia Lynn Eberhardt believes her advice is empowering, I find it irresponsible and pretty fucking dangerous, especially for women of color.

A lot of us have been dealing with street harassment since our preteens. We learn how to negotiate and bargain with cats who should know better before we even grow out of our training bras. One of my favorite childhood memories involves my mother yelling at a car full of grown men who were shouting a number of inappropriate things about my body as they drove past. I was 16.

image

When I smile like this, I’m usually plotting someone’s death.

In the years since, I’ve been followed around a grocery store after rebuffing a man’s advances. Propositioned while pushing a stroller. Shamelessly approached while holding hands with another man. I’m sure if I’d been wearing a habit and carrying a large cross, one of them would’ve suggested that fucking him silly was part of God’s plan.

Because for some men, any woman is fair game. And depending on who they are, what they look like, and where they fall on the socioeconomic spectrum, standing their ground could, again, prove deadly.

This post from Trudy at Gradient Lair illustrates how street harassment can be a vastly different experience for women of color. An excerpt:

The thing about discussing what Black women experience is that many White women come to silence us with “all women” rebuttals. However, street harassment is not experienced at the same frequency and intensity across the board. Race and class are factors. (Sexual orientation and being trans* are factors too.) While this is ignored by many middle class White women who want to dominate the discourse on…well anything in relation to women, other White women have shared with me that they have never experienced street harassment. I cannot imagine what “never” means. I’ve been harassed since I was 12. I am 33 now. Other White women have mentioned to me that they do experience harassment but quite rarely. They can’t fathom weeks with as many as 75 incidents.

Headphones and books become part of our armor. We map out our daily commutes to avoid aggressive catcallers, plan our Girls Nights around bars and restaurants with High Creep Quotients. (Unfortunately, Chicago has a dwindling number of these.) We train our daughters to look straight ahead and make minimal eye contact with any male-identified person.

The fact that we have to do these things should be of greater concern, not whether I hurt Johnny’s feelings for inventing an imaginary beau or if I was being a good feminist while doing it.

image
Sometimes when a guy harasses you, he gives you gifts. Like this shitty book I received from a dude trying to mack me down while I was waiting for friends outside a DC bar.

Ms. Bernhardt is spot on when she writes about the idiocy of leaving an uninterested woman alone only after she says she’s taken; it does remove the level of respect that should be given to her, and it totally erases her agency.

But when Ms. Bernhardt admonishes women for making excuses to would-be suitors, she’s unwittingly placing the responsibility squarely on the victim, as if the guys with the entitlement issues aren’t the real problem. It’s this type of naivete and myopia that make conversations about racialized misogyny so, so crucial.

What Ms. Bernhardt fails to understand is that for most of us, lying about our relationship statuses or permanent moves to third-world countries isn’t about “disrespecting ourselves,” but about survival. We aren’t doing anything to ourselves but ensuring that ourselves make it home with little incident and in one piece.

I’m certain it wasn’t Ms. Bernhardt’s intention to cause such a stir, and I do believe her heart was in the right place. Ideally, we should all be able to tell a man “no” and resume minding our business without having said man kick off some bizarre Socratic interrogation. But it just isn’t safe or practical, and as we—as women, and writers—have a responsibility to the people who read our stuff.

I admire Ms. Bernhardt’s zeal to show dudes the error of their ways, and if she wants to be the Hillary Swank to their Freedom Writers, that’s great. My time, body, and sanity are all much too precious to be some DudeBro’s teachable moment. The onus isn’t on me to make him understand, it’s on him to leave me the fuck alone when I ask. See? So simple a caveman could do it.

 

XOJane

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more
Jamie Nesbitt Golden on XOJane!

  • AnnT

    Just a few weeks ago, I man in a pick-up truck 9 same accent) BLOCKED my car and asked me if I was married.
    I quickly lied and said “Yes,” to which me said, “No you’re not, you’re lying.” (I ran into the same dude 3 years prior and barely made it out of that)
    It started to rain, he wouldn’t let me out until I got closer to his car to give him my number. A guy parked next to me got out of his car, stared him down and asked me if there was a problem before old dude gunned it.
    So yes, a simple “no” is not that easy, stuff like that quickly escalates.

  • Rachelle

    I’ve also experienced street harrassment from an early age. I can remember walking home from school when I was 14 and being cursed out by a grown man for not talking to him. It was obvious I was a kid with books in my arms. I simply do not understand why men feel they can treat women this way. It’s disrespectful and if her brother or boyfriend is nearby and the harasser gets his butt beat up, somebody’s going to jail. Another problem. Just stop it guys, take the rejection like a champ and move on.

  • Azul

    My tactic to get creepy guys to go away is to pretend they aren’t even there. Don’t look at them (but keep the side eye on them), don’t speak to them unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you happen to speak, make sure it’s in a an aggressive tone. Sometimes speaking in a polite tone gives the guy an invitation to keep pressing you “she seems nice let me see how far I can get” From walking the streets of New York City, you pick up on these things.

  • HaNiKhun

    This is good advice until one of the guys decides to grab you, run up and block your path, or put his arms around you and walk with you. That’s when it’s best to be polite but firm “Please don’t touch me.” because those are the guys who will go off on you. Trust me I’ve been chased down the street by a group of dudes and had one guy lunge at me on the train not to mention the laughing and taunting and the “You ugly anyway!”s.

    The only way to stop street harassment is to teach your sons to treat women like human beings and for men to call out other men and boys on their bullshit.

  • EL

    Well I was harassed walking home last week. I was just around the corner from my house and a guy appeared next to me and carried on walking with me for a few seconds, then he asked “Do you live around here”and I just put my headphone back on and gave him a dirty look, he called me and ignorant bitch as he walked away and I told him not to approach women in the street and he swore at me and I told him to leave me alone and fuck off.

    Eventhough, I had every right to say that and react the way I did, I did look back to make sure he wasn’t following me or come back to hit me or something. When I’ve been approached in the street, which like you said has been happening for years, since I was 11 for me, ugh, I’m 21 now, I have sometimes just awkwardly smiled, mainly as a teenager, and carried on walking, ignored them or reacted. These days I just ignore or react, even though it’s not always safe but, I will not allow them to think that just because I am a woman I am there to smile at them or for them to talk to me or that I’m there for them to gawk at. Last winter, a man actually grabbed my arm and I told him “Don’t touch me” and then he shouted swearing at me and everything. I don’t know where men get off thinking that it’s ok, they wouldn’t want it done to their sister or mother.

  • memyselfandi

    Weirdly, the opposite works for me (also in NYC). I find that if I respond nicely (say thanks if it’s a compliment or good if they ask how I’m doing) and smile while not slowing, stopping, or looking back, they usually don’t bother me any further. I have no idea why, though.

  • BeanBean

    For me street harassment started when I was about 12, I lived in a foreign country, and the men were just disgusting. As a 12 year-old I didn’t know how to handle middle aged men trying to get me to get in the car with them, I knew not to get in the car, but the situation was very scary. Now I’m able to handle these situations easier. When they ask my name I either say nothing or make up a name. If they ask me where I’m going. I usually tell them I’m headed to the shooting range to work with a new pistol. That usually ends things.

  • Kendall Walton

    A few weeks ago, I was chased out of a Target parking lot by three guys in a jeep wrangler. They proceed to follow me around the parking lot and out on the highway. They alternated between honking their horn, leaning out the window banging their hands against the side of the car, screaming what they would do to me if they caught me, calling me a bitch, a sexy mama, and why was I running away? All at 65mph! To this day, I am so grateful that no one got hurt during that and I’m sure if they caught me, they would have hurt me in some capacity!

    I say all that because what you wear won’t predict if you’ll get cat called or not. If men will chase you down a high way while you’re in sweats and a hoodie, they’ll do that regardless of what you’re wearing. No doesn’t work and can make it worse! Not making eye contact doesn’t always work! The most important thing is to get out of a bad situation as quickly as possible; not to make a dangerous situation worse because you wanted to make a stand for “feminism.”

  • JS

    This why I am super glad I naturally have an “angry at the world”/”not to be fucked with” face when I walk. The only harassment I ever get is “why dont you smile” which I then scowl even harder and they either mumble something else or shut up as I walk away.

    I have had a few cars stop in the middle of the street and try to pick me up (always on the same residential street too, I have no idea what is up with that). One time a guy even jumped out of the car and ran down the block to get my number. He was pretty understanding though when I turned him down and I got a more “socially awk” vibe then creepy. But still, it was a bit shocking to see someone booking it down the block towards you.

    The biggest street harassment I have encountered was living in Japan. There are a ton of African immigrants there who tend to harass all women there. Workers had no problem going up to women and pretty much physically making them go into their shops or bars. Once in a club in Roppongi a guy actually grabbed my wrist and would not let go even when I pulled away and two of my friends had to come over and help pull me away. I was actually nervous to walk around in that district (full of internationals) for a while after that.

  • apple

    my first form of street harassment was when i was 15 on a busy street with friends, a guy tried to holler as i as arguing with my friend and as i tried to tell her something he GRABBED ME BY THE ARM, i said “ehhh” and let go, he then proceeded to call me a bitch, whore etc and call me ugly.. i felt terrible and dirty, the whole night was ruined i just felt wrong the whole night ( i was going to a sweet 16). little did i know this would be a part of my life possibly forever (or atleast until i start looking elderly)..i learned at that moment, i should be nice when i’m being harrassed because it can end badly. i have been grabbed, groped, chased.. i have had guys call me bitch and whore as they grab their genitals at me.. i have seen women grabbed, i even saw a guy throw his food at a woman because she walked away.. recently a woman who worked at a university was killed coming home from work because she wanted to just go home and not be harrassed…i always have to remap my routes or not wear clothes i’d like to wear (like dresses,shirt,shorts) ..my most recent incident includes being followed around walmart, and a guy threatening me because i wouldn’t smile. i almost wish i was superhuman (or supernatural) so i could defend myself against this.. i was recently with my mom and i saw a group of guys and i became nervous..when i got home my mom asked me “just tell me the truth, have you been raped before” i asked her why would she say that, she tells me “everytime you see a man, you shut down completely, happiness leaves and then you start to latch onto me” … its becoming overwhelming to deal with, i don’t know how much more i can take

  • Treece

    OMG, girl….it’s crazy out here. “Men” have lost thier gotdamn minds. You are right, thankful that no one was injured or worse.

  • apple

    yes i do the smile to and keep walking, sometimes reacting defensively (as you should ) makes them get violent or loud…so fake the smile and hope it works :-(

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    i carry pepper spray……

  • The Woman – Tbd

    majorly appreciate this post. It is not a safe bet that telling a man No is going to be enough. Some people tell women not to be nice when saying NO because its often the people that we let get closer to us that end up being the assaulters. But I don’t exactly feel comfortable being a straight Btch ( I’ve also had bad reactions to that too)

    the author is right. I stay with headphones or just stear clear of certain areas or groups

  • Brad

    This article just reminded me to order that taser gun off of amazon for my oldest daughter.

  • E.M.S.

    I’ve had my fair share of these incidents as well. As I get older I feel less fear and more anger. I look them dead in the eye and firmly tell them I am not interested and to leave me alone. In the back of my mind I do fear being followed/attacked for speaking up, but I’d rather tell them to piss off and risk it then let them disrespect me. Am I crazy?

    My mother has this theory you should stare them down because looking away signals you’re afraid, and that they are less likely to do something if they know you got a good look at them if you need to call the police. Thankfully I’ve never had to test it, but you never know.

  • MimiLuvs

    For me, I would say that my first experience with street harrassment was when I was nine years old. The most traumatic events involves being followed in cars or a stranger trying to convince me to get inside of a car with him. The times that I actually stabbed men (yes, stabbed and with a knife) when the harrassment elevated to violence.
    When it comes to street harrasmment, it is a topic that I hate to discuss in the company that is diverse (in other words, with 2520s women). It always culminates to:
    1) They interrupt other people and high-jack the convos.
    2) They have this “good prevails-utopic” mindset that grates my nerves.

    And the one thing that pisses me off about them (and really doesn’t have to do with their actions) is this one fact:

    3) If they were to walk in my neighborhood, they wouldn’t get harrassed. They would receive a ‘good evening’ or the most vulgar ‘hey ma’ but they wouldn’t be followed or threatened with violence. Because those mammals know that she would call the cops and we all know what would happen.

  • stef

    “street harassment” will never stop just being truthful. especially depending on the city or state its a part or life. in many ways its right of passage for boys. Plus as long as 1 out of 4 women give a guy who approaches them on the street a number. why will men stop??

    I totally get the point that men should not disrespect, no touching totally no need for it .But if i see a nice looking woman i gonna say hello, how are you.

    to me its about how you approach my present girlfriend I met while walking home, I noticed her , approached in a respectful way, we had a nice conversation , I gave her my card. She decided to call me. I am happy for that and dont regret for a second what i did. its all about being respectful .

  • Jrw

    My boyfriend tries to get sympathy from me when other men ‘try’ him. He’s usually met with a blank stare. When men ‘try’ him usually walking away or giving the stank eye works for him but i have to listen to him complain for DAYS abt how disrespected he feels. When I explain to him how I was cursed out at the age of 12, followed to my car twice in a month gropped, and just plain talked down to and disrespected all for the sake of getting hollered his reply is ‘but you don’t have to take that, tell that dude off’ #whoosh, he just doesn’t get it (he grew up in Germany).I told him that could lead to me getting harmed physically his response ‘some man near by will come to my aid’. I can’t count on both hands how many times I’ve seen grown men curse women out for turning down their advances and I’ve never seen another man tell him how rude and disrespectful he’s being, hell the video to the girl who shot the guy at the gas station cause he was harrasing her shows 2 men, standing there watching. Men come up to me and say the most rude vile things. The last guy who approached me respectfully on the street was 12 yrs ago. These are just men (using the term loosely) who ENJOY disrespecting women, they know we’ll take it cuz more than likely whose gonna come to aid of a black an being treated less than? When my boyfriend turns them down he never has an issue with them taking the ‘no’. When I turn them I have to fear for my life and or face the humiliation of being cursed out like a dog in public.

  • vintage3000

    “The times that I actually stabbed men (yes, stabbed and with a knife) when the harrassment elevated to violence.”

    FAVED! YOU ARE MY SHE-RO!

  • http://gravatar.com/jamesfrmphilly jamesfrmphilly

    train yourself and arm yourself……

  • Zombie Killer

    I don’t even tell the men who harass me ‘no’. I don’t say anything at all and that never works.

    Just last week one of the young Black male employees who pushes carts at the grocery store told me to “Have a good day!” Now, I don’t have a problem with people telling me that, but how it is said to me is the problem. It is never said in a neutral manner. It is always said to me with a lecherous inflection in the voice. No matter how many times this guy has spoken to me, I have never spoken back, because I don’t want to encourage him or any of the other young guys who work there that I am available to them. So anyway, after I did not respond to him he started calling out to me, “Excuse me! Excuse me!” I knew there was no reason for him to be doing that, so I didn’t respond to that either. He then asked, “How come you never talk to nobody?”

    Why does he think I am supposed to talk to him?

    Also, just today I walked by two different groups of Black men. In both groups a man from the group asked me, “How you doing?” What I didn’t understand is why neither man spoke to the man who was walking in front of me. Why was I singled out?

    It doesn’t matter if you say ‘no’, because to them, you don’t own your time and attention. They think that they do.

    Like I said on another forum. I have never had to tell a man I was dating someone already. They would ask me if this was the reason I was not talking to them. They assume that my disinterest isn’t because they could be ugly, or that I am not looking to be dating anyone. It must be because there is another man.

    ::I was about 12/13 the first time I was harassed. I remember the incident clear as day.

    I was walking in a church parking lot that sits behind a shopping center. I remember walking in the parking lot and seeing a Black male in his vehicle notice me. He then turned back into the shopping center parking lot so that he could come back around, where he then pulled over to the curb and started shouting at me.

    I also remember this other time when I was about 15 and this older Black male in a burgundy expedition truck saw me walking down the sidewalk and waved over toward the nearby parking lot of a Bennigans restaurant. He actually pulled into that parking lot and waited for me! I remember being so scared and thinking that he was going to follow me home.

    *Excuse any typos.

  • diasporauk

    . . . . and this is how you add fuel to the fires of the (DW) Griffithian myth of the sexually predatory non-white male . . .

    Of course so called street harassment is so much worse in those places where the men are non-white.

    White men can be deterred with a simple but assertive no . . . non-white men are drooling, rapacious sex fiends with whom a no can get you rape, killed and dissected.

    This has an all too familiar ring to it

    Yes — I remember now, it comes from the people who told us that black women were so nonchalant about their children that it was not an outrage against all that is human and good to separate black women from their children, when you sold black children away from their mothers at the auction block.

    The same people who brought us the hypersexual black jezebel and black welfare queen myths.

    Now who had the unrestricted sexual access and coercive sexual contact with black women that fed these conceptions of the black woman?

    . . and how many white women, feminist or non feminist, spoke out on black women’s behalf to combat that assassination of the black woman’s character and degradation of her humanity?

    Anyone recall Sarah Baartman?

    Where were the white feminist calls for solidarity against the abuses Baartman suffered at the hand of the gentle white man?

    Jokers

    Street harassment?

    If you have really have the courage of your convictions, I dare you to take this garbage to the streets.

    We will meet you there, organized to remind people who the real predators are.

    Like I always say — we’re bringing shit up. We’re not opening the book at the page that suits our agenda.

    Whitey doesn’t look kindly upon those whose incompetence provokes disturbances that cause him “embarrassment”.

  • Zombie Killer

    What I don’t understand is that I always hear people say that smiling makes you (women) more approachable, but my experience has been that men and teenage boys who mistake me for being in their age group will approach me and use that as their pick-up line.

    Just last Saturday I was on my way to the store where some young guy said, “Hey!” I ignored him, so he tried again and said, “Excuse me!” I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt that he may have genuinely needed help or something, but instead he said, “Ive seen you before, how come you never smile?” I didn’t say anything back, so he said, “I’ll talk to you next time!”

    I mean, why would he talk to me next time if his first attempt at talking to me didn’t work out? I don’t know him, have never interacted with him, and have never even seen him before, so why does he think that because he has ‘seen’ me before that that gives him the right to ask me about MY facial expressions?

    I too have had men and teenage boys pull over in the middle of traffic to try and talk to me. I have been followed into shopping centers, parking lots, bus stops etc. I have had guys actually run after me. I have had guys spot me walking on the main road and then come looking for me, which led to me having to walk past my house so that they wouldn’t know where I lived.

    Just last month a man stopped in the middle of the road and asked me, “How far are you going?” as I walked down the street to the bus stop.

    I can’t even tell you how often men offer me rides. I don’t know why when men see women who they do not know, walking down the street they think that that woman somehow needs their assistance.

  • Zombie Killer

    I once had an acquaintance accuse me of being a lesbian and hating men, because I would tell her about the street harassment I experienced on a daily bases. I informed her that neither was correct and that I was just tired of being disrespected.

  • Eyes Wide Shut

    I underwent street harassment last week.

    I drive a pretty bummed out car. A young punk in a brand spaking new BMW proceeded to cut me off by driving in the parking lane. When I wouldn’t let him cut me off, he cursed me out and called me a b!tch and how he can afford my car 10X over.

    I was one block away from my home. He followed me and still preceded to curse me out. Young guy in a BMW in NYC, don’t know what was going to happen as this was road rage about to escalate as I was also cursing the punk out too. When he slightly pulled up ahead of me looking like he was going to get out his car, I yelled out his license plate number 6X IN RAPID FIRE (now I have his license plate number committed to memory.

    Punk put the pedal to the metal and sped away.

    Unbeknownst to the both of us, there was an off-duty officer in the jeep behind me who saw the whole thing unfold from the block before. He pulled to the passenger side of punk’s BMW w/o Punk noticing. After punk sped away. I got out of my car (in cases like this DO NOT GET OUT OF THE CAR and have your cell phone ready as the road rager may take that as a sign of aggression). Off-duty LEO told me if he saw Punk’s arm go under his seat or if he got out of the car, he was prepared to shoot.

    Jesus was with us all that day.

    Eyes Wide Shut

  • Kaeli

    My first response to your ignorance is F@ck you but I am going to try and keep it classy and try my best to help you understand the problem with your statement. What are women training themselves to do? Exactly what is the best way to arm ourselves? What you are suggesting might very well make perpetrators more upset and might actually put a women in a very dangerous situation. I don’t expect you to understand how it is to feel threatened when you are simply minding your business walking down the street trying to get from point A to B but it would be nice if you didn’t come in this space with your bullshit. A better response would have been to try to understand so maybe you can take this info back to your counterparts. Sometimes it’s ok to listen.

  • SayWhat

    I think the reason why street harassment is different for black women than white is that black women will hesitate to involve the law. Because of our ass backwards need to protect black men at all cost, we don’t want to ‘make a big deal’ out of someone following us, getting angry at us and even threatening violence.

    Not to call anyone out, but if each time you go to a store an employee makes you uncomfortable, why not ask for the manager and let them know? If a guy is stupid enough not to care about his paycheck by harassing you, then why should you care about him getting fired? The rate of violence for black women and girls is about 6 times that of other women, but we refuse to think of ourselves first. If the guy makes you feel so uncomfortable that you would even hesitate to call the cops in front of him, get someplace safe and then call, it may save another woman’s life.

    Until we at a large scale let black men know that we will put our safety first, they will continue to harass and even hurt us at a greater degree than they would other women. Don’t believe me? ask yourself if a black guy would continue to follow a white woman who ignored him, or if he would threaten a white woman who rebuffed him….. in the back of his mind is ‘she’ll get scared and call the cops for help’ so he on average he (and men of other races) will hesitate to be too aggressive. We don’t ask for help, we try to shoulder things and get hurt in the end.
    Enough is enough, too many women are being hurt for us to accept aggression….

  • Kaeli

    Very interesting. I live in DC and a very interesting thing happened on the metro earlier this week. A black man was sitting behind a white woman and tapped her on the shoulder trying to talk to her. She got pissed and started talking about how he grabbed her. The man started yelling that she needed to calm down because he just tapped her and that they were in a train full of people so she was safe. He then got up and got off at the next stop. As a black woman I looked at this scene and simply thought to myself “serves him right”. First, why did he think he had permission to touch another person. He doesn’t know (or care) about her past. She could be a survivor of sexual assault. More black women need to do that.

  • http://gravatar.com/mimiandy1683 MimiLuvs…

    LOL!

    My former step-father taught me how to defend myself with a knife, when I was eleven.
    I still carry a weapon on me, which is a switchblade, whenever I am traveling by myself.

  • rhea

    @Mimi

    I carry an arsenal of weapons on me for that exact reason. In my glove box, on my key chain, next to my bed. Box cutters, knives, stun guns…I’d carry a taser if I could get my hands on one. Having a car is a matter of personal saftey where I’m from. When I had to ride the bus and walk, I was scared all the time.

  • Zombie Killer

    “Not to call anyone out, but if each time you go to a store an employee makes you uncomfortable, why not ask for the manager and let them know?”

    You are talking to me. The reason I haven’t talked to a manager yet is because I called the store earlier this year to complain about employees smoking on the side of the building where people have to walk and nothing was done about it. I do plan to file a complaint, but I plan to file a complaint with their corporate offices. You have to keep in mind that most people see nothing wrong with this kind of behavior and will actually blame the person being harassed.

    As a Black woman, I do not ‘protect black men at all cost’. I just know from experience that most people do not take street harassment seriously. Did you see my other comment where I stated that I was accused of hating men and being a lesbian because of how much I talked about the street harassment I receive?

  • Kacey

    This post comes at a perfect time for me to vent about the perverts on the subway! (Especially this one middle-aged black man who I always run into on the train I take to the office every morning. He sits and leers at me with a stupid grin on his face. Because of how uncomfortable he’s made me feel I’ve actually had to change my morning routine to avoid his disgusting, creepy @ss!)

    Too many black men – young and old – are behaving extra thirsty! I honestly believe that a lot of black men just have no clue how to approach and speak to a woman, other than in an overly sexualized predatory way. It’s like they’re walking around with perpetual hard-ons. I don’t think they understand that sex isn’t all there is to a relationship with a woman. Too many believe that their only power in life is through overt, aggressive sexuality – embracing stereotypes and myths – and it’s very sad.

  • Q

    Praise God for the man who had the courtesy of stepping up instead of turning a blind eye. I won’t even go into how it’s his job to protect women, despite the misogynist teachings to men this day&age or anything of that nature. I’m just gonna appreciate the fact that he had the decency to help.

  • Knowledge

    I disagree- for one you make it about a race things its much more of a class thing, in my travels I noticed that white women are generally more approachable than black women- don’t believe me? How are the young classless thugs who are sometimes black getting these white and latina women? Go to NY or LA same story. Unless these little white and latina women are scared into giving young black men their numbers. something you’re saying just doesnt add up.

  • Josh

    I agree with being more aggressive about protecting yourself, but isn’t calling a tap on the shoulder a full on grab a little too much. I’ve tapped people on the shoulder for directions or to check if they are someone that I know and at most they hint that they don’t want to talk or don’t care and we both move on. Understand escalating things if the guy doesn’t want to move on too, but if he gets the hint, was the tap really that intrusive? Maybe this is an East Coast/American thing.

  • omfg

    @josh

    “I agree with being more aggressive about protecting yourself, but isn’t calling a tap on the shoulder a full on grab a little too much.”

    i was walking down the street once and a man who was trying to get my attention tapped me on the shoulder. i almost lost it.

    why did it anger me? it should be obvious…

    1. if i’m ignoring you, can’t you see i am not interested in any type of conversation with you?

    2. i do not appreciate anybody ever putting their hands on me if i don’t know them/didn’t invite them to do so. it is my body. it is my space. why is that so hard to understand? this body, this person does not belong to you. neither you or anyone else, male or female, is entitled to it. my body is my property. that means, keep off.

    i was pissed off that anyone on the street would deliberately touch me for no reason other than to think i should give him my time.

    get this through your head.

    crap is common sense.

    and i’m in california, btw. this is not a geographical problem. it is a gender/racial problem. just show respect for people/women and you won’t have to wonder.

  • http://beautifulmindtss.wordpress.com beautifulmind

    Never in my life have I dealt with street harassment so much as I do now since moving to Baltimore. And the worst part of it is when the man tries to talk down to you for not giving into his advances. It’s like they really believe they are entitled to your body…

  • Knowledge

    OMG- LOL are you kidding me, maybe these guys want to talk to you because you are attractive… ever think of that? I swear some of you ladies on here act like its out of the ordinary for a male who is straight and black to find you attractive and want to get to know you. Im not American- but I’m black and there is certainly a disconnect between how African-American women and men see and interact with each other-

    its kinda sickening reading what you wrote about the two groups of guys who said “how you doing” or the young guys who push carts in front of the store doing their job! and telling you have a nice day.

    In my 7 years of living in America- I have never really felt comfortable approaching Black American women – the way I approach African, Caribbean, Latina girls- maybe many of you that have been domiciled in America so long see “straight black” guys as strangers.

    You sound like a Mrs Zimmerman- Do you not have black males relatives?

  • omfg

    um, this is not about what white men are doing to us in the abstract, in the present or the past.

    this is about what men, particularly black men, put black women (and girls) through on a daily basis.

    in my experience, black men are the worse. they are the most vocal. they are the ones mostly likely to come in your face and hound you. say things to you. curse you. touch you. ignore your brushoffs. basically, me you feel extremely vulnerable.

    it takes a truly insensitive arse to twist this around and make it about black men being victimized by misguided, two-faced black women.

    what’s that hashtag?

    #blackpowerisforblackmen

  • Q

    I can’t thumbs this up enough. You had me at “ass backwards need to protect black men at all cost”. I’m all for black unity, and can be damn near militant about it occasionally. But it is high time that women, black women ESPECIALLY, make our blatant disrespect/disregard a thing of the past. We need to make a “big deal, scene, or display” about it. There’s already the unwarranted stereotype that black women are angry and unapproachable and several commentators have admitted to how that stereotype still hasn’t worked in the avoidance of harassment. Being the docile and engageable(for the sake of reducing threat) woman has also come to no avail. Ladies, they are only going to learn one way. What’s it gonna take for enough people to take this more seriously? Getting chased on an expressway at 65+mph? Being blocked in a lot where it’s raining for refusal to grant a phone number? The usual getting sworn at, while others look on or participate with laughter or other encouragement? Catcalls, groping, stalking, violence, murder? Tragic. Unacceptable. Unnecessary. It is no doubt incumbent upon men, whether or not they participate or witness, to stop this dangerous epidemic. But we as women of color can make a better effort to involve the authorities at least. Though police collectively and historically don’t often help us(women), or our community(blacks) to the best of their ability, we could at minimum show these men that we are not below involving the law to somewhat ensure our safety. Still, forgetting feminism, your individual safety is indisputably more important than letting an insecure sucka get his pathetic ass handed right back to him with a confrontation. But somethings gotta give, or our mothers, daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, and friends will continue to be vulnerable, or worse; victims.

  • Josh

    My mind is blown. I would have never guest that it was this bad. Can’t believe these guys would act this way. I wonder what type of men do this. Are these men who grew up without healthy male role models or had no sisters in the house?

    More importantly, how can we solve this? I can one idea, what all high school or middle school boys had to watch a video and attend a group session about healthy manhood? In person, the boys could be made to listen to women talk about their experiences with street harassment, intimate partner violence, and even rape. Then maybe women and men can talk to them about their experience witnessing harassment or the experience of any of the women in their families. Maybe if we can get them to see what women go through at an early age, the vast majority of men wouldn’t harass women or at least come to the aid of women.

    In any case, these stories are crazy, I’m doing pretty good now but I’m definitely doing to make sure that I live in a fairly wealthy neighborhood by the time I have children. There will be no idle men in my block. (I know, I know, wealth men have their own way of harassing women, I read the article about the craziness at Harvard Business School, but at least, usually, I wouldn’t have to worry about the (physical) safety of my potential daughter).

  • Zombie Killer

    Street Harassment here in Baltimore is f*cking ridiculous! I live in the suburbs and it is just as bad when I go into the city.

  • http://gravatar.com/swissblackberries victoria

    But there is a difference between a loser on the street harrassing you and a young man nicely approaching a woman. Yes, it pays to be approachable, but it doesnt pay when the men are being disrespectful and intimidating.

    No self respecting woman is going to respond to harrassment- following you home, yelling to get your attention, saying sexual comments, asking if you need a ride, etc. I can guarantee that these thugs, as you call them, will be more successful if they politely approach women. And there is nothing to brag about regarding responding to a thug. Any woman – black, white, latina – who gives a thug her number is not my idol.

  • victoria

    @Josh

    I dont think any stranger should tap another person on the shoulder. Whether to get directions or anything else. A simple ”Excuse me,’ will do. If that person ignores you, keep it moving. Never purposely touch an unknown person.

    And maybe the train passenger said ”grab” instead of ”tap” as a way to frighten him off. The police will respond to grab, but not tap.

  • Anthony

    I am a country boy who grew up speaking to everyone. It has taken me a while to understand that many people have different experiences, and might take a hello or smile the wrong way. I am now fairly cautious about speaking to women because too often it can be taken as hitting on someone. I don’t touch anyone with whom I am not an actual friend. I work with way too many white women to let my guard down and get too familiar with anyone at work. I am more than halfway to my pension (assuming the state doesn’t go broke) and I do not want to lose what I have earned because of some needless interaction.

  • Zombie Killer

    Listen! I couldn’t care less if they think I am attractive. I don’t care if they want to ‘get to know me’, because I am not interested in knowing them.

    When I leave my house everyday, it is not to find a potential date or make new friends.

    Black men finding Black women attractive isn’t the problem. The disrespect is the the problem. The following, the honking, the watching and leering is the problem.

    The boys jobs are to push carts for the grocery store, not treat female customers as potential friends or dating opportunities.

    The point about the men on the men who asked me, “How you doing?” is that they purposely singled me out. These men will watch me from a distance and watch me/stare at me until I am completely out of site.

    I have every right not to like this kind of behavior. I have every right to feel annoyed by constantly being approached and treated like a dating opportunity for men who I am not interested in.

    If I have never seen you before, have never spoken to you, and know nothing about you, then you are a f*cking stranger to me.

    Let me ask you this:

    Do you know what it is like to be walking across a parking lot and see a car coming at you full speed, asking yourself why this person is about to run you down with their vehicle only to have him stop just short of you so that he can tell you that he likes the way you look?

    Do you know what it is like to have someone who you don’t know run after you to try and talk to you when you have indicated you are not interested?

    Do you know what it is like to have a man come looking for you so that he can stare at your body and face some more?

    Do you know what it is like to have someone in their vehicle honk at you six times in a row just so he can get a better look at your face?

    Do you even know how it feels to leave the house everyday and have men honk their horn at you?

    Do you know what it is like to have unknown men pull up ahead in their vehicle and wait for you and/or slowly drive beside you as you walk?

    Do you know what it is like to plan in your head which way you will run if they get out of their car and try to sexually assault you or kidnap you?

    Do you know what it is like to be a woman and position yourself in front of public cameras just so that if something happens to you the man can be identified?

    Do you know what it is like to have another man stick his camera out of the window of his car and take your picture?

    Do you know what it is like to have unknown men offer you rides in their vehicle simply because you are a woman walking down the street, minding her business?

    Do you know what it is like to have unknown men come up to you and question you about where you work or live simply because they have seen you before?

    Do you know what it is like to have a man tell you that he basically is going to continue harassing you until you give in to him?

    Do you know what it is like to have noises made at you like you are an animal?

    Do you know what it is like to have men touch you without your permission simply because they like the way you look?

    Do you know what it is like to walk by a group of men and hear them discuss you with each other like you are thing?

  • Kellogg Liberbaum

    Or you could make it mandatory for every middle or high school boy to be harassed by a group of dykes or buff gay men. That might work.

  • http://inbetweenpeople.wordpress.com hrh7

    AMEN

  • SayWhat

    I used your story as an example because black women delay complaining till it is almost too late. Street harassment is harder to tackle for black women partly because we are not protected by our community, but partly because we self-sacrifice ourselves as well.

    A store employee making you feel uncomfortable is not street harassment (per say) because he is an employee and his employer is accountable for him, so you actually would have more of a chance to curb his behavior. That was my point, recognize and play our odds, which in your example are very good.

  • SayWhat

    It is a race thing because black women face violence at a greater rate than women of other races, you are free to fact check.

    Women of other races are not more approachable, you simply treat them differently. It is very well known how black men feel about light/non-black women in comparison to black women. It’s not rocket science, so don’t make it out to be.

  • ivrop

    Always get a good chuckle from your one liners.

  • Kaeli

    @ Josh

    From my time working with non-profits, especially with domestic violence victims, I have learned that it is NEVER appropriate to touch another person unless invited to do so. There are so many reasons why but the biggest is you have no clue what that person has had happen to them in their life. This is especially true when touching a child or opposite gender touching. It is so easy to “re-victimize” someone and not know it. For that reason it is best to keep your hands to yourself.

    To you his tap was innocent but you never know if that woman had experienced a tap that turned into a grab that turned into something worse.

  • vintage3000

    Glad you are ok, Eyes Wide Shut and so sorry you were subjected to that ay-whole.

  • vintage3000

    When it comes to BW, Black males are the absolute worst regarding street harassment. I’ve ignored many a clown’s advances throughout the years, they reply with the standard cursing out or even saying something like “stuck up bitch i hope you get hit by that car”. Like many women have noted here, I’ve been groped, yelled at, and had stuff thrown at me because I simply ignored the catcalls of these savages, and best believe I get the attention of a cop whenever possible. In the supermarket in my neighborhood there were a group of this element who would hover around the cashiers, asking women if they needed taxis. Grown me, many of them elderly. I caught one of them leaning over and looking in my purse when I was paying for my stuff, and I asked if he wanted to see my pepper spray. Afterwards I found a manager, and told him I would stop shopping there if those thugs were allowed to harass people. The manager agreed, and I never saw them in there after that. Now they just hang out outside the store and beg, or shout at each other over fares, etc.

    There are so many insecure black men walking around who take out their frustrations on Black women and girls because 1) they have no self respect and 2) that is easier than being a real man. Some of the men who loiter on this site and others for Black women are evidence of that. In all the women centered websites I have read geared to different women-White, Black or Latina–I have only seen Black males consistently show up to assert their non-existent manhood, even in cyberspace. It’s pathetic.

  • Cocochanel31

    Unfortunatly thre is nothing we can do to stop the street harssasment. I would avoide running/walking by one’s self late at night or even after sundown. I’ve found that the nicer I am to said offender the better for everyone. I usually end things with a “Thank you sweetie” or “No Thank you Boo” or “GOD BLESS” the God Bless seems to work pretty well.

    While it’s very sda that toy have to be nice to some street creep for fear of being killed..it is what it is ..smh. I do find that Western culture takesit a bit to the extreme though. In Carribean countries I’ve visited , especially Cuba, men trying to holla is just men trying to holla…the women take it in stride.

  • Mr. Man

    Yes it’s crazy out there for black women. I’ve seen it with my own eyes over and over again as I have four sisters, two daughters and a beautiful wife. I’ve seen just about every scenario expressed in the comments here. I’ve also seen it happen to white women and I can tell you why they don’t get it so bad. THEY FREAK OUT! As if they are about to get rapped, seriously.

    They will run into a nearby store and freak the store owner out getting him envolved and call the police, bam! a witness. She will go home tell her husband, they will then call the police together report it, the police who patrol that neighbourhood will know which thug she’s talking about based on the discription because he knows him from past bookings. After a few cop visits the thugs know to leave them “crazy” (as they would say) white chics alone. I have white friends, trust me they have the police dept on speed dial and will take a picture of the fool if they can for the police to see them.

    Black women as well as the women in my family have to work on not being so post-passive. These fools do what they feel they can get away with so they think nothing of it. Teach them otherwise.
    1) report the license plate as someone who tried or attempted to abduct you. It’s the same action.
    2) if a stranger on the street puts their hands on you after you’ve rejected their advancement get a good look at them and its safe to do so call the police and report it as attempted rape, seriously, how would you know the difference, their actions were aggressive.

    Even if nothing happens them the message was sent and recieved.

    If an employee crosses a line report it to management they don’t want a possible lawsuit on their hands or a nasty letter written to corporate so they will address it and you won’t have anymore issues with that worker trust me.

  • vintage3000

    You can “God Blesss” every dude who rolls up on you and says how you got some nice t&a, ma all you like. Not all women want to “take it in stride” just to soothe some random man’s ego. There are women who have been sexually assaulted, and simply do not want to be holla’ed . I don’t get why that is difficult for people to understand, ESPECIALLY women.

    It’s not a compliment to every women to have men sniffing around us, and we weren’t put on Earth to make them feel secure and masculine. To hell with them, and anyone who makes excuses for them.

  • Cocochanel31

    I agree..those types I suallyignore or I stay with the ill grill when around shadiness. Luckily I live in the burbs so very rare I run into that type. I say do whatever needs to be done to defend your life. I’m not against carrying Mace, Razors, ( insert weapon of choice) for added protection.

    My dad used to always say if a crazy person starts bothering you in the street act like you are crazy too right with them! Not excusing the behaviour, just coming up with solutions since it’s not going to stop.

  • Wow

    It makes me sad to read that so many women have been and continue to be harassed for simply walking home or riding the bus but even sadder that out of all of the replies I’ve read thus far not one mentioned calling the cops. Why not? Are you afraid of retaliation? Will the cops even come? Have you been conditioned to accept this harassment as a way of life? I’d really like to hear from the women who experience this on a frequent base as to why they don’t think they can also call the cops when faced with the threat of bodily harm from these street harassers.

  • Cocochanel31

    If you’re wealking down teh sidewalk who is going to stand around waiting for the cops to come? If touched or harrassed , yes call, but if not keep it moving.

  • Zombie Killer

    There are days where I am harassed so much I would be making multiple calls to the police. Heck, there have been times where I exprienced at leat 5 different incidents in a 10 minute time period by several different men. Not only that, but when I leave my house it is because I have somewhere to go. I can’t be late for work or my doctor’s appointment to wait around for a cop to show up to arrest or talk to someone who is long gone.

  • Wow

    Well I’m not really talking about guys who are just running off at the mouth, but some ladies were basically describing that they were sexually assaulted. Rape is not the only type of sexual assault. No man should be groping or grabbing your private parts without your permission. That is assault and the street harassment is no longer just an irritant but its now a danger.

    I didnt realize until i was grown that it was not normal behavior for boys to agressively grab your behind or touch your breast in the hallway in school. i remember how horrible and powerless i felt. As an adult i now know that what they did is considered sexual assault. But for many black girls we grew up viewing it as just something we must “deal with”.

    For one woman to basically display symptoms of PTSD when she sees a man on the street on account of the constant sexual harassment she endures everyday that is a cause to pause and realize that something needs to be done. We know that we have few advocates to fight for us so we need to use every avenue possible to get this mess to stop. If calling the cops is one way then do it, but ignoring it won’t make it stop.

  • AnnT

    So am I. I just would have been stuck like chuck. Stuff like this happens way too often. I remember being backed unto a service door at the mall by a man who wouldn’t leave me alone. I thought I was going to get assaulted. Thank God a group of people walked by a scared him off too.

  • topworld7

    as a similarly attractive woman, i don’t see the issue here. you are a straight woman, presumably, he is a straight male presumably. he works at a social setting. why can’t he make friends or new dates at work? it happens all the time at/within the workplace.

    why don’t you just say: i am not interesting in meeting new ppl,so when they approach me, i have a straight ATTITUDE, which is acceptable because that’s how you feel.

    and as a bisexual woman, i smile/say hello/attempt to engage convo with other beautiful women often. and i have encountered the grimace, the stare down, etc. and ONE can not look at a person and “guess” their sexuality. so if these women even just assumed i just wanted to be even a platonic friend, wow, i guess they believe in Drake – No New Friends.

    im just saying: lets not confuse street harassment WHICH I HAVE EXPERIENCED with “i am having a bad day and don’t wanna be bothered.”

  • Yas

    I don’t know what is in the water, but there are far too many unhinged men out there right now. Dating/meeting new people is a frightening proposition. I can’t even give a man my phone number anymore–I’ve had too many experiences with wackjobs who calll/stalk my phone even after I rebuff their advances. I’ve been followed a few times too. I’m not inviting attention–half the time I’m in my work clothes. It’s ridiculous.

  • http://gravatar.com/pocketsizednegro Courtney**

    Stef, do you see anything wrong with a “rite of passage” being to treat women and girls in a public space as a personal meat market?

    If you had a daughter, would you be okay with random larger men of varying degrees of mental stability constantly approaching her every time she went for a walk? Or walked from her car to a store? Or pumped some gas?

    Do you think that women and girls deserve to exist in a public space without having to answer to every Tom, Dick, and Harry who demands their time and attention?

    I’m only bothering to respond because it actually seems like there’s a glimmer of hope for you to “get it” rather than just downvoting.

  • http://gravatar.com/designdiva40 paintgurl40

    i think from now on, i’m going BACK to carrying a lead pipe or something in my purse so if some guy decides to lose their mind and put their hands on me, he’s gonna have a major problem.

    i read some of these stories and it reminds me of some of my own experiences when i was growing up on the south side of chicago. i had to deal with foolishness like this during the 70′s/80′s. now they chasing women down highways?? horrifying!

  • Tish

    I live in NYC and I know some of every kind of immigrant. I used to think immigrant men spent so much time cat-calling because they see Americans as potential Stellas, but its more than that. Talking to African men, I’ve come to realize that they think African – American girls (who are generally less sheltered than their African sisters) are easy. As to their sense of entitlement, my cousin told me this incident recently: Riding in a dollar van (an illegal passenger van/gypsy cab) was one of those thirsty types who was trying to talk to all the women coming into the vehicle. The sisters shut his corny behind down immediately (everyone know NYC girls have the hardest gameface ever). Then, a sister and her white friend got on. Our community is undergoing some gentrification lately, but a white woman on a dollar van is still rare enough to draw attention. Thirsty moved up three seats so he could be directly behind them, and practically stuck his face in between theirs, trying to force his way into their convo. When that didn’t work, He realized that the white girls hair (which was really long, at least 3ft) was hanging over the back of the seat. HE PROCEEDED TO PLAY IN IT. Because it was so long, and he was playing with the ends, she didn’t notice at first. However, everyone in the backseat saw. The white girl only noticed when he LIFTED THE HAIR TO HIS NOSE TO SMELL IT. My cousin said he could tell when the realization set in – the white girls posture went stiff. Her Black friend saw the hair-sniff, but she too, was sitting stiff-backed. At this point, my cousin tapped McThirsty on his shoulder and said “Dude, you need to chill out.” My cousin said the scary thing about his reaction was that he seemed to think this nonsense was normal. My cousin repeated “Dude, don’t touch her, chill.” The girls took adantage of the distraction and got off the van. Thankfully, McThirsty did’t follow them. I commend my cousin for speaking up, especially when no one else did.

Latest Stories

Watch: ‘Black People Mate’ a Parody About the Ridiculous Stats on Black Women & Dating

by

University President Under Fire for Wanting to Make School Less White In the Future

by

Taraji P. Henson Says European Men Are Less ‘Bitter’ and ‘Jaded’ Than American Men

by

Style Inspiration: Casual Work Outfits

by
More in street harrassment, XOJane
083013fail
Nothing Inspires Me Like Failure

090613lauren
An Open Letter To Tiana Parker And All The Little Girls With Nappy, Nappy Hair

Close