Two days in a row now I’ve logged onto to Facebook and read about two of my friends being violently harassed on the street by men they did not know while others simply looked on.
Like many of us who have experienced street harassment, these women were merely moving through their city (both happen to live in New York), minding their own their business when they were accosted and berated for not wanting to be bothered.
Yesterday, one friend rode the subway and was reading a book when a man asked if she would read to him (huh?). She politely declined, but the man, now upset, argued he was just “trying to be a gentleman” and proceeded to call her a slew of ugly names. Their encounter continued as he ranted about “females” who “call the cops when we beat the shit out of you and rape you.” Their horrific interaction finally ended when he got off at his stop, but not before kicking her on the way out.
The second incident occurred when a stranger harangued my other friend, a lawyer, after asking for money to get a burger. Like most people, she shook her head and kept walking, but that wasn’t good enough for the man. According to my friend, he followed her for a block, calling her nasty names and yelling about how no man will ever want to sleep with her.
These two incidents are not unique. In the comments section of both status updates, several women shared their own stories of being harassed—more than a few times—in public by men they did not know while others simply watched. The stories were painful, scary, and sadly, familiar.
I’ve written extensively about street harassment in the past, and inevitably, some men argue that if women would just be polite, respond respectfully, or smile, they could avoid being screamed on in the first place.
But we know this isn’t true. No matter how sweet or cordial you are, some idiot will go off on you when you deny his request for a dollar, your number, or to read to him on the subway (I’m still asking, WTF about this one).
If street harassment is to end, we need MEN to put a stop to it. Or as one of the women said on Facebook, “Men need to check men for this sh-t. And most don’t.”
So how can men put a stop to street harassment?
First, stop feeling entitled to a hello—yes, even if you’re a nice guy. No matter how charming or cute or “together” you may be, no one is obligated to speak to you, at all.
Next, if a woman doesn’t return your advances (or acquiesce to your requests) keep pushing. No need to get in your feeling or reach into your misogynistic bag of tricks. Just keep walking; she wasn’t the girl for you anyway, right? Right.
Finally, if you see a man (including your boys) harassing a woman SPEAK UP. Tell him to chill, protect her damn honor, and remind him that she is a human being worthy of respect. Don’t just sit back and chuckle while a stranger badgers a woman on the street. I mean, would you let someone treat your mother, sister, daughter, or aunt like that? I didn’t think so.
Fellas, street harassers are giving you a bad name and it’s time for you to do something about it. If you see a woman being harassed, say something, it’s the least you could do.