Yesterday I was taking an early morning walk around my neighborhood before work. It was still pretty dark out, and as I shuffled groggily past a gas station a guy got out of his car and whistled at me. “Hey sweetie! Where you going?” he said. I kept my head down and kept walking. “Where you going?!” he asked again, getting noticeably irritated at my unresponsiveness. I picked up my pace a bit, trying to appear aloof and very sure of myself, but inside I felt anything but. Maybe I should have been more assertive, I thought as I turned the corner. And then I started questioning my own instincts: Maybe I was too rude. Maybe I should have at least smiled or waved or something. It’s embarrassing to admit that I was worried about not being polite enough to a strange man who demanded to know where I was going, but it’s true. Getting catcalled or harassed on the street always makes me feel this way: insecure, nervous, unsure of myself and my reactions.
I thought about something my dad told me awhile ago: “When someone violates your boundaries, they forfeit their right to politeness. You get to set the tone.” So as a reminder to myself and every other woman who isn’t sure how to deal with street harassment, here is a list of totally acceptable ways to respond to catcallers. Take your pick:
1. Keep your head down and keep walking.
2. Hold your head higher and keep walking.
3. Flip him off.
4. Be like, “Wow, yeah, let’s get married.”
5. Stop and glare at him intensely until he looks away.
6. Take a voodoo doll out of your pocket. Stick a pin through its heart.
7. Hand him this form.
8. Turn up the volume on your iPod and gallop away Gangnam style.
9. Start muttering gibberish.
10. Say, “Why thank you, sir, I do have a great ass.”
11. Growl like a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
13. Start reciting Mel Gibson’s freedom speech from “Braveheart.”
14. Roll your eyes dramatically.
15. Take a steak out of your purse and say, “No, THIS is a piece of meat.”
16. Ask him for his thoughts on string theory.
17. Write “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?” on a piece of paper, fold it into a paper airplane, and throw it at him.
18. Fart. Loudly.
19. Be all, “Really? REALLY?!” Amy Poehler-style.
20. Ask for his address. Send him a postcard that says “I’m not here to decorate your fucking world.”
22. Pretend you didn’t hear him.
23. Quietly hum the tune to “No Scrubs.”
24. Catcall him back.
25. Whisper, “Be careful what you say … to ninjas!” Throw down a smoke bomb. Disappear.
[Photo of construction worker via Shutterstock]