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:
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After moving to Philadelphia from Fort Collins, Colorado, artist Hannah Price started experiencing street harassment for the first time, and she came up with a novel way to respond to it: she turned her camera on the men who catcalled her. In a fascinating interview with The Morning News, Price describes how she takes the portraits: “Once a guy catcalls me, depending on the situation, I would either candidly take their photograph or walk up to them and ask if I can take their photograph. They usually agree and we talk about our lives as I make their portrait.” Keep reading »
A Minneapolis woman who is now pretty much my hero seems to have gotten fed up with the helpless feeling that comes along with being leered at on the street. She posted an open letter to the man who shouted nasty comments at her from his car on Craigslist Missed Connections, basically voicing the internal monologue of every begrudging catcall recipient there ever was.
The woman, who calls herself “the blonde you shouted at,” tells it like it is and explains just how damaging the dude’s actions are with statements like:
…Thanks to you I would spend the entire train ride home feeling scrutinized and gross because you didn’t have the willpower or maturity to keep your mouth shut; that your wife and daughters or at the very least your mother deserve better than a cowardly man who shouts at women from the safety of his car.
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Yesterday, I debuted my new Phillip Lim for Target sweatshirt in What Are We Wearing and on the streets of NYC. The pop art-inspired crewneck sweatshirt says BOOM in bright red letters on the front and I seriously dig it. But there’s one problem. Yesterday, no less than three men were inspired to integrate the word “boom” into their catcalling repertoire. I heard the following as I ran errands and then made my way home after work:
- “Mmmm, mmm, boom boom boom, girl.” — guy in a car who pulled up next to me at a crosswalk
- “Ooh, BOOM. I like that.” — dude walking towards me, who emphasized his point by lasciviously licking his lips
- “Damn, I’d bet you’d make me go boom. What’s your name?” — guy behind me in line at the deli
So yeah, consider yourself warned. Still gonna rock the hell out of my sweatshirt, even if bitch face becomes its necessary accessory.
This weekend I was riding the A train, as I do nearly every day, and I received the first stranger comment about my weight in a long time. He had been sitting next to me for several stops and was talking to another girl with a stuffed Nintendo Mario character backpack near us, clearly trying to pick her up. I suspected he was drunk. I kept reading my book and said, “Excuse me,” as I walked past him when we got to my stop.
He loudly said to my back, “You should go on a diet,” as I was getting off the train. I had a pause waiting for the doors to open. Usually I ignore these kinds of things, but this time I turned to the 20-something white dude, looked him dead in the eye and said, “My body is none of your business, nor is anyone else’s.”
He started to rebut as I got off the train. I just kept going. I realized as I was walking away I said that not so much to change his mind but for the benefit of anyone else listening that might think it’s okay to talk about someone else’s body. Keep reading »
I hear a lot of weird shit on the street. Many people, apparently, feel that they have license to say whatever they so please to me. Generally, it doesn’t bother me, but “sweetie”’ is where I draw the line.
The other day I walked to grab a coffee and held the door for a respectable-looking gentleman who was also leaving the building. “Thank you, sweetie!” He replied. I know he was just trying to be nice, but I am an adult leaving my place of work for a coffee break. In what way did it strike this man as appropriate to call me his “sweetie”? Keep reading »
Ten minutes. I was hitting the 10-minute mark of just standing in front of the freezers, seemingly debating whether to buy a quart or a gallon of milk. Or perhaps unsure of which kind I wanted. Skim or whole? Maybe 2 percent? I had a pensive look on my face.
It’s the look I get when I’m frozen inside. Generally from shock. Often from fear. Almost always after a harrowing experience that’s left me momentarily paralyzed.
My allergies had been just horrific, but I’d decided to brave the run across the street to the little bodega anyway because I’d been out of dishwasher soap and milk and coffee filters for three days. As I walked up the steps to the entrance, two men walked out. Because I’m a woman who’s been trained by society not to look strange men in the eye when its dark out and they look potentially threatening, I didn’t. But they stopped in the doorway and came up close to me, speaking far louder than was necessary. “Whoa mama, look at those tits.” “Daaaaamn. Naw like really dog, daaaaaaamn.” One started masturbating and pushed up close to my face as I stared at the ground, trying to navigate around them. He rubbed himself and licked his lips as he undressed me with his eyes and loudly proclaimed what he’d do to me. Keep reading »
Oh, FFS, America. Last year, New York City was captivated by the tale of the good-looking, really well-dressed, white man — totally the kind of guy who want to bring home to your bubbe — who was sexually assaulting women in public. The man the tabloids called the “Gentleman Groper” was later fingered as a lawyer named Paul Kraft, who plead guilty to groping or taking crotch shots of numerous women in wealthy neighborhoods like the Upper East Side or the Financial District. Here are some creepy examples of stuff he did. Gross, right? Well, you’ll be … surprised … to hear he’s gotten off without jail time. Keep reading »