Driving with the windows down, I pulled up beside a pickup truck at a stop light. The two men inside the truck began whistling at me and laughing. I turned off my radio, turned to them and said, “You know, it’s really offensive when men whistle at a woman like she’s an animal. I don’t appreciate that. What you’re doing is called street harassment and it is unacceptable.”
The driver said, “I’m sorry ma’am. I’ll stop tonight.”
In my experience, his response was very atypical yet awesome! Usually when I talk back to street harassers they’re either shocked into silence or tell me to f*ck off. It never discourages me from speaking my mind, though. I have become fiercely protective of my sense of physical and emotional security, so when a stranger gets in my emotional or physical space I fight back with words.
I have dozens of stories like this. Stories of men commenting on my body parts while I’m jogging. Stories of men making sexual comments to me simply because I was there and a woman. A story about a man who started unzipping his pants while walking toward me outside the library one afternoon. Men who’ve grabbed my butt on crowded streets and subways. On and on and on. I used to be to afraid to say anything, but not anymore.
Optional: Do you have any suggestions for dealing with harassers and/or ending street harassment in general?
Street harassment can occur very quickly and instantly makes me feel fearful and angry, so it helps to be prepared to respond. I’ve found it helpful to practice certain phrases (“I am a human being, not an object for your pleasure”, “My body is none of your business”, “What you’re doing is called street harassment and it is unacceptable”, etc…), that way I’m more likely to speak up and respond to someone who is harassing me.
I also discuss street harassment with my male friends and try to educate them on what women experience on a daily basis, asking them to become allies.
– Emily Harris
Location: Sarasota, FL
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