A man said to me, “You are so ugly that your frown even makes you uglier. You should smile.”
I had a knee-jerk response and calmly and with appropriate assertiveness said, “You are not Mr. America yourself. Don’t ever tell a woman to smile.”
He preceded to walk behind me into the store I had entered. (It was daylight, noon, in a crowded and public area). He started screaming obscenities about me. He left.
I went up to the counter to pay and he re-enter the store and ran towards me with a huge full soda and threw it all over me. I knew it was going to hit me and what was happening and decided to just stand there and roll my eyes. Stand my ground and be calm.
I usually prescribe to either no engagement or deescalation. I was at my tipping point. Tired of this happening to me and others countless times, especially during our current political environment. I do believe this man was a street person with a possible mental health issue. I felt extremely angry and also started apologizing to the owners of the store and those around me. I have been so conditioned as an apologizer, even though it was him and not me.
I haven’t let go of the anger but also feel sad for him. Mental health services have been cut significantly and he clearly needs some assistance. I do think in this case that was a factor. I am still questioning my response and reaction. My resistance book club will choose one of your suggested books for our next book club and we are looking into have a trainer come for self defense and overall discussion on reacting to street harassment.
Optional: What’s one way you think we can make public places safer for everyone?
If more women speak up and we get a hashtag/social media campaign viral similar to #MeToo . Not easy to do but I think if I had a choice that would be it if possible.
– Karen G.
Location: Chicago, IL in the Loop outside a convenience store in a very busy business district.
Need support? Call the toll-free National Street Harassment hotline: 855-897-5910