Since I just moved to NYC a few weeks ago, I have a hard time building up enough confidence to respond to to “cat calls” when I’m walking down the street. Granted, it’s happened to me before in other places, but not nearly as frequently as I’ve experienced in New York. All of my female friends have strong opinions about street harassment, but not all of them are comfortable enough to respond to cat calling when the moment comes.
When someone on the street tells me to smile or calls me gorgeous, I can ignore him and it doesn’t ruin my day. But in situations such as the other day in St. Marks when I walked past a group of men and one pointed towards me exclaiming, “I want that one!” I’m still a deer in the headlights. I generally feel comfortable and confident walking through the city I live in, until street harassment enters the picture. So how do I respond in a way that keeps me from feeling vulnerable, but in no way compromises my safety? I asked a few of my friends who have lived in New York for years about how they respond to cat calling; these were their suggestions:
For those who are passive and made extremely uncomfortable by street harassment, wear headphones so you don’t have to hear it. One of my friends who is unable to confront cat callers always wears earbuds and holds her head high, focusing her eyes straight ahead as she walks. She knows this isn’t an ideal way to handle the situation, but it’s the best way for her to stay comfortable.
While I completely understand the urge to be silent, street harassment serves to silence women; therefore I encourage confrontation of cat callers. Instead of ignoring their surroundings, a couple of my friends choose to tell perpetrators of street harassment to fuck off. Another tries to deflect persecutors with humor, often answering, “that’s the funniest joke I’ve heard all day.” The most unique response I’ve heard to cat calling comes from my friend who chooses to obnoxiously pick her nose anytime someone on the street tells her she’s sexy.
If you still find yourself unable to confront street harassment, there’s a website to help you: Hollaback. Hollaback encourages those who are harassed to stand up for themselves and others through mobile technology and social media. Their list of types of street harassment are not limited to women, including:
- Comments about someone’s appearance, gender, sexual orientation, etc)
- Vulgar Gestures
- Sexually Explicit Comments (e.g., “Hey baby, I’d like a piece of that”)
- Kissing Noises
- Following someone
- Flashing someone or exposing oneself
- Blocking someone’s path
- Sexual touching or grabbing (e.g., touching someone’s legs, breasts or butt)
- Public masturbation
There are Hollabacks in many major cities all over the world and even IPhone and Android apps. They even have a list of ways to confront street harassment whether you receive it or you or a bystander are being harassed. You may not be able to hollaback the first or second time someone shouts something lewd in your direction, but with time you may find the strength.
Posted on Wednesday, 20 June
Tagged as: adriana lucci hollaback street harassment sexual harassment feminism feminist
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