How do you Handle Street Harassment?
With this summer’s burst of #yesallwomen, I’ve reevaluated how I deal with street harassment. I’ve lived in three states since I’ve hit puberty and in all places, I’ve experienced street harassment in some form. I’ve been trying to figure out how to deal with it for years.
Initially, I just did the “ignore” thing. My first experience of street harassment was being yelled at by some gals in a car while walking home from school as a teenager. I didn’t know what to do except ignore. Looking back, if I had been more informed, I suppose I could have taken down the license plate number and reported it, but that is too much thinking to do in the moment! I was not prepared to know to take down a license plate when I was a teenager.
As years went on, the “ignore” response started bothering me. I know it’s a good response in a lot of situations, but sometimes I wanted to do a little more. I started giving the middle finger. Now, I’m not a regular middle finger user, but I could do that while walking past someone and not have to formulate words or sentences- something my brain can’t do in the moment.
A few years ago, I came across Hollaback, which gives ideas for responding to harassment. They also have an app where you can post the location, time, and what type of harassment you experienced or witnessed. I have the app on my phone and you can even upload a picture of the harasser and pin it with the GPS function.
My brain usually freezes in the moment so I never know what to say, but I often spend the next while thinking about what I could have/should have done, even though I know that there’s nothing I can really do. One thing that has somewhat eased this post-harassment dialogue in my head is sidewalk chalk.
I go back to where the harassment happened later when there are fewer people around and write about it on the sidewalk. It’s usually short, “Sexual harassment happened here.” It gives me closure, lets me say something, and maybe the harasser frequents that area and might see it, whether or not they know it’s directed at what they did or not. I like this option because it’s more public- people who harass others aren’t going to be checking the Hollaback map, but they are going to be walking on the sidewalk. It’s like putting up a temporary “pin”. And when it rains, it’s gone.
I’m still looking for good comebacks to have in my arsenal for use in the moment. Do you all have any? Share, please! How do you deal with harassment?