Featured, Race & Politics

My Street Harassment Story

I was in D.C. around this time last year for a screening of our TV pilot. We (my now wife and I) drove down from Pittsburgh that day, and made it to town at around five. Since the screening was at 7:30, we had a couple hours to spare, so we stopped somewhere on U Street to grab something to eat, and eventually met up with our homegirl to walk to Busboys and Poets (where the screening was held) together.

It was a 15-20 minute walk from where we were to Busboys. During the trip, I received a text I needed to reply to, so I slowed my stride and stopped for a few moments. They slowed too, but I told them to keep going and I’d just catch up.

I was done replying a minute or so later. By this time, they were 50 feet ahead of me, totally engrossed in their own conversation. Instead of trying to catch up, I kept my pace and stayed behind them, figuring we were all going to the same place anyway.

So I watched as these two close friends — one Black, one Afro-Latina; both dressed like women who’d gone to work that day and were attending a screening that evening — walked while talking to each other; laughing and enjoying the weather.

And I watched as they had their conversation interrupted at least three or four times by guys attempting to talk to them.

Hey sexy ladies” I heard one say.

Where y’all going? I want to come” said another.

One even started following them. It wasn’t a close follow — he was maybe 25 feet behind them, and they probably didn’t even know he was there — but he definitely got up from where he was sitting and started walking in their direction when they walked past him.

And this is when I decided to catch back up to them.

This is just one story about a mundane fall day in D.C. In a vacuum, each of those actions were (relatively) innocuous. Harmless, even. My wife has other stories. One about a time several years ago when a guy spit at her and called her a bitch after she politely declined to give him her number. Another about a time a couple weeks ago when she was in Chicago on a business trip. She was supposed to meet someone at some location, but needed to walk up and down the block a couple times because she had some trouble finding the building. While doing this, a guy followed her around for 10 minutes — turning every time she turned, circling back every time she circled back — until she got scared, walked back to her car, locked the doors, and drove away.

The term microaggression was created in 1970 by Harvard professor Chester Pierce to describe “social exchanges in which a member of a dominant culture says or does something, often accidentally, and without intended malice, that belittles and alienates a member of a marginalized group.” We have no trouble understanding how this is applied in a racial context. Most Black Americans can name instances where a non-Black person did or said something that, in a vacuum, might have been harmless. A woman on the train touching your hair. A coworker asking where the best fried chicken in the city is. A sales clerk asking to see your ID after you hand them a debit card. A cop car following you for a block. Again, in a vacuum, these are not particularly bothersome acts. But a lifetime full of them can be exhausting, demoralizing, even. You also don’t know when the microaggression turns major. It’s rare. Very rare. But it’s happened before. You remember the time the sales clerk asked to see ID on the day you left your driver’s license at home, and you had to spend an hour convincing mall security the card you just used to buy a $8 pack of socks is actually yours. You remember the time you were followed for a block…and then stopped…and then forced to get out of your car at gunpoint…and then had your car ransacked…and then found out you fit a description of someone they’re looking for…and then watched them leave without as much as an apology. So, you’re understandably sensitive to these “innocent” acts.

I’ve been following the discussion prompted by the video Hollaback! and Rob Bliss Creative created cataloging the 100+ times a woman was harassed while walking through Manhattan. I’m also aware that, as many have pointed out, the video itself has some problematic flaws. Quoting Roxane Gay, “…the racial politics of the video are fucked up. Like, she didn’t walk through any white neighborhoods?”

As fucked up as that was, focusing on the racial politics of the tape instead of what happens on the tape obscures what has been the most disappointing takeaway from all this. It’s not the harassment. Although startling to watch on film — especially the guy who follows her for several minutes — I’ve heard and read enough testimony to know it exists. I already knew it was a real thing. What has surprised and disappointed me are the men who’ve seen this tape, who’ve heard women express how unsafe this can make them feel, who are aware of stories like the murder of Mary “Unique” Spears — who was shot and killed by a man after refusing to give him her number — and still say things like “What? We can’t holla at chicks anymore?” and “It’s a man’s nature to approach women. You can’t stop nature.” and “I bet if it was Idris Elba following her she wouldn’t be saying that harassment shit.” Basically, women feeling safe and protected —  people who could very well be a friend, a girlfriend, a daughter, a mother, or a sister to one of these men — is less important than the right to say “Hey sexy” every time one walks past.

It’s even more disappointing — and mind-boggling — that some of these men, who are very aware of how a barrage of innocent racial microaggressions can affect your entire being, don’t see the connection between those and how a daily avalanche of “Hey beautiful. Lemme talk to you.” and “Why don’t you smile for me?” can add up and create a general sense of danger. There are few analogies more perfect than that one — this is seriously some Fisher-Price, My First Analogy type shit — but they’re still unable or unwilling to see it.

If you are one of those people, and you’re reading this equipped with the “So, you’re saying I should just never approach a woman?” rebuttal, let me answer that question for you: Yes. I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s exactly what I’m saying. If you’re not trolling — you are, but I’ll play along — and you honestly don’t know how and when to approach a woman without making her feel unsafe, you shouldn’t approach any women until you figure that out. The world will be fine with your (hopefully temporary) removal from the dating game.

And, while you’re sitting at home, I suggest you listen to some stories. My wife has some. As does my cousin. You can find others on Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr and the comments section here. If that doesn’t work, ask a friend or family member. Maybe a coworker you’re cool with. And, if so inclined, ask me, and I’ll tell you about the time I walked behind my wife and our friend for three minutes and became so disturbed by all of the unsolicited attention they received that I jogged to catch up to them because I didn’t want to have to fight someone.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Ricky said a lot of what I was thinking in terms of the racial dynamics. Meanwhile, I’m going to ask a loaded question. When was the last time any White man with social status got nailed for any sort of $exual aggression, ranging from street harassment all the way up to and including r@pe. Think about that stuff for a moment.

    In a f*cked up but real sort of way, I think the brothers complaining about this are talking about intersectionality but they O.E.N.O. In other words, they get that they, as Black and Latin men, are going to be nailed for street harassment more than some well-off White guy. Heck, I’ve seen situations where White guys with money got away with street harassment that I know that if I would have done it, I might have f*cked around and caught a case.

    Now, this does not deny the reality of street harassment. It’s real, and I’ve seen it with my own two eyes. Are there some idiots among the men and women in this debate? Definitely. But it’s a bad thing, and making women uncomfortable because they display female secondary $exual characteristics is a Bad Thing.

    In a roundabout way, this is an argument for teaching post-structuralism and gender studies on a wide basis. I think that a lot of the brothers are hitting on something, but don’t have the language to articulate it. If we want to stop $exual aggression performed by men, we need to stop all $exual aggression by ALL men, not just the ones low enough in status to punish. As hated as his name is around these parts (and as jacked up as his approach could be), I think Obsidian was onto something about the racial and class aspects of the anti-street harassment movement. I just hope that we don’t let our reasonable demand to keep women safe end up being the vehicle for elitist BS.

    • Ughh…how I hate the postmodernists.

      The problem isn’t the $exual aggression as much as the solutions being suggested, which by default requires a certain sense of dehumanization. For example, ihollaback has been around for quite some time, I heard about it years ago maybe in 2010. What it was, was basically a site where many women would take pictures of guys they considered were $exually harassing them and put it online and then tell the story of what happened. In most cases, the women actually asked the men if they could take their pictures, and the men would consent often smiling …umm does that indicate what you are referring to as “$exual aggression?” I mean if aggression was the intent why not capitalize instead of posing and smiling for the camera.

      It is true, if you look at stories, that you will find some of these interactions leading to aggressions, and if you take those as the measure and the ultimate consequence of most cases of what is considered $exual harassment, then yeah, something must be done and power must be accumulated to do it. So you say hmm, “Men should not approach women on the street period.” That means that courting should be or has to be standardized. How will that be reinforced…by education. What will be the consequence for those who don’t maintain that standard of procedure: ostracism or legal action. The simple fact is when you embrace a narrative, where every argument is aimed to victimize yourself or your group and reconstruct it around a system aimed to dehumanize you, your solution is going to be fight fire with fire, in this case, dehumanization by dehumanization, which obviously will never lead to solutions, but will always guarantee you have followers and enemies to boot.

      • Also, another thing that I think needs to be brought up is how different classes, races, ethnic groups, etc., interact with each other way more than they did in the past. Every group has their rules and regulations for dealing with the opposite $ex: what’s OK, what’s wrong and what’s questionable.

        The reason I bring this up is because with all the discussion about street harassment, Yes Means Yes and all that, someone put me on to the writings of Katie Roiphe, who wrote about this the first time date r@pe became a topic of discussion in the early 90s. One of the thing she mentioned is that all of these concerns started popping up right around the time a lot of elite institutions such as the Ivies, White shoes law firms, Wall Street and the like became open to the larger society as opposed to a particular social class. I’m wondering if all of this controversy is code for fear of social change. After all, if someone new is around your circle, you have no clue if they play by the same social rules as you do, and if their rules might be a violation to yours. While a grand total of zero societies are OK with $exual assault, it’s clear that what’s acceptable differs. Therein lies the problem.

        • I think class may play a part, but to me it all stems from a desire for power.

          When people want to reshape how human beings interact, regardless of how benevolent their desires might be, it requires that they attain more power to do so. It could be by organizing a bunch of people (stick vs bundle of sticks basically), rhetoric/oratory, religion, propaganda the list goes on. But at the core, it’s about gaining power. To postmodernists, every aspect of society is a power struggle and will forever be so, which is why we have so many arguments about power, without using the term power when we talk about these issues. And to postmodernists, as long as the fight for power is for those who are oppressed, anything goes and is fair game.

          Crimes do occur, each and everyday. People get murdered, people get robbed, but we assign such crimes to individuals. We might say a culture encourages such behaviors, or that they are aided by poverty or other social ailments, but ultimately a criminal is a criminal, and made the choice to be one, since it is not like everyone under the same circumstances is predetermined to perform the same act. This is why there are no laws that have been put on the books, where you can be accused of murder and robbery, and you have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you didn’t. We’re not trying to change ourselves and everyone else, in order to reduce crime.

          However, in these narratives of gender and oppression, the men do not make choices but are programmed to do what they do by the patriarchal system, which every man contributes to one way or the other, simply by existing. It might not be directly, but hey, you like pr0n right, that means you like to objectify…all things considered intersectionally, your objectification in a convoluted way contributes to that man who killed a girl just because she didn’t give him her number while they were walking on the street. And since it is a societal problem and not an individual one, the treatment must be grandiose in it’s execution. Minds must be changed, laws must be passed, groups must be dehumanized and controlled…how else could this not be the case?

          When the primary desire is power, context is irrelevant. Every calamity is a weapon to reach an end.

  • JAYmatic

    So……let women engage the men on the street…..men shouldnt engage them. It ain’t worth it. But then, when a woman (a stranger) says something to you, then as per the most recent events, then that’s harrassment also. So now, where are we?

    • Looking online for a date. :)

    • Asiyah

      You said it: it’s harassment also. The end.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    My wife just did a research project on microaggressions for her psychology class; sometimes the microaggressions (like my pic below) are subtle but they are there. My first lesson on microaggressions came at Freaknic; watching women get treated and handled like they were on a bus in India gave me pause and caused me to evaluate my approach.

    • I’ve seen videos from black bike week that only lead to head-scratching, disgust, and questions.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        I used to work in the photo lab at Eckerd and cats would get vexed that we wouldn’t develop their film. I was like dude I don’t work for Vivid!

        • How did they not know that you couldn’t develop that?

        • Val

          Wow, Eckerd Drugs. I haven’t heard that name since I left the South.

      • I’ve seen that live and in person in 2007. Like these people must have jobs if they can afford to trek out of state to do this, right? Sway doesn’t have the answers!

        • Even if I were into bikes I just couldn’t see myself having a good time in that environment.

  • Pretty much. Theres so many other ways to reach out and meet women but let stay at home son twitter they are being sentenced to a life of solitude because they arent countenanced the right to speak to strangers on the street. Which to my knowledge is not a venue, most people dont hang in the street they are on their way to or from somewhere.

  • kayleb

    Thanks for writing this Damon. As myself (black, woman) the racial aspect of the video wasn’t the first thing that struck me, the nuisance of most of it and then alert did. It is horrible that she can’t walk down the street in peace, unbothered AND it’s problematic that only black and brown men are featured prominently.Too often people want it to be one way, but it’s the other way. My question and one I’ve entertained from non-trolling guys is what is the solution?

    • Create socially acceptable contexts where it is acceptable to talk to women in a flirtatious or $exual manner. Failing that, either consider lesbianism or invent in Hitachi stock.

      • Like school….online…..mixers….meetups….clubs…

        • No, maybe, no, no and no. Unless the context is at the very least implicitly $exual, I don’t bother. Too many mixed intentions. Think airplane signalling.

        • A great many women have said they do not like being approached there as well.

        • tgtaggie

          Something wrong If a woman doesn’t want to be approached at a singles mixer

          • Sometimes shes just not feeling you.. the other thing people dont accept.

            • tgtaggie

              Hence, the reason why I don’t approach. I’m not built for modern dating. Fear of rejection is a beast.

            • Asiyah

              lol basically

        • Meridian

          This is what I was looking for. There’s environments/settings where it’s appropriate to approach women. School means you know the guy or are familiar with him meaning there’s a comfort zone there. Online means you’ve likely interacted with him daily for months and months and have established a decent foundation. Mixers/clubs mean you’re loosened up and open to having fun. Meetups are just a regular ole good time to potentially click with someone and see where it goes.
          That still leaves HOW you approach women and engage with them though. As a woman, you don’t wanna be accosted in those settings either but those are good environments to do a soft approach in.

      • The only possible solution, which is logical and is likely to be suggested, requires some dehumanization. In other words, courting has to be standardized by law. This is why when it all comes down to it, the end of all these discussions is similar to a “Yes means Yes” law.

        • The funny thing is that I’m a fan of Yes Means Yes as a personal standard, but against it as a basis for law, particularly how its proponents put it out there. They’re trying to say that body language or actions can be used as a sign of affirmative consent. All it takes is a few good lawyers, and that accepting body language will have you Up North just in time for Kay Slay’s latest mix tape to make it to your mail box along with commisary money.

          • Canceled.

          • Yes means Yes, still requires you to have $ex like a robot, plain and simple aka dehumanization. “If..then..else” lol. Which is also why it has to be a law. The people who supported it were pretty upfront, they said the law would encourage more women to come out in cases of $exual assault…which is true. When the legal burden of proof is on the accused, then there’s going to be a huge increase in accusations, whether they be baseless or not.

            • Personally, in a world where r@pe kits can’t get tested, and police can’t question victims without traumatizing them and not getting important info, there are way more important fish to fry than what’s going on with college campuses. But that’s just me.

    • tgtaggie

      Non-tolling dude here: I think one of the bigger problems (in our black and brown community) is that we encourage dudes (from tv, internet and family) to view, treat women as commodities and that women enjoy unwanted attention. Irregardless if she has emotions and etc. And if that attention isn’t reciprocated the guy is entitled to say something disparaging.

      I honestly don’t know how to fix that. But I always treat women the way I want to be treated. I don’t like attention from random folks so why would I push up on you like that.

      • Lisa Harris

        We have to fix that with future generations. We have to teach our sons differently and we have to take them out of churches with sexist teaching, we have to take them out of organizations that teach sexism, we have to tell sexist relatives to stop talking that foolishness around our kids. We have to have open discussions with our kids about the sexism in their entertainment. We have to tell them what sexual harassment is and tell them not to do that shit. Over time, things change when we teach our kids better.

  • Val

    First, I don’t think the racial aspect of this video should be ignored. I don’t know the breakdown of harassment by men by race but I know that White men do harass women on the street. They’ve harassed me on many, many occasions starting when I was an adolescent.

    As for harassment in general. Street harassment like common racial harassment is meant to enforce a social structure. Racists want to remind Black folks and other POC that we are less than in their eyes and in the eyes of White Supremacy/ society-at-large.

    Men on the street want to remind women that we are inferior in his eyes and in this patriarchal society.

    The racist and the street harasser serve the purpose of enforcing the status quo on its most basic level. Therefore it’s probably not going to be possible to stop street harassment by convincing men on the street to stop just as it has not really been possible to convince your basic low level racist to stop on his or her own.

    More likely the solution or rather the beginnings of a solution is to make it socially unacceptable to harass women on the street. This won’t completely stop it just as racism being much less acceptable hasn’t stopped racism. But, it has made many racists outsiders and in some cases pariahs rather than members in good standing of polite society. Which is a move in the right direction.

    Hopefully street harassment can be lessened too by making harassers pariahs as well. But, that once again leads us back to the discussion of what men, racially, are the poster children for street harassment. If it’s only Men of Color then that’s going to be counter-productive.

    Sigh. There are so many layers to this ish.

    • You nailed the layers to this. My gut feeling is that things are starting to trend in the direction of the old Lynch movement, where it was only Black men who were r@ping chicks, so of COURSE the Black side of town just HAS to be burned to the ground. I hope for some nuance at least in terms of stopping this phenomenon.

      • LMNOP

        You know what’s funny though? I’m a white woman and I generally hope to avoid finding myself in any kind of vulnerable situation with men I don’t know, but if that did happen I would feel much more comfortable if it was a black man than a white or hispanic man, because I think I would be much less likely to get raped, precisely because of this dynamic and it’s history.

    • Meridian

      Yeah, I think this is pretty much it. I don’t know if that will catch on when speaking about it on a societal level but I do think communities can make racists and harassers outsiders. Street harassers don’t need a racial poster child because all races of men do it. If aggression towards women is done than you push that person out until they work out their issues. That isn’t race specific. Racism is, obviously. If anyone participates in racist micro-aggressions or even openly blatant ones, you push them out and make them an outsider. It’s a sound solution to me and if it happened in enough communities, over time, it would become the norm to exist without them or such behaviors.

    • menajeanmaehightower

      “But, that once again leads us back to the discussion of what men,
      racially, are the poster children for street harassment. If it’s only
      Men of Color then that’s going to be counter-productive. Sigh. There are so many layers to this ish.” Talk about it. Layers upon layers.

    • Pinks

      And then you got ninjas saying “it’s not harassment. no one touched her or physically harmed her.” BRUH.

  • Rachmo

    So can we all acknowledge that hollering on the street doesn’t work and just cut it out?

    • It could all be so simple….

      • Rachmo

        I’m just saying. I rarely shoot down/ignore a man in a bar/club/coffeeshop/grocery store/etc. etc. But alone on the street with Stranger Danger Steven? Yeah I’m going to keep it moving.

        • Its just inefficient to me, yes i might get a number but more likely even if im nice or shes attracted to me like i said earlier either she or i are out and about for reasons other than this meeting

        • Bullsh1t. I’m sorry. Unless it’s the Montgomery County freakoff meet-and-greet, or you let me know in no uncertain terms that you want the D, I’m treating you like a potential accusatory witness. No thank you!

          • Rachmo

            Yeah but Todd no shade but you don’t seem to like women very much. So we wouldn’t be chit chatting no how.

            • I like women who like me. That’s how I look at things. :)

              • Rachmo

                I mean I’m just keeping it 100. Most dudes that are chatting me up in these public and well lit venues are confident and relaxed. Dudes who come off as not liking women I can’t give too much rhythm.

            • tgtaggie

              lol….

              • Rachmo

                Okay it was a little shady

        • menajeanmaehightower

          THIS!!!!! Of all the places to say hello!! Come on.

    • Epsilonicus

      It ain’t that simple

      • Rachmo

        Why not? Why must one holler on the street?

        • Epsilonicus

          The idea that hollering on the street doesn’t work is an incomplete one. In a few cases it does work. What women do not see from a male perspective is this: we feel dating is like baseball. You batting .300, you feel like a winner. And while a random holler on the street is like batting .150, for some dudes, a win is a win is a win.

          Just like folks are saying elsewhere, its hard to police and get rid of if people have some sort of success with it.

          • Val

            “we feel dating is like baseball…”

            But why are you making your ‘batting average’ my problem? That’s the point. It’s not some one sided thing here, we are being subjected to this on a daily, hourly and sometimes minute by minute basis.

            • Epsilonicus

              Ask the guys who do it.

            • Meridian

              Exactly.

            • Rachmo

              I really can’t with this argument and baseball and what not. Just stop. Easy peasy.

              • Epsilonicus

                No one is saying it is ok. What I am saying is that is why guys continue to do it. And to use the argument to stop bc it is ineffective is actually an ineffective argument to use.

                Thats why Todd’s argument below about consent is so strong. There is no denying it.

                • Rachmo

                  I’m not interested in why though. Just stop. That’s it.

                  Typed save too quick. There is no physical reason why a dude can’t stop hollering. All this psychological stutff. No just cut it out.

                  • Meridian

                    LMAO

                    • Rachmo

                      I’m saying though. The men of VSB just said upthread that they know how to act which they do. I get “the look” but hollering. I’m giving them some credit here they aren’t some animal that can’t control their words they are people.

                    • It’s the internet. We don’t know how the men of VSB actually act on the street. Some of them might be the worst offenders.

                    • Rachmo

                      I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt!

                    • Meridian

                      In my head, if VSB was a Café I visited in the real world on a daily basis, it would be the one place I would have a general sense of approval and safety with the men. I expect that all men are capable of this level of getting it but you’re right. Who knows how these guys are offline.

          • Rachmo

            Basically what Val said. I vote just cut it out.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    A question to the ladies

    @tgtaggie:disqus brought up an interesting situation that happened at GHOE this weekend where the guy catcalled and the women responded. The question is do women make it harder for women to set a standard of treatment when other women undermine the standard you are looking to create and maintain?

    By no means am I putting the fault at women’s feet; men have a role in this too. I just want to get the pulse of the room.

    • Val

      Anecdotal stories of a particular woman responding positively to street harassment do not change the general problem.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        But your response is a bit dismissive. There are women who do respond to this mess and success means that men will continue to employ because they see that they can be successful.

        • Val

          It is dismissive, on purpose. Strolling out one incident of a woman responding to what amounts to street harassment is like the NFL’s Washington franchise trotting out a few Native Americans to say that they aren’t bothered by the team’s nickname.

          It’s always possible to come up with an example that goes against the majority but does that make the majority’s argument any less valid? No, it doesn’t.

          • Sigma_Since 93

            Since it’s basketball season let’s use a basketball example:

            Teams practice a 3/4 / 1/2 shot in practice despite the percentages of hitting said shot. If teams didn’t make the shot coaches wouldn’t spend so much time practicing taking the shot.

            You and I can count more than one example of where catcalling has ruled the day. My question still has validity.

            • Val

              So, you’re saying that because something works 1% of the time we can therefore invalidate the 99% of the time when it does not work?

              • Sigma_Since 93

                No. What I’m saying is if we are looking for 100% cooperation / compliance, what is an effective means to address the 1%?

                Let’s also be mindful that just because something has a 1% success rate doesn’t diminish people from participating (see the Powerball)

                • That last sentence is the point. If we can’t stop people from going BANKRUPT on something they know they probably can’t win because A Dollar and a Dream, what’s to stop someone from taking a dating chance in that same vein. This isn’t endorsing those decisions as much as acknowledging that people are DUMB.

                • Meridian

                  There isn’t going to be 100% compliance or cooperation because people are human and will respond how they see fit to. The 1% is irrelevant when 99% of women are all saying no, or stop. The most effective thing to do is to stop using bottom feeder tactics in the hopes it’ll work out when it doesn’t 99% of the time. Don’t men pride themselves on being logical? That doesn’t make logical sense. Adjust your approach.

                  • Sigma_Since 93

                    We are back at the beginning. If we are going to be men and women of standard, we need to hold each other accountable. I was told yesterday in these e streets that shame compliance doesn’t work but it was effective back when we cared about being a credit to the race. If we know better let’s do better; don’t be the weak link.

                    The resolution cuts both ways, men must hold men accountable for not using such low brow tactics and women must hold women accountable for not feeding into them. Catcalls would die a quick death if it were shown that they do not work at all.

                    • Meridian

                      For the most part, I agree with this. The problem is it easily turns into bassackwards males reading it into as it’s okay to keep doing it because 1% of women will respond positively to it. I’m not going to go along with something that I know majority of dudes will translate as permission to keep doing stuff like this. Men should hold men accountable regardless of the behavior of women who respond to it.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      “The problem is it easily turns into bassackwards males reading it into
                      as it’s okay to keep doing it because 1% of women will respond
                      positively”

                      Here’s the challenge with the statement:

                      1. the interactions don’t all happen at once or in the same location – yeah the 20 / 30 successful incidents at my son’s high school, high schools, in the city / state / US, colleges, clubs, etc. account for 1% but my son just saw 30 dudes win which is more than 1% in the population that he interacts with daily. My pops is telling me to be this man of standard and the only standard I’m keeping is being single. #theparentalstruggleensues

                      2. teens and adult women and men still are active participants – again 1% in total but you break the data down and the percentages make it attractive to engage.

                    • Meridian

                      Let me make sure I’m getting what you’re saying here. I’M saying that out of 100 women 99 of them say “don’t street harass me” and will reject the males who do it. 1 will respond positively to it. From the MALE perspective they see 30 guys try to get at females and 20 of them are successful so they feel greenlit to continue in that.

                      That…doesn’t make sense to me. How is possible for that to exist at the same time? I don’t think 99 out 100 women not wanting such things to happens is negated by 30 males doing it anyway and forcing women to accept them. I don’t even think a woman accepting is indicative of a positive reaction. It’s like holding someone at gunpoint and considering it positive they complied with you. It’s still inherently wrong.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      “From the MALE perspective they see 30 guys try to get at females and 20
                      of them are successful so they feel greenlit to continue in that.”

                      If my math is wrong 20/30 is 66.7% As a FEMALE, you would balk at engaging in behavior that gave you better than a 50% success rate in your little microcosim???? Let’s flip the example to a more woman specific example:

                      You’re flat chested; I’ve got more chest than you. You’ve been told to be a woman of standard because you is kind, you is smart. You see other girls who pad their bras increase the male attention they get. You know the attention wanes once the truth is discovered. Given the 66.7% attention success rate in your fishbowl, you’re saying padding your bra isn’t a viable (not the goto) option???

                    • Meridian

                      I think the issue here is that males look at it from the perspective of 67% success rate and not the fact that I just equated it to being held at gunpoint and complying out of fear and intimidation. To have blatantly ignored the experience and effect on women makes all 30 men seem s*xually abusive, so yes. I’m balking. If 99 women say no and 20 of them eventually give in, it’s still a sickness to not address the fact that it all started with no or stop. That’s disgusting to defend or justify that. Men need to remove their personal motivations to nut from it and look at it outside of that haze.

                      No. It isn’t. If I was raised to be a woman of standard I wouldn’t want that kind of attention in the first place. A man who wanted something respectable with me wouldn’t interact with me on the basis of my chest size. It would become irrelevant to me and I would have no need to pad my bra.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      Although you don’t look at it in that context, there are men and women who look at the success rate and engage in questionable behavior.

                      I deal with this daily with my son; I can see the forest from the trees he can’t. He can’t see being a man of standard as winning because the dudes who are not young men of standard appear to be winning in his narrow world. Paraphrasing Chris Rock, I hate catcalls but I understand why they would be used.

                      So again we go back to the beginning. Val aka my wingwoman asked the question

                      “So, you’re saying that because something works 1% of the time we can
                      therefore invalidate the 99% of the time when it does not work?”

                      My response is for until we can get 100% compliance, something you said couldn’t be obtained, we will have this issue. When you dive into the numbers, I can see why a man, in this instance, may utilize the tactic but I don’t condone it. It will take accountability by both genders to promote change.

                    • Meridian

                      It doesn’t take 100% compliance to teach young boys and other men to stop doing these types of things. Instead of accepting that perspective of percentages you should put more energy into emphasizing the importance of respecting the experience of the woman. The accountability of men isn’t dependent on the other gender. Hold yourselves and each other accountable. Reframe your son’s ideal of what success with women is.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      “It doesn’t take 100% compliance to teach young boys and other men to stop doing these types of things.”

                      So if a young man doesn’t have someone to teach him this where’s he getting this? Who’s correcting him when he’s out of line? More importantly, does the young man / man respect the person who’s correcting him? If it were that simple, sagging would not be a problem.

                      I’m not teaching percentages, I’m looking at things from a ground zero. I’ll say it until I’m blue in the face, simply because I empathize with the youth who see this as the formula based upon what they see (who become men) I don’t condone it.

                    • Meridian

                      Do you think young boys have a lack of guidance on this?
                      Do you know men who know better than to subject women to such things?
                      Do you in and yourself know better than to do this?
                      What are you doing in your community to make sure younger males have such a presence?

                      You shouldn’t be empathizing with a mass of people who are prone to violence and abuse of women. You should be empathizing with the victims who will eventually be subjected to it.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      Do you think young boys have a lack of guidance on this? – Yup

                      Do you know men who know better than to subject women to such things? – Yup Too few of them to meet the demand

                      Do you in and yourself know better than to do this? – Yup. Ive stated this

                      What are you doing in your community to make sure younger males have such a presence? – If you’ve read any of my posts, you I detail the steps I take in raising my two sons and the young men who are open to my advice.

                      You telling me not to empathize with a young man who thinks he has a better chance of getting a young lady’s attention by saying hey gurl is like me telling you not to empathize with a young woman who has to sell drugs to support herself / siblings because she’s poisoning the community is foolish.

                      I’m having trouble with the fact you continue to omit hearing / understanding when I say I don’t condone it.

                    • Meridian

                      Because simply not condoning something isn’t actively making sure it doesn’t happen around you. Telling you to not empathize with offenders but with the people they will eventually harm is profound.

                      “Do you know men who know better than to subject women to such things? – Yup Too few of them to meet the demand”

                      How many young males can one man reach?

                      “What are you doing in your community to make sure younger males have such a presence? – If you’ve read any of my posts, you I detail the steps I take in raising my two sons and the young men who are open to my advice.”

                      Your sons, yes. Absolutely. How are you specifically reaching out to other males though?

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      I mentor the young men that align themselves with my sons, mentor via my fraternity, my church, and volunteer with 100 Black Men. There are young men on waiting lists WAITING for men to participate.

                      I hope the conversations resonate but there are still so many others that need someone and there’s no one there.

                    • Meridian

                      That’s…kind of extremely dope. Why don’t more men do this? It would be completely effective.

                    • afronica

                      I was wondering how long it would take us to get to blaming the victim. Took longer than I thought, so I guess that’s something.

                      Let’s say catcalling works 25% of the time, so that there is some real incentive for doing it.

                      Jim Crow laws worked 100% of the time. Lynching did too. Racial discrimination of all kinds continues to work well to keep money, power, status and the means to a decent life out of the hands of some and firmly in the hands of others.

                      It works, right, so what’s the argument for ending it?

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      0_O

                      Who’s victim blaming??? When did I ever blame the women?? So holding a woman accountable for not being receptive to catcalls which would alter the behavior or men and women is name calling???

                      I guess when I said men must hold other men accountable is men bashing. SMH

                    • Wild Cougar

                      Holding women accountable for being receptive to catcalls…… amounts to what? They are responsible for the men making the catcalls?

                      x(n-y) = Women are responsible for male behavior because men are derivative of women, they do not have autonomy.

                      solve for x-Catcalling is women’s fault.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      Coming at it from a different prospective. If women have their annual retreat and say we resolve to be treated as ladies. We will shut down these ninjas that call us out of character. If all women held true, any dude that tried would be shut down and forced to take another approach. Young girls would model the desired behavior and the cycle would continue. The strong women would help the weak women aka iron sharpening iron and the cycle would continue.

                      Men hold their annual retreat and say we are men of standard; we will engage our queens as such. Young men would model the adult men and the cycle would continue. The strong men would help the weak men aka iron sharpening iron and the cycle would continue.

                      You call it me blaming the woman, I call it woman crushing the notion that he can be successful using that line. In my example, the retreats have already happened.

                    • Wild Cougar

                      Why is it incumbent upon us to change your behavior?

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      WC you know like I know women are the judge and jury; we engage in certain activity to gain your favor. If proven that a method is not successful, we adapt. If a method brings results some of the time, you hold on to it.

                      You’ve got a good right cross; simply because your opponent successfully defends the cross in round 1 doesn’t mean that you abandon it in round 2. After a few fights and the cross in not effective, you would change up would you not? Shutting him down would cause him to adapt.

                    • Wild Cougar

                      So basically men are subhuman and dependent on women to direct their actions.

                      OK.

                      I’ll just consider your obtuseness a product of that.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      In matters where we are vying for your attention yes. All other matters no.

                    • Wild Cougar

                      Blaming the victim. You can dress it up and break it down and tell it in all kinda respectful sounding ways. Its blaming the victim. And I’ve heard a thousand different ways men try to make women responsible for their behavior if I’ve heard one. I guess some men are allergic to being responsible for their own.

                    • Meridian

                      This was lowkey hilarious. I don’t see a problem with this inherently but I know that it lends itself to becoming a man justifying his wrong actions simply because someone will eventually respond to it in a positive manner. That’s my problem. The male retreat should happen just because it needs to and it doesn’t matter what women do or how they respond. If you didn’t do the behavior in the first place there wouldn’t be anything to respond to.

                    • Sigma_Since 93

                      “I know that it lends itself to becoming a man justifying his wrong
                      actions simply because someone will eventually respond to it in a
                      positive manner.”

                      You do acknowledge the converse is also true????

                      Riddle me this:

                      Do you have kids?
                      If so when you affirm an action how does the child respond in the future?

                      What’s the difference with a man or a woman?

                    • Meridian

                      The converse would be, women justifying overt s*xual behavior because it earns them male attention. That’s true. 20 women out of 100 responding positively to inappropriate male behavior sounds like a problem. Yes.

                      “What’s the difference with a man or a woman?”

                      We’re all adults. We know right from wrong even if we don’t like it or find it inconvenient.

                    • Meridian

                      I don’t think Sigma in and of himself was victim blaming. I KNOW males reading what he’s saying will go down that route though which is what makes it problematic.

                    • afronica

                      I’ve been reading Sigma’s comments for about three years. We’ll have to agree to disagree on what he meant.

                    • Meridian

                      Point taken.

                    • uNk

                      Your last paragraph has me thinking of the major problem as to why that 1% even happens. Looks like another layer of having to deal with self-esteem issues and the upliftment of all women, including those just not that attractive.
                      Some women may not want to find their s/o through cat calling but some take what they can get, and some men take that as it working…just a thought

          • I see your point, but it would be more valid if, to take your example, people occasionally saw White people in their neighborhood call their Native American friends that name. It’s one thing to see it on TV, another to see it on your block.

            • Val

              But it’s really not a difficult concept to understand. I think you would agree that most of the people who say they don’t get it, don’t want to get it. And, they don’t care to get it because they feel they have something to lose if they do.

              • I’m not saying you’re wrong. I’m changing the frame of reference. There’s a huge difference between what a famous person does on TV and the dumb ish people do in your neighborhood. Not saying that there isn’t anything sexist that works on the national level like that, but I prefer to focus on tools for the job at hand.

      • tgtaggie

        I agree with you. And it doesn’t change the problem. Would I catcalled a girl to get her attention? I highly doubt it and I would probably fail at it spectacularly.

        I have 3 sisters and one currently in college and one in high school. Hearing their stories reaffirm my belief that majority of women do not want unwanted attention. If she is interested, she will let you know.

    • Personally i think its lazy; its like women who blame heauxs for the reason men dont date and just chill.

      • It’s funny you say that, because heauxs and street harassers seem to be on the same wavelength in a jacked up way. LOL

    • Lisa Harris

      The fact that some women respond should not stop men from raising the standard of their own behavior. A man should want to be polite and civilized, no matter what others do. Each person should be responsible for their own behavior.

    • Women who engage in catcalling do make it harder for women who aren’t trying to be bothered. However, I think that there will always be women who are looking to engage with those kinds of men because they enjoy the attention that they probably don’t get otherwise because all they have to offer is their bodies and not much more outside of coitus.

  • Rachmo

    Anecdotal story from the boo: So last night I was in the car with the bf. He was telling me that there’s this older creepy dude who waits at his bus stop and is always making inappropriate comments about women walking by. Yesterday he tried to get bae to join in and he was like “um no that’s really uncomfortable I’m not into that.” The guy then flipped out on bae like “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?” so my bf walked away.

    I thought it was crazy how the boo was being peer pressured as a grown man into yelling at chicks on the street. Like he was less of a man for not wanting to make a chick nervous. He has a very attractive sister and has seen all of this play out several times with her. Watching the way that men have talked to her has shaped his thinking and he just can’t get down with the hollering thing despite his Blanish roots. My comment was a whole lot of nothing but it’s my two cents.

    • Sigma_Since 93

      It puts the Blackish episode where the men state at booty in a whole different context.

      • Rachmo

        In no way, shape, or form, did I imply he was not staring at the booty. I know him and there’s a good chance there was a quick glance haha. #stillblack

        • Sigma_Since 93

          No what I meant is that the glance is like the gateway. The glance + the DANG + the facial expression. When do the elements morph into Hey gurl let me drink your bathwater?

          • Rachmo

            as @tgtaggie:disqus said the “look” seems more impulsive and reactionary so that’s a whatever. But the “HEY GIRL” come ooonnnn I’m going to give ya’ll more credit. You can control it.

            • I definitely agree. People look at eye-catching things all the time, no matter what they are. But generally, a person can watch what they say.

            • tgtaggie

              I hardly ever act on impulse. I may look 99.9% of the time tho. B/c that Hey Girl let me holla only works about:

              http://youtu.be/pjvQFtlNQ-M

          • Rachmo

            Also not bathwater haha

          • panamajackson

            This wasn’t supposed to make me laugh, but it did.

            • Rachmo

              Right. This is a serious discussion and I giggled. Not cool.

            • Meridian

              Word, I laughed too. I probably wouldn’t if a total stranger said it TO me though.

        • tgtaggie

          Its a natural reaction. lol. A dude always have to appreciate God’s work.

          • Rachmo

            Yeah I mean I do the “look” myself.

            • PhlyyPhree

              I look all the damn time. It is why God gave me eyes. I look left, I look right, I look up and I’ll be damned if I don’t look down.
              What I don’t do is take that look and think it gives me the right to walk over and grab….even though somtimes I’d like to.

      • Meridian

        Eeeeh. Staring at the booty is all well and dandy. I’m fine as h*ll. Look all you want, fantasize, imagine what it’s like. Talk amongst yourselves about the booty. Idc. It’s your right to admire me.

        The moment you go from silently appreciating me/talking about the vulgar stuff with your boys to subjecting me to it and your impulses, that’s when it’s wrong. I don’t wanna interact with a man on that level and especially when I don’t know you.

        • Amazonian Midget

          I agree with this message.

        • Kelsey

          I don’t know. I’ve often walked past a dude and out of my peripheral, see him swerve his head around, eyes glued to my backside like a gorilla in heat. I have to tell you, it feels violating and insulting that you really think I’m that stupid that I can’t see you staring at my ass without a touch of shame.

    • Val

      Actually, Rach, this is a great comment because it gives an example of how street harassment is passed down between generations of men and how much peer pressure is involved as well.

      • Rachmo

        He really kirked out on him. I mean lucky my dude’s a grown up so he could pay him no mind. But if he was some kid jeez.

        • IcePrincess

          Smfh @ how ignorant that bus stop creep is

  • I remember a time, from my personal experience, and I know this to be true…

    Just kidding, I’m not that “special” ;-)

    Lissen, I have long ago said the Serenity Prayer over this Street Harassment $h!t. I’m not gonna debate and try to make the “vocal majority” understand what it feels like to walk out your door every day and worry about being treated as less than human…

    …but wait. But you DO.

    Which means you are being willfully @$$hole-ish about it. Which means there’s no point trying to redefine “insanity” by constantly re-explaining it. So I just focus on what EYE, as a woman can do. For me, that is helping out when I see it. I know my brand of humor works in SH situations so when I can, I diffuse. For me this is a big deal, because as most women do, when we see it happening to another woman we tend to run along and thank the heavens it wasn’t us this time. Because of how I’m built, does this mean I may not have energy for other fights? Sure, you may not see me at as many marches. BUT to be honest, if the “vocal majority” is so hellbent on defending a concept that could potentially alienate every woman of color in their vicinity- PERMANENTLY-I’m just gonna assume they apparently have all the support they already need. I’m old. I’ve been harassed on the street for 25 years. At this point, I’m all about my own personal peace.

    • JoJoLove

      Funny you said this. I too am a small built woman and I hate
      the street harassment as well.

      One day after work my godmother and I were getting on the
      green line train at L’Enfant Plaza and this dude approaches her trying to holler and when she didn’t react he starts
      calling her all kinds of names, as other grown men looked on. I was so scared and didn’t know what to do. My
      first reaction was to act crazier than him. So I told him to “Back the Fcuk Up
      before he get knocked the Fcuk Out”. He did just that and then the grown men
      that were looking on came to assist. Instead of stepping in when it first went
      down. My heart was racing for the next 20 minutes. I laugh now at how I reacted
      but at the time it was oooh so scary situation.

      • Epsilonicus

        Diffusion of responsibility is the effect this demonstrated

      • That reminds me of the story a commenter told on another blog of when she was harassed. Other men looked on as the man aggressively followed, blocked off, grabbed her by her hair and told her “you don’t ignore me”. However she was legally armed, so guess what happened when she pulled out her gun? Of course, they came rushing in from everywhere to plead with her, telling her we “don’t need another BM hurt/dead/ etc”. It’s exactly what I mean when I say I’m about my own peace. Clearly they have all the support they need.

More Like This