Street Harassment: The Black Girl’s Bat Mitzvah » VSB

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Street Harassment: The Black Girl’s Bat Mitzvah



Ask any Black woman you know, and she’ll probably tell you street harassment has happened to her. Ask any teenage Black girl you know, and she probably thinks it’s supposed to.

Street harassment, in its own sick way, was the way I figured out I wasn’t a little girl any more. Even though, at 15 years old, I was very much a child. It’s almost a rite of passage. The Black girl’s Bat Mitzvah.

If you’ve ever followed the conversations on Twitter, you’re probably pretty versed on what street harassment is. It’s when some mouth breathing asshole decides that a great way to get a woman’s attention is to honk his horn at her. Or make passes at her while she’s walking down the street minding her own damn business. Or physically stop her. Or call her a cunt when she doesn’t give him the response he wants. He “deserves.” Or worse.

There are, of course, levels to this shit. Some of these idiots are harmless. But — and fellas please pay attention — when it’s dark and/or you’re alone, it can be very hard to differentiate between harmless idiot and fucking criminal.

In high school, South Street was the place where aimless teenagers went to roam, um, aimlessly. And between the water ice spots, the cheesesteak stores, and the dotting of stores where flashy niggas could get Girbaud jeans, Guess denim sets, and whichever other much-beloved urban clown suits were popular then, there were lots of younger (and older) men around, circling like vultures.

“Mmm lemme get a lick of that ice cream, girl…”

“Damn, she got a fat ass!”

Et cetera and so forth.

When you’re 15, the shit is normal even when it makes you uncomfortable. If you’re skinny, or not the girl with the “big ass titties,” maybe you don’t receive the same attention. But — and this shows how truly warped things can be — sometimes you crave the validation that comes with such crudeness. Of course, I was young then. Very, very young. But, I’m being honest. And that’s fucking scary.

My crew and I each handled it a different way: I ignored and sometimes rolled my eyes or sucked my teeth to express my disgust. My friend Jenna offered a polite “No, thank you” as she power walked through the rancid pack of dudes. Lauren, the most outspoken one — which is saying something if you’ve met me — usually retorted with a quip of her own. All of these tactics have earned us a “WELL FUCK YOU, BITCH.” as we walked back to the car.

Embarrassing? Not as much as it was dangerous at times. There was the dude who so thirsted for a friend’s number that he wouldn’t move to let us out of parking spot until he got it. Whatever number she gave him, it was fake, and he dialed it almost immediately and started banging on the window when he realized he got got.

I thought about all of this today when en route to my beloved oasis, Whole Foods, conveniently located across the street from my building. Since becoming The Black Girl Who Lives In On The First Floor With The Big Hair in a building surrounded by old White folks that haven’t yet made their pilgrimage to Florida, I frequent the store around twice a week, throwing on something quick to head over and come right back, usually $40 short on my return.

It is with reverence and eyes bigger than my stomach that I approach the hot food bar. Surely, there are Blacks that prepare this food, for the macaroni and cheese, though lacking the crispiness on the corner edges, reigns on high on the nights where lazy dictates the culinary goings on in my home.

Today was no different from the others, and, to wit, it was hot as all the damns outside. Accordingly, I left my house in a loose fitting blouse, Levi’s cut-off shorts, a pair of socks, and Adidas slides. Whole Foods has become the adult equivalent of my college cafeteria, and I dressed the part.

The street was buzzing with rush-hour traffic and began to bottle neck because of the left-hand turn at the light. I walked briskly up the sidewalk, where there are few pedestrians. A car slowed down. A horn honked. I looked up to see where the noise came from — one of your dusty cousins. I left the store. I waited at the light. Again, honking. This time a car from the opposite side of the street. I gave him the finger. The car slowed down. And I panicked.

In that instant, I became 15 and vulnerable again. Not entirely sure what the heck to do if the chopper sprayed, or if he was crazy enough turn the car around. Because you can’t exactly run in no damn Adidas slides.

The car passed and so did the moment. Even though I was just across the street, I high-stepped back in the quiet solitude of my crib, wondering what the success rate is for that kind of thing.

And I locked my door.

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Maya Francis

Maya K. Francis is a culture writer and communications strategy consultant. When not holding down the Black Girl Beat for VSB, she is a weekly columnist for Philadelphia Magazine's "The Philly Post" and contributes to other digital publications including xoJane, Esquire, and Sometimes TV and radio producers are crazy enough to let her talk on-air, and she helped write a book once. She cites her mother and Whitley Gilbert as inspirations.

  • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

    WOO, this was poignant. So real.

    Black Girl’s Bar Mitzvah, indeed. Well put. I distinctly remember the first time my pinchable cheeks weren’t just the cute ones up top and I was curving out to be a young woman. Pretty sure “DAYUM TONJA YOU GOT A BIG BOOTY!” was when I realized I wasn’t one of the boys anymore. It’s an interesting dichotomy… when I was was well into my tomboy period, I got mistaken for a boy once… and it hurt me because at that point I wanted to be seen as a girl. And then when I WAS seen as a girl… I had to fight to be seen as human… instead of just a piece of booty meat. Huh. Guess that’s too much to ask for Black girls nowadays.

    • People can be simplistic as f*ck. The funny thing is that men will trip over themselves to become $exualized because so few men are. The entire $ex industry, from pr0n to strip clubs to pr0stitution, is built around that fundamental premise of men getting the opportunity to feel “hot”. If you turned out to most men and repeated your whole story, they’d kill their own mother to be seen the way you were seen, but they wouldn’t get why it’s a Bad Thing unless some (straight) dude in your spot sat them down and broke it down.

      It’s a version of the joke “everybody wants to be a ninja, but no one wants to be a ninja.”

      • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

        Pretty sure no man would “kill” to be followed home by a potential suitor just because they declined that potential suitor’s advances. Which what street harassment can include, it’s never as simple as someone thinking you’re “hot.” It’s someone thinking you’re hot, and believing they’re entitled to your entire essence because of that.

        • I think that’s his point, on face value they see affirmation from the opposite gender and flattery but what they don’t see is the entitlement that one feels for simply being nice to you for 5 minutes or because they themselves got a fresh cut and feel invincible. Just like white people want to be black and listen to hip hop and make jokes but when they are being pulled over for no reason and rejected at interviews, they don’t know what they signed on for.

          • Thanks for typing it so I didn’t have to. Keeping it real, unless you’re Lex Steele, Mandingo (the pr0n star, not the ethnic group) or James Deen, you ain’t getting your $exuality affirmed like that unless you’re coming off of that paper. I’m exaggerating for effect, but you get my point.

            • Wild Cougar

              Not true. I told a dude the other night that he had a secksi nose. It was straight, long and pointed and had round flared nostrils. I told him it reminded me of…..

              I was on Bourbon street and I had one of them boozy slushie drinks and there were a heck of a lot of secksi black men walking around so I had to say something to somebody or I was gonna end up licking some dudes face. For real and for true.

              • I know there are women like you out there, but you’re a small minority. Unless you volunteer your weekends to $exually validate dudes as a part of some charity, the larger point stands. LOL

              • Freebird

                “I was on Bourbon street and I had one of them boozy slushie drinks and there were a heck of a lot of secksi black men walking around so I had to say something to somebody or I was gonna end up licking some dudes face. For real and for true.”

                i am a fan of your honestly and frankness. i’d like to know how would you react to a man saying something like this?

                • Wild Cougar

                  If he did it like I did, politely tapping the guy on his forearm and saying “excuse me, you have a very sexy nose” I would giggle and say thank you.

          • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

            Yup. Agreed. Was extending off that point. My bad, I can see how that wasn’t clear.

            • Hakuna Mutata, just had to get Wellactuallian for a second

              • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

                #Wellactually… are you achin for some bacon or nah?

      • PivotTable

        Also important to point out that for straight men, tons of unwanted attention will likely never feel too threatening. Being followed by decent looking girl smaller than you isn’t going to make you feel like “shit… could go rapey quick…”

        Turn that woman into an aggressive Big Bertha type who’s bigger than him or a bulky gay man… that’s the level of discomfort women feel too often.

    • @Ms. Cheeks:
      To follow up on Mr. Todd’s point,, the vast majority of Black Men don’t get seen by Black Women AT ALL. And that’s despite their best efforts – and then only to be told to shutup, Man Up, stop being a b*tch a**, et al, and of course, my all time favorite – Life Ain’t Fair(TM). Of course, you’ll fiinally get “seen” when many of the very same ladies are now on the waning years of their attractiveness, and have decided to “give you a chance”. Oh, joy.

      See? There’s quite a bit of blame, to go round…


      • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

        And yet the vast majority of Black women choose Black Men as their first choice. But ok.

        • Rawtid

          this ish right here

        • You’re absolutely right. Here’s something I want you to chew on though, and this is something that transcends race. Do you realize how many guys get married without having their sexuality affirmed?

          • Maya K. Francis

            Can you clarify this, Todd? I wanna make sure I’m catching what you’re throwing.

            • Yoles

              *On tenterhooks*

            • I’ll explain this one by example, specifically my honeymoon in Vegas. Now, during this trip, my newly betrothed and myself happened upon a gentleman’s establishment. Now, most of what happens in Vegas stays there, but I can definitely relate this safely.

              After entering the place, we got a table, ordered a few drinks and looks around. Suddenly, you then wife tells me “I get it!” After asking what she meant, she replied “I get why men like strip clubs! It’s when men feel pretty!” I wrinkled my forehead a bit, then looked around. Granted, this is just entertainment so to speak, but I finally realized that in this particular context, the women are the ones flirting and chatting up the men, while the men get to feel wanted as a $exual beings. Then I realized how rare that scenario is outside of a $ex industry context. There are a lot of dudes who are married to women who, as much as they may get along, don’t look at them as $exual beings. If you have a healthy $ex drive, to have a part of yourself invalidated kills ones soul a bit.

              • Epsilonicus


              • Rachmo

                Heh. That’s a really interesting point. I honestly never thought about that.

              • Freebird

                damnit todd! ma n igga you are on fire!

                a friend of mine helped his boy dj an adult party a couple of weeks back. he is married and on the job but like many men he was interested in what was going on. he saw all kinds of stuff. but what he talked about most was how the women – free to do whatever without fear of judgement or attack – aggressively came on to him and propositioned him. they flirted with him heavily. in some cases he was hit on with more intensity after saying he is happily married (“what your wife got to do with me?” one lady joked) he is faithful and would not do anything but he admitted that the attention made him feel reaaaaaaaal good.

              • On a personal note, I’ve noticed this too, and I would be fine with that if it weren’t for the underlying fact of “why” the men are getting the attention (which hasn’t changed much once you walk out the door). Many men are tired of resource hounding like some women get tired of only being approached for their bodies.

                The need for validation is real though.

                • afronica

                  I’ve always wondered this about strip clubs. How can you really enjoy the attention when you know it’s only motivated by $$? I get enjoying the experience from a purely physical perspective – alcohol + eye candy + lap dances = liftoff.

                  I guess it’s no different psychologically from any other entertainment option. You pays your money, you suspends your disbelief, you gets your entertainment.

                  • Exactly! On that level, a strip club isn’t different from going to the movies or seeing a play or playing a video game. You know the action isn’t “really” happening, but you experience the emotions all the same.

                    • The “IMAX” experience costs tho LOL

                    • Kema

                      Ok… well outside of a strip club… what are other ways men have “their sexuality affirmed”? I’m also curious how men get married without that happening.

                    • Well, they could get a woman that just finds them hot, and that works just fine. What I will say is that it’s hit or miss with most men. There are some men who don’t think getting that kind of attention is possible, so they don’t even bother looking for it. There’s another group of men who believe that getting that kind of attention is a good thing. (Ironically, the last group ends up the thirstiest for attention in the long run.) It’s definitely a mixed bag.

                  • This is it pretty much. Some guys like to dream, but those establishments are set up to clean you out. I tend to skip it.

                    • Epsilonicus

                      You aint doing it right then. I tend to spend more at 7-11 afterwards than I do inside.

                    • Oh I do it right lol- I gets all the stank eye from the dancers, ’cause whatever they got I can enjoy for free and I know this. They just shimmy right along to the next sucker while I check out the rear view.

                    • afronica

                      That fits with what the couple of guys I’ve talked with about this say as well. They went to the tidday bar late high school through mid-twenties but then fell off. They still go sometimes with their cousin or friend who’s still into it, but they did the cost-benefit calc and decided to get out of the habit.

                      To anyone else reading, no shade implied if skrippas are your thing. If I can watch awful rom-coms with no shame, you can come home with t-shirts ruined by iridescent glitter and baby oil.

                    • Epsilonicus

                      The majority of men do not even go regularly. Most of the time its like a 2 time a year thing. If you going weekly though, there is some issues.

              • PivotTable

                Was reading an article in NY Times maybe? It was about straight men who wear full rubber suits made to look like “bombshell” women.

                They then walk around in these suits and revel in all of the catcalls they get from other men.

                They say they do it to feel wanted sexually and desired.

              • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

                I saw your question up there and I’m glad you expounded. Interesting, indeed.
                I’d have to think on that. Though I guess it has something to do with how sex is often matched with control. The one who often leads the way in expressing (physically or verbally) how sexy they find their mate are also seen as the one in control. Like, even in your example of the strip club, the stripper has sexual power/control in that moment.
                Taking away the “getting paid for it” aspect, I think society has a way of muddling that up for women (not being comfortable taking that role) and men (not being comfortable submitting to it).

      • h

        Your essay on black women’s attraction to thuggish men was excellent. The only thing I would add is that none of those rules apply when black women get with white guys. The dude could be as soft as a marshmallow with no swagger at all and she will still give it up. I’ve seen it too many times to count.

        • Wild Cougar

          Keep believing whatever helps you sleep at night.

        • @H Guest:
          Thanks! And, I competely agree with your point about (some) Black Women who get with White Men – they do indeed change the rules entirely, what is known as Price Discrimination in mating terms – essentially two differing sets of rules for two differing sets of suitors. In fact, Champ himself has noted this and said as much in the forum in the not too distant past, and Tommy Sotomayor has noted it as well, even going so far as to note books on the matter advising Black Women to change it up when gunning for a White Man. Quite interesting, indeed!

          AFBB is real.


          • blackphilo

            Not that you particularly care what I think, but your move to shorter-form comments, improved “tone,” and indifference to straight haters is rhetorically strong.

            • @BlackPhilo:
              Actually, I care quite a bit as to what you and number of others think – hence the changes you’ve seen. Thank you! There’s always room for improvement.


      • i don’t understand this.
        the vast majority of black men dont get seen by black women.

        you are really blaming a girl going through puberty getting accosted on the streets by a man old enough to be her father.

        eaux kay. no wonder adonis loves you.

        • Mari

          HOW SWAY?!?! Always relevant, especially in this case.

        • Tonja (aka Cheeks)

          His statement adds up like the Barbie that hates math, I swear.

  • Tia

    Thank you for this. So Real.

  • This is probably the most nuanced piece I’ve seen about street harassment. Too much of the debate is dominated by the crazies of both genders. You’ve managed to hit the muddled middle while not excusing street harassment. Great for you.

    Sidebar: I wish there was more of an attempt to educate dudes formally on how to approach women. Too many approaches on the street these days are either full a$$hole or dudes in fully OMG, OMG, OMG fear mode. If we can teach dudes to hit the moderate middle, we’d get the harmless idiots out of circulation and better spot the crazy dudes. The cynic in me thinks that the smoother dudes along with some women want to make it harder for men so they can corner the market, but that’s me.

    • Sahel

      Aha,this will never have a middle ground. It’s like if a guy respectfully steps up to a chick in his rookie days and gets blasted into oblivion and he resolves to never put a cat up on a pedestal and resorts to azzole function. The extremes will rule this across all races

      • It never will…..every discussion on it will start at well “if I was Idris it wouldnt be harassment” then it turns into a story of “well this one guy stalked me for two weeks”….its the song that doesn’t end….

        • Sahel

          Hic Svnt Dracones is what should be advised when this topic comes up for discussion

          • So, so true my dude…LOL

            • Sahel

              Hey Todd,you like direct women right

              • Yes, yes I do. LOL

                • Sahel

                  So this artsy chic puts her striped panties in my boy’s hand and tells him to figure it out,beat that

                  • It’s called “let’s hit up a drug store and get some prophylactics so we can get it poppin’!”

    • Ahh, that really can’t happen. Much of street harassment is about a high risk, high reward kind of thing: “Maybe, she might just be a ho?!” It doesn’t work in most cases, but it occasionally works – 3 for 10 is great in baseball, 1 for 10 is great in catcalling. Thing about boldness, is that it isn’t always pretty, and it isn’t always charming, especially to onlookers.

      The Fact is that it also helps to mitigate the rejection as well. If you come to a girl as a nice and respectful guy and she snaps at you, you’re likely to walk away pissed and start talking sh*t about b*%ches, and then when other women feel your vibe or hear you talking they presume you’re a misogynist or something and either respond worse than the original woman or just shy away from you (there’s no empathy for men when it comes to p@$$y denial lol). It’s easier to just be an a$$hole, because you expect a negative reaction and it doesn’t burn as much when you get it.

      Finally, you can’t “really” teach game perse, because the fundamental thing about having game is being unique and confident; thus you can really only “spark” an interest in it aka the game can be sold, but not told. You may be able to teach confidence, but you can’t teach uniqueness. It’s why the PUA thing doesn’t usually last, because eventually all those guys use the same techniques and frequent the same clubs and bars and before you know it the ladies catch on and what was first found to be interesting, becomes tired and retarded.

      • I’m replying to you, but this is a response to Obsidian as well, because you hit on different sides of the same coin. I think you’re both right AND wrong on how game can be taught. Let me go meta on this subject, and you’ll see how it makes sense.

        Society has changed in that unless a man has a direct blood tie to a young boy (and even not then, thanks to the deadbeat dad phenomenon), a boy isn’t going to be in the context among other men until he hits his preteens, and he won’t have deep contact until his teens. That’s a long period during which he has no clue what masculinity is about, and by the time he’s exposed to it in depth, he’s playing catch-up. Meanwhile, even I as a single dad can throw enough money at the problem to see to it that my daughter is surrounded by women with sense from the day she was born. This is because the world of young children is lead by women, period.

        While these changes are because of feminism, they aren’t feminism’s fault per se. Women in the workforce and with the freedom to leave abusive, adulterous and neglectful spouses had some serious knock-on effects on how and where kids played. Instead of the free-wheeling environments of the 50s and 60s, kids are surrounded by more structure, which tends to be female led. Throw in the awareness of child $ex abuse, and you have a situation where people are fawking scared of having any young child around any man.

        In this environment, you have a situation where men have been forced to fake it until they make it. Ironically, by surrounding boys with more women at younger ages, they’ve made it more likely for men to be hypermasculine, if only for lack of proper models. While PUA techniques aren’t useful in the long run, at least it gives a man a template of what to do, a way of making unknown unknowns into known unknowns. I do think success in the real gets the man a sense of self-efficacy which goes on to build legit self-esteem that can be used in other contexts with women, and with life in general.

        • Rawtid

          some really great points here

      • Maya K. Francis

        It’s not only onlookers who find it unappealing.

        First off – if a man is approaching a woman thinking “she might be a hoe” he’s already projecting and not coming at her with any type of respectful intention. The next assumption is also flawed — if a dude is a “nice and respectful guy,” that doesn’t entitle him to a warm reception. It just doesn’t.

        I’m going to say that again: Being a “nice guy” doesn’t entitle a man to shit. Nice is a strategy, not a personality trait.

        Now, I don’t know why, if a man came at a woman respectfully, she would snap at him (perhaps she’s picked up on the fact that he was thinking “she might be a hoe” on the way over). If a man is acting like an asshole to cool the sting of a possible rejection, he’s pretty lame and needs to grow a pair, IMO.

        • Lea Thrace

          “Being a “nice guy” doesn’t entitle a man to shit. Nice is a strategy, not a personality trait.”

          This right here is one of the greatest truths ever told.

        • Well, first of all, you’re right, if a man is thinking she might be a hoe, he doesn’t have a respectful intent. He probably just wants to have sex with her and is hoping that it’s easy and there aren’t that many obstacles he might have to pass in order to get to his goal. Now if she is a hoe, and he does have sex with her…applause right? All is good in the world?

          It’s true being nice doesn’t guarantee anything, it doesn’t entitle a person to anything, including respect, because a cold reception is disrespectful, in whichever context you look at it. As for your final paragraph, any guy who deals with women knows that good intentions and even friendly intentions, don’t prevent you from getting cussed out by a woman. A lot of times she might be having issues, she might be pissed off at previous guys who came at her, she might be really upset etc. But do personal circumstances provide a rationale for being disrespectful to people, regardless of their sex?

        • moderation

      • NTheMix

        You make good points here. I was speaking to @rachmo:disqus earlier about this subject and wrote that the 1 for 10/scattergun approach is what their words and actions pushed. You frame it perfectly with the “Maybe, just maybe she’s a ho” approach.

        It kills me to see this in life…1) no game/negative game is being shown (they’re playing their only card), 2) IMO they’re doing this because of previous rejection, 3) they keep doing it because it gets a reaction (a negative one, but still, they’re getting something from someone).

        How can we stop this, and more big-picture, how can we foster feelings of safety and comfort for women in urban environments? I don’t know about the current crop of street harrassment practitioners, but for kids, show them how to be kind, good, and not an a$$. If I had a young son, I’d walk around with him, show him dudes acting up, and be like, “Good men don’t do that, son.” “Why not, daddy?” “Because women don’t find them interesting, and it makes women feel bad.” Update the language and approach with age, and hope it sticks.

        • I think we need to extend that approach, because if a kid walks around long enough, he’s going to see all sorts of reactions, good, bad and ugly. That’s why context is fundamentally important, and relating that is a difficult, slow slog.

        • GRACIAS. Idk why ppl think it’s impossible to set a good example and teach better tactics…its takes a village, be the change you wish to see, and all that whatnot.

        • You know when I was a kid my mom had a garden and when it was summertime she’d take me out and say that I had to help her take out the weeds. Like most kids I’d just grab the leaves and yank them out, then she’d call me back and say I had to yank them from the root, which required a lot more use of my strength. Sexual Harassment is simply a leaf when compared to the grand totality of black problems, and you’re not going to fix them till you grab them by the root.

          The root of most black problems especially those that have to do with women and men, have little to nothing to do with the slavery or even racism. It primarily has to go back between the black power movement and the black feminism movement of the 70’s. Every problem, almost every argument we have here and elsewhere on men vs. women issues, are basically the same that we’ve been having since the 70’s. If one was a historical observer, you’d think that outside of fashion and technology, the way black men and black women deal with each other has not changed, despite the increase or decrease in single parenthood and vice versa.

          Most people today would not view themselves as black power activists or black panthers, but the legacy of hip-hop is directly tied to the themes, attitudes and beliefs of the black power movement, even in it frivolity today. Whereas the entire concept of the “Strong Black woman, who is doubly oppressed and has to be strong in order to survive” is a derivative of black feminism. These “philosophies” are diametrically opposed to each other, and no matter how many people evade their significance and how they scope most of our arguments, they will always be there until a resolution of ideologies takes place.

          Raising children helps, but at the end of the day parenting is always in constant battle with peer pressure. And in peer pressure, the generic desire to be “collectively” black will initially push one’s child into one side or the other: black feminism or black power, if he’s to be serious about race and his existence, same goes with your daughter as well. People might see value in both, but just as one cannot be a conservative and a liberal, one cannot be for black power and black feminism at the same time, it’s not going to happen. You can either reject both “ideologically” which is what I do, or you pick a side, but there’s no way out of that pull in our community.

          Till that changes, on the root level, things will never really change in the black community, and the issue of street harassment will not change.

    • jolly

      I agree. Great piece Maya for the same reasons stated above. I think there is so much nuance here it’s crazy. Honestly, the best street harassment awards goes to (and I’m biased) having been born and bred there- NYC! After moving to Pittsburgh I found myself missing that “swag” that “boldness” that “let me holla at you for a minute” smoothness NY dudes I think have applied to the street harassment game at the corner stores you can’t avoid…
      Heck, if you can make me laugh a la Harlem old men on crates in front of a church: “Damn, chocolate, you gon’ melt in all this sun” or some other corny line…you’re winning, it’s all jokes, there’s no number exchange and that is mutually understood, heck, you made me smile! However, if you don’t have something clever to say or worse don’t say anything at all but instead decide that your eyes own my body AND I can feel it, I’m prone to stare right back at you, suck my teeth, etc, etc cause now you’re being rude. IDK some dudes have a subtlety with it that doesn’t bother me, otherwise if you’re staring at my behind and cat call after I walk by it’s like…um BYE & GROW UP!

    • Wild Cougar

      I think there is a problem with your premise. That there is “a way” to approach [W]omen. Plural. emphasis on the capital W. Too many men are looking for a formula to get what they want from (half the population distilled into a semi-human notion). As if it were a string of code for a computer function.

      Maybe, just maybe, you are not going to get that particular woman you are attracted to, or any woman you are attracted to for a while, or ever. Because women are humans and you are not entitled to any of their company, attention or physical companionship. Not a one. Let that sink in and accept it. I’m gonna pause for a second so it can sink in.

      If your approach doesn’t work, its because the women you approach didn’t like you. End of story. It’s not your approach, it’s you. Some men have better luck being azzholes because some women mistake that for confidence and confidence is attractive. Lots of women see through it and can smell the rage and desperation behind it. Some men try the nice guy route and aren’t actually nice guys, so their rage and desperation stinks like roadkill on a hot summer day. But its really about you.

      What should you do? Work on yourself instead of figuring out a way to manipulate half the population to your will. It might make you more attractive. Might not. Learn to accept the unknown.

      • You’re absolutely right. Still, every journey begins with the first step, and if you don’t have the foggiest clue of what that first step may be, the man’s character (or lack thereof) is irrelevant.

        • Wild Cougar

          There is no first step. That’s the point

  • Shea Butter

    I got catcalled at 15 in Italy–while reading Harry Potter. Like, come on. I’m a child. And it did feel like, “Well, I guess I’m a grown up…” and I learned to kind of sweetly maneuver around the perverts and jiggaboos. But now, I’m just getting to the point where I feel entitled to cut the bullshit and just plainly say “Fuck off.”

    For some reason dudes feel it’s necessary to harass me when I’m just trying to buy shea butter and get the hell out. I used to entertain them in stupid, waste-of-time small talk as a prevention method should they later decide to choke my ass in a parking lot. I have since taken up kickboxing and muay thai. It helps. Now I just don’t bother, if I don’t wanna talk to you, I don’t wanna talk to you. Deal.

    • Freebird

      In italy? Where they black? Did you get a sense of how women over there dealt with the madness?

    • Sahel

      But,you were buying shea butter…….

    • Epsilonicus

      I have found that street harassment or catcalling is an interesting animal in Italy.

      • Barbie

        Italian men are very bold. I was reading the train in Milan with my then boyfriend and an Italian man got on and proceeded to stare at me in full view of my boyfriend who said nothing. The man man stared/leered until he got to his stop and before he got off me patted my boyfriend on the arm like thanks for letting me look. I was pissed.

      • Rachmo

        They seem pretty scary.

        • Epsilonicus

          The Italian women mostly blow it off. Every now and then you see someone upset but many times they laugh and keep it moving.

  • cryssi

    Hahaha, this just made me think of this Sasheer Zamata skit.

    I remember going to the hood side of the D and feeling insulted for having not received my usual harassment.

  • It’s not about success rates. It’s performative (hyper) masculinity. It’s one of things a lot of men do because it’s what they’re “supposed” to do as men. It’s how a lot of men bond amongst one another.

    • Eh…I’d call it a definite maybe. I’m not saying performative hypermasculinity doesn’t exist as much as reality is a lot more nuanced than that. Believe it or not, some guys can find a woman walking down the street and think she’s hot without seeking the validation of other men. I’m not trying to deny your message as much as saying hetero$exual interest of men in women is a multi-faceted concept, which your statement renders a caricature.

      Granted, this doesn’t deny the agency of women feeling threatened. If a woman feels threatened, she is threatened, full stop. Let’s not turn this into Black hats and White hats, especially since the author didn’t make it that.

    • afronica

      “It’s not about success rates. It’s performative (hyper) masculinity.”

      This is something else I’ve always wondered about. When I get catcalled, it seems to happen more with men in groups instead of one man doing it by himself. And there really does seem to be an aspect of “Watch this” and a kind of egging on from the other guys in the group.

      I’m not talking about a guy throwing a compliment my way as we pass on the sidewalk. That seems to at least be about *me*, no matter what I think of it or how I choose to respond. This other stuff seems to have almost nothing to do with me and picking me up.

      • blackphilo

        You are correct–and, as usual, insightful. But it’s also not simply about “masculinity.” (Nor, of course, is street harassment plausibly reduced to “power”–whatever exactly that is supposed to mean. Any “patriarchy” is run by apex men–and apex men don’t descend to catcalling.)

        The guys catcalling you aren’t really trying to succeed: rather, they’re making an intrasexual display of heterosexuality; voicing resentment about the lack of interest they presume a woman like you has in men like them; and sometimes (crudely) expressing appreciation for your visible goods.

  • People of all genders and orientations bonds over discussions and actions about whatever gender they’re attracted to. Ours not sobering exclusive to heterosexual men.

  • shalonda282

    Good piece. You know what’s crazy is that before reading a few discussions on here I never thought of it as street harassment. It was such a normal occurrence during my teenage years (read 14-19) that honestly I thought it was how old men (read 22-55) behaved. To this day if I see a group of guys hovering on the street (any where really) I’ll go out of my way to avoid them because ain’t nobody got time for that foolishness. I’ve seen things go left way too fast one too many times to play like that.

    • afronica

      “To this day if I see a group of guys hovering on the street (any where really) I’ll go out of my way to avoid them because ain’t nobody got time for that foolishness. I’ve seen things go left way too fast one too many times to play like that.”

      I do this all the time. Certain spots are more prone to catcalling in my experience. I have A, B & C routes plotted in my head for these spots, based on time of day, temp (hotter = more of it) and population density. I guess men practice this problem avoidance too, but the women I know are kind of constantly doing it, recalculating like a GPS does when you take a wrong turn.

  • I wasn’t aiming to argue anything but correct you on the notion that men don’t bond with other men through their interactions with women.

  • “Let the games begin…”

    Well, top of the morning to ya, Ms. Maya,
    Very pleased to discuss the topic. Let’s dive right in:

    I don’t expect you to know this, but other esteemed readers here are very aware of my extensive writings on this topic, and I’d like to reference something I’ve found to be the case as I was doing my researches on the issue: there is an undeniable aspect off Class at work here. In the main, the one common denominator here is that the Black Men involved, tend to be from the lower classes of American life. Street harassment is associated with the proverbial construction worker in a hard hat. This I posit is hugely important, because studies show that “harassment” is very much in the eye of the beholder – and the social status of the supposed “harasser”. Simply put, Women have been shown to be much more receptive from a higher class guy hollerin’, than the lower class guy hollerin’.

    So, there’s that.

    And which raises all sorts of really juicy questions that simply have not been broached in Black mating discussions – where do these guys go? I mean, if they were to suddenly do everything the anti-street harassers say they want – basically, to go away – OK, now what?

    Well, as I said to Mr. Todd below, I think to ask the question, is really to answer it. Simply put, they don’t care where these guys go. They are not interested in actually addressing their mating concerns. And which puts to bed the lie about how these intrpid SJWs care so deeply with their empathy for others.

    I think the Class aspect here is juicy, because it focuses the discussion on something that a lot of Black folks of y’all ilk really don’t like to talk about. Hopefully today such a discussion will ensue.

    I also think this “conversation” comes at a time when it has never been a better one for Black Women as a group – ever life indicator shows that they are doing better than ever. First world problem? Hmm.

    It occurs to me, that unless or until we address, meaningfully, what Mr. Todd broached below, the chances of us really get a handle on this thing is slim. At some point, mating is a deeply imbedded huma need. We cease to survive without it.

    Merely throwing these Brothas under the bus, even in the name of a Good Cause(TM), just ain’t gonna get it. After all, they’ve under the bus as it is.


    • Damon Young

      Wrong day.

      • @Champ:
        Why? I have asked a series of legitimate questions and raised a number of legitimate points. For example, the role that Class plays in this issue. Another, is the corrective measures that are to be taken – some have actually suggested outlawing what they see as street harassment, as they have done in Egypt (I believe I saw this on the Elite Daily website last week, as I recall). There have been moves afoot to use taxpayer funds in NYC to address the problem. And there have been suggestions of a “reeducation program” as well. Seems to me that the last thing to do is to discuss the matter with the Black Men involved themselves.

        I think all of these are legitimate questions, that haven’t, as far as I’m aware, haven’t been raised thus far.


        • esa

          ~ For example, the role that Class plays in this issue. Another, is the corrective measures that are to be taken – some have actually suggested outlawing what they see as street harassment, as they have done in Egypt (I believe I saw this on the Elite Daily website last week, as I recall).

          would you kindly post the link ?

          • Val

            Yeah, I want to see the link too. Egypt is one of the worst places on earth as far as street harassment goes.


            @Ms. Esa:
            Please note the picture they led the article with – it is of two White construction workers. Again, clearly, there is an undeniable Class component here – which raises all kinds of really juicy questions for the SJWs.


            • esa

              are you talking about a class component in Egypt ?

              • @Ms. Esa:
                No, I’m talking about here in the USA. What emerges from all the discussion about street harassment is that there is an undeniable Racial and Class component at work here – namely (but not solely limitied to) Black lower class Men. Given that all the hootin’ and hollerin’ over this issue comes on the heels of the Stop & Frisk fiasco in places like NYC, it will be very interesting to see the Do Gooders sell this one. Until now, they haven’t had to go belly to belly with the aforementioned Race and Class pieces; but, as the issue gets more attention and focus, it will become harder NOT to come to grips with. Will the public side with the leaders of just about any social justice movement that has anything to do with the ladies – White Women? Or will the public, still jarred by the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the aforementioned Stop & Frisk fiasco, roll with Pookie and Ray Ray?



                • esa

                  may i ask, what is the parallel you are drawing between street harassment in Egypt and street harassment in the United States ?

                  • @Ms. Esa:
                    Certainly – the parallel I see is in the move to ape what the Egyptians, who never saw a Constitution they didn’t want to trample over, have done – make cat calling a criminaly, punishable offence. As I’ve said, in your hometown of NYC the international organization Hollaback! is working with elected officials, two of them Women City Council members as I recall, to get taxpayer funds to “address” the issue. It really is a kind of Stop & Frisk reborn, and will be very interesting to see how it all plays out given the obvious Race and Class factors at work here…


                    • esa

                      mm i wonder if in fact this would take hold. how can one prove harassment in a court of law, short of actual documentation of the act itself ?

                    • @Ms. Esa:
                      Well, that’s what the taxpayer funds in NYC is for – the creation of an app that can be useed on cell phones and the like in order to “document” varying degrees of street harassment, the videos then being able to be used for potential evidence by the NYPD. Put that together with the general trend of the country right now, led by what’s going on on college campuses, their star chamber type kangaroo courts and so forth, and I imagine that the standard won’t be that high at all – we’re in a time that holds the word of a Woman to be sacrosanct, and the facts can come along later.


                    • esa

                      the thing about pendulums is how they swing, first in extremes when they begin, and as time passes, they settle into a calmer rhythm.

                      i’m going to be open minded about all of this, because everything cuts two ways. it does me well to remember that people can have a very strong hand in shaping their fate.

                    • @Ms. Esa:
                      My guess is that what’s coming down the pike in terms of street harassment laws will pretty much go the way of Stop & Frisk, the War on Drugs, Minimum Wage laws, Prohibition, and so forth – all rather heavy handed measures enacted by govt, to supposedly address problems, and wound up doing more harm than good. But, we’re in a climate where this is how things are going to be.

                      It will not end well. You heard it here first.


                    • esa

                      whatever the issue may be, one thing is certain ..


            • Epsilonicus

              What does SJW mean?

              • Andrea

                Social Justice Warrior

              • @Mr. Eps:
                Social Justice Warrior(s). Many ladies who rail against street harassment fancy themselves such and to varying degrees. Usually and up until now, SJWs had an easy target to put all their discontent on: Mr. Charlie. Forget the fact that the vast majority of White Men don’t have power or influence or money, their merely being White was a powerful symbol in the minds of the masses as to how and why they were the bane of everyone else’s existence. So, for the SJWs, they’re a slamdunk.

                But, lower and working class Brothas being touted as Public Enemy Number One? THAT is going to take some doing, because of all the familiar reasons – one, no matter how many the Black Feminists wanna shout, no one other than themselves takes seriously the notion that they somehow are imbued with all this “privilege”. They simply are not, no matter how you slice it. Second, yea,, it’s gonna look bad when the campaign to stamp out street harassment begins in earnest – and it willin due course. White SJWs in particular are gonna have a very tough time trying to sell that to folks, and just may be the cause of causing yet another rift between them and their Sista frenemies – recall last Summer’s #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen kerfuffle – you know how Educated Black folk like to circle the wagons when they perceive to be under attack from Ms. Ann and Mr. Charlie.

                So, I’m just tickled pink at the very obvious Race and Class angles at work here – see, “harassment”, which is really just a thinly veiled proxy for varying forms of s*xual assault, is an easy sell when its a bunch of putatively privileged White Guys(TM); much harder to sell when its a unch of down and out Brothas on the Block – even moreso when the righteous warriors are Becky and Rachel.

                *grabs popcorn*


    • PivotTable

      I agree the type of street harassment Maya detailed is a class issue.

      How do you suggest these women alter their behavior without them being dismissed by society?


        The above link to an essay I wrote earlier this year is a good place to start.

        Let me know what you think. Thanks!


        • PivotTable

          Thanks! And that should have said:

          How do you suggest these MEN* alter their behavior without them being dismissed by society?

          But I guess I could pose how do both parties alter their behavior.

          • @PivotTable:
            Nothing – because these are Brothas already deemed to be undesirables. There is nothing they can do insofar as that is concerned.


        • PivotTable

          Read the piece.

          It didn’t touch on the class issue.

          Just on how to handle rude people, which is good advice nonetheless.

          I have a similar story.

          Back in my awkward young teen years. This guy all the girls thought was cute at camp pimp slapped with a bag of flour.

          No lie.

          I thank God everyday that even then I had the gift of on-the-spot wit, and I turned what could have been an humiliating experience (and it was… even now I’m thinking “I cannot believe that ninja tried to play me so hard in public.” ) into an all out flour war against the boys.

          Shit happens in life. People get rejected. I got rejected with a face full of flour.

          You have to move on and learn how to turn bad situations into not so bad situations.

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