Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Walking as Rebellion?

I am angry right now. And I am rarely angry.
So, everyday I walk to work. Its about a mile to the office and another mile on the way home. Then after I eat dinner, I usually go for a bike ride down by the lakefront. I like walking to work and usually even turn down ride offers from co-workers unless its raining. The walk gives me time to think, call my mom, or just enjoy the sunshine before I have to sit in a climate controlled office for the next eight hours.
The only thing about this routine that I don't like is the constant cat-calling, wolf whistling, and harassment I have to endure on these walks. I walk on the sidewalk by a pretty busy road and haven't made it through one walk without at least one comment or wolf whistle. It doesn't matter what I'm wearing: a sundress, a skirt, shorts, pants, sweatshirts, or sneakers. The attention is even worse when I'm riding my bike for some reason. I rode about six miles today to a meeting downtown, but I specifically rode out of my way on the bike path to avoid the catcalls I usually get when I ride on the street. But, even on my short street detour to the bikepath, I was harassed.
And yes, I'm calling it harassment. Because it is. It is not a compliment, as my mom tried to get me to believe. It is someone harassing me, propositioning me, and verbally assaulting me for simply being on the sidewalk, on public space. Walking to work on my birthday last week, I had an old man tell me to suck his dick. That is harassment, plain and simple.
So, how do I respond? As long as there is a safe distance between me and my harasser, I just flick them off. I hate doing this at 8:30 in the morning, but how else should I respond? I've usually barely even finished my coffee. I'm not in an understanding mood. And as a feminist, I can't just ignore assaults on my presence in the world, assaults that I endure just because I'm a woman with long hair, who dares to wear a skirt on a warm day.
How do you usually respond? Any suggestions to this far-too common problem? Any male readers want to give their perspective? I've never lived in an environment where I am constantly walking before, so as much as I've read about this problem, this is the first time I'm experiencing it on a consistent basis, and I am angry angry angry.

P.S. Please read my follow up post. Let's take action!

73 comments:

Amelia said...

You're right: It is harassment, and it's messed up beyond belief.

I don't get cat called, etc. often, but when I do, I usually ignore it completely. My reasoning for this is that responding to it, even defiantly, might get these men off, or somehow entice them by letting them know that I heard them and responded. I don't feel as if it would accomplish anything.

It's not that I let them off. I usually talk about it with people, or write about it, but to me, what is going to change these people is not a momentary, defiant gesture/word from me as I pass them by, as is my right.

This is just how I have come to deal with it. I am interested to hear other people's thoughts.

Anonymous said...

(First of all I'm Spanish. I say this in case I make any mistakes when writing.)

I usually insult them or give them the finger.

Anonymous said...

(First of all I'm Spanish. I say this in case I make any mistakes when writing.)

I usually insult them or give them the finger.

Saranga said...

I ignore it, usually because I've only worked out what they saying when I'm way beyond them. Then I get in a rage and bitch about it to others. I guess at least then someone learns that it's not ok.

Sondra said...

I agree; this is definitely harassment. I've started having my boyfriend walk me home from the subway station after work every day, just because I am so FED UP with having things yelled at me by other pedestrians or people sitting on their porches. When he's there, I can relax and actually walk without constantly checking over my shoulder.

Normally I just ignore the obscene remarks, catcalls, whistles,etc. Not because I think it's necessarily best to ignore them, but because I don't want anyone running after me.

I do remember one situation a few weeks ago where a guy was walking behind me, and said "gorgeous" quietly. When I ignored him he said "Hey, beautiful!" I turned around and said "Good Morning!" in a slightly accusatory tone (as if to say "see how we talk to strangers? we say hello, good morning!").

Doubtless it had no impact, and it didn't even really make me feel better :\

It makes me so angry that I should have be afraid of people when I'm just walking down the street in the morning to go to work, because they can't fucking control themselves.

Michael said...

I don't know. I understand not wanting to just ignore the people, but to be honest, I'm not sure I'd notice if people were saying anything to me. Often it takes a couple "Mike!"s for me to realize a friend is trying to get my attention. You shouldn't have to deal with it, but I have no idea how I'd react to it if I were subject to the same treatment. Nothing I can currently think to do would be likely to change the behaviour.

What types of things are the guys saying? I know at times I've felt excessively cheerful and wanted to complement people. I don't, because I don't really like initiating contact with strangers. But there have been times I've felt like telling a woman that she had a great haircut, or that she looked marvelous. Thinking about it, I have to say that I haven't had a similar impulse to complement men.

lindsay said...

I want to know when women's bodies became public property the minute we walk outside. When did it become ok to yell shit at women just because they were in society?

I'm so sick of it.

PIOUY said...

yep, definitely harrassment! When I was younger (14/15) they would be so frequent I would cross the street to avoid them or any man I thought would potentially cat-call/honk/blow me a kiss.

I never understood it either, It's just gross and pisses me off! It's like I don't have the right to walk down a street (especially in the middle of the day) and feel safe.

The Wanderer said...

I ALWAYS have my earphones in when I'm out walking in public. And I wear sunglasses so I don't have to make eye contact with anyone. I know it seems that I'm being combative in a way, but to me it feels like putting a wall between myself and the unwanted attention (a.k.a. harassment) from men. It especially helps when I'm alone at a bus stop and some creep sits down near me and tries to chat me up. With headphones in and music playing and sunglasses on I turn to him and tell him in Cantonese that I can't speak English. I've done this a few times and it has worked every time, so far.

Phira said...

This is so weird ... or not weird at all, I suppose. I recently started my first job as a graduate, and it requires me to walk a mile to the train station in the morning, and a mile home in the afternoon.

I started to take the bus (part-way) home in the afternoon, however, because three times in 5 days, I was made uncomfortable through various forms of harassment (obvious leering, cat-calling, and one time, a window-down "Woooooo!"). I was so, so uncomfortable that I created a blog about it, which has since morphed from "documenting harassment" to "talking about violence against women in general."

The blog has barely taken off, but as was I was reading your entry, I felt like I could have written it.

I've since stopped taking the bus home as long as there's no rain, although it's because it takes longer to wait for the bus than to just walk. But I'm enraged that I can't even feel safe walking home. I'm infuriated that these men think they have some sort of right to disrupt my day and comment on my body and sex.

Anyway, I guess I wanted to let you know that I've had the exact same issue, and I'm simultaneously angry and relieved to hear the story from another person.

Lee Kottner said...

Definitely harrassment, no question. It's also a form of bullying, and is at least partially about making you afraid. Don't be. I've always talked back: "My name isn't Baby." "I didn't ask for your opinion" or in the case of the ever popular "suck my dick": "You'd have to be able to find it first."

This usually gets me called "bitch" of course, but that's a name I can claim proudly. And it's embarrassing to this kind of guy when you call them on their asshattery.

Pizza Diavola said...

What types of things are the guys saying? I know at times I've felt excessively cheerful and wanted to complement people.

Michael, I think Kate makes it clear that (a) cat calls, even if the men think that they're giving compliments, are still harassment. They're still reminders that women are public property for men to evaluate, rate, and comment upon, as if we're pieces of meat on display and as if we've dressed up for them and not for ourselves. (B) These aren't even nominally compliments: "cat-calling, wolf whistling, and harassment," and "It is someone harassing me, propositioning me, and verbally assaulting me for simply being on the sidewalk, on public space. Walking to work on my birthday last week, I had an old man tell me to suck his dick. That is harassment, plain and simple."

Kate, I get harassed a lot, too, and my usual response is to flip them off or yell back. I've tried ignoring it, too, but that just makes it even worse, as they sometimes escalate the harassment (I've written about it here" and here). Some of these jerks genuinely think they're making sexy overtures, and responding gives me the chance to shoot them down. Most of the rest of them are reveling in what they perceive as their power to publicly harass women without suffering any consequences, and so I like to disabuse them of that notion.

I just flick them off. I hate doing this at 8:30 in the morning, but how else should I respond? I've usually barely even finished my coffee. I'm not in an understanding mood.

It sucks having your mood ruined so early in the day, but regardless, you shouldn't have to be "understanding" of harassment and misogyny. Your anger is righteous and the problem is not at all with you for feeling angry or upset or for flipping your harassers off, the problem is with the men who think it's acceptable to harass women.

just because I'm a woman with long hair, who dares to wear a skirt on a warm day.

The harassment isn't your fault, and it's not at all predicated on what you look like or how you dress. Men have catcalled and harassed me when I've had long hair, short hair, and no hair; in skirts, in dresses, and in pants; in gym clothes, in street clothes, and in suits. The only time there's been a significant drop in the level of street harassment was when I shaved my hair off and people coded me as male.

Dave X said...

The "Holla Back" idea of taking a picture of harassers seems worthwhile.

They are probably cowards who like exerting some anonymous harassment, but if there's a chance of accountability involved, they might think twice.

Michael said...

Pizza Diavola, Sorry that I didn't make it clear, I wasn't trying to say that she wasn't being harassed. I was asking the question for my own benefit. I don't have the greatest idea of what constitutes harassment and what doesn't. I'm somewhat socially inept. I know what I had to put up with from the bullies in middle school, and I don't like to think that I could be doing that to someone else. I'll probably just stick with the cheerful demeanor when I'm feeling good, rather than complementing people.

Sondra said...

@Michael You've got it right not to compliment strangers.

The point is, we're not there to be complimented. You said yourself you wouldn't do the same to a man; Men's bodies aren't generally viewed as public property whereas women's are.

It doesn't really matter what's being said; Something as simple as a "Good Morning" can be harassment when accompanied by laughing/staring with a companion, and a tone that says "you must answer or acknowledge me"

I've had men follow up my ignoring them when they are being quiet obviously creepy with shouts of "bitch" or "you think you're too good for us?"

I have a right to walk down the street and ignore people if I choose. If a man won't quit yelling things at me until I acknowledge him and his buddies, that is harassment.

@The Wanderer I try to keep headphones on as well; but it only works if they're visible. Otherwise I run into the whole acknowledgement issue :\

EKSwitaj said...

I usually yell back and make a scene.

Sarah said...

Once, when I had to walk the same route every day for a summer, I did so through all their catcalling ...

... and waiting until the last morning I walked ...

I packed a huge bag of unshelled peanuts and casually threw handfuls to them as they whistled. It took some time for it to sink in, but I think they finally got it. :)

LynetB said...

Get an orange safety vest like you see on city road crews. I have an outdoor job and often work near busy streets. I wear workboots, a pony tail, baggy jeans and tees and no makeup and still get commentary of all kinds. But people totally shut up and let me work when I'm wearing the ugly safety vest.

Kerry said...

hmmm... Sondra said...
"@Michael You've got it right not to compliment strangers."

I don't think this is correct. There is a significant difference between complimenting someone you don't know and harassing a stranger with a "suck my dick" or a rude catcall.

I frequently compliment women AND man at random in stores or at a party, bar, restaurant... with statements like "hey, that's a great shirt" or "that's a great dress" I have never once been flicked off. Usually someone responds with a "thank you."

I think the key is what is said, how it is said, and how the person saying it handles themselves. I think "you look really great" is very different from "suck my dick"

I think that if the person receiving the compliment is with a friend or friends and the comment is said nicely with sincerity then that is a lot different then some jackoff yelling out the window of his car.

Location matters. I can't really think of a time that yelling out of a car at someone would ever be appropriate. For one, yelling to someone walking from a car is not an equal situation. Inherently the person in the car has power over the walker, so unsolicited communication between a person in a car and someone walking down the street is never an equal scenario... so if what is said is even close to inappropriate it becomes sexual harassment (which probably anything other than asking for directions would qualify).

I also think the guy walking down the street behind Sondra who said "gorgeous" was in the wrong. Maybe...maybe that would be appropriate in a friendly party atmosphere with lots of people around. Maybe if the person being complimented has friends around. But never okay when someone is walking alone down the street. Never okay as you walk alone behind them. While I doubt the guy intended it to be anything other than complimentary, it is harassment and wrong, plain and simple.

How to deal with catcalls? Ignore them. That's the only way. Flicking them off is engagement. It tells the jackass you heard him. Best case scenario that's it. Worse case it emboldens them to engage you further.

Someone tells you to "suck my dick," that's assault. Treat it no differently then you would treat someone who took a swing at you.

And if someone compliments you in a friendly, non-threatening way at the store and then continues on their way, I think that's someone who you can thank for the compliment or just walk away knowing that you brighten someone's day.

I mean, we all live here together. We ought to be able to be nice to each other. And that should include the ability to give and receive the occasional compliment. But it should never include harassment. Let's make sure we all try to see the difference.

canllaith said...

I'm afraid I completely disagree that the statement people have the 'right' to give a compliment to a stranger.

I keep thinking of a situation a couple of years ago when I was walking down the street. I was brought back from my daydream by a man calling out to me 'You are so beautiful'

I wasn't in any way upset or angry with his comment, but it was very jarring being brought out of my thoughts so suddenly and I simply looked at him and then walked on.

He yelled out after me, hostile now - 'Aren't you going to say thank you?'

While not everyone who wishes to pay a compliment shows it so plainly, or is even aware of it themselves, this behaviour is showing a sense of entitlement. This stranger felt entitled to an interaction with me about my attractiveness, and when I denied him, became angry.

The idea that women's bodies are public property is so pervasive in our culture that it can be difficult for those not looking at the situation through a feminist lens to see it for what it is - harassment.

Amelia said...

@canllaith: I agree with you. Whether it's a compliment, or a nasty cat call, wolf whistle, what have you, it is men exercising their sense of entitlement, that they somehow have the right to comment on or harass a female simply for existing in a public space. And that's not right.

Ellie said...

I always wish I had something witty to say but I never think of it until the moment has passed.

When my girlfriend and I are stopped at a stoplight and a guy in a car tries to hit on one of us, I've always been tempted to pull her in for a big smooch and flick the guy off. But then I would potentially be buying into the "hot lesbian" male fantasy and that's even more infuriating.

Anonymous said...

It really is harassment! I know how you feel-recently I lost over 60 pounds (literally ran it off) and now I can't even run by myself anymore in my rural neighborhood because people are so bold that they drive right next to me slowly to make sure I hear their comments-and it is never the same men. I have to make running dates or go to a metropark (20 min away) to exercise--it is ridiculous!

KLDR said...

I'm sure many would not see this as a real solution, but personally, I think more women should carry a Taser, and know how to use it. I believe the main imbalance of power comes from the simple fact that if you anger a man, you might get punched in the face, but if you anger a woman, nothing happens. So, if women used tasers as freely as men used their fists, I think there'd be a lot less harassment.

lynx said...

when i was living in san francisco i had gay men catcall me a few times and when I wear my kilts it's not unusual to get comments - mostly positive, a few negative - from men and women both, the most common of those comments being people asking what I've got under my kilt. I don't know how or if that fits into your analysis of catcalling as a symptom of womens' bodies being public property since my body is male. I think in my case it'd be more relevant to say that by deviating from the standard 'accepted' attire for males I open myself up to censure and commentary.

I try to take the positive comments and compliments in stride and generally see them as well intentioned and just ignore the idiots. but them I at least have the option to leave the kilt at home and wear pants and just blend in when I don't want to deal with strangers commenting on my appearance, a luxury you clearly don't have.

I suppose that's just another bit of male privilege in a sexist society.

Alex said...

It's interesting that I stumbled across this entry tonight--I was just having a conversation on this subject, at another site. Our situations are different, although I've been in your shoes. I'm married, and STILL getting harassed--even when my husband and I are walking hand and hand in quiet neighborhoods. : /

We walk all the time, but recently, have noticed a sudden surge in the attacks. Which led me to discover that "drive by insults" are a new, organized game people are playing, indiscriminately shouting obscenities at anyone they see while someone records from the back:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=drive%20by%20insult

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_type=search_playlists&search_query=drive+by+insults&uni=1

While this may not be the case for all offenders, it definitely explains the sudden spike. Regardless, it's completely unacceptable and needs to be countered with swift consequences.

Our solution may not be for everyone, but we've armed ourselves with pepper spray, knives and cell phones. When we walk, we carry rocks. Next time someone chooses to harass us from their car, they'll be on the receiving end of a hailstorm.

If this isn't something you're comfortable with, I'd recommend keeping a pad, paper and camera with you so you can take pictures and record license numbers. Disorderly conduct is a crime--please report these assholes.

And as far as face to face harassment goes, I do recommend taking pictures of the predators and submitting it to hollaback. Also, definitely start carrying pepper spray, and take a self defense class if you can. It's time to take our power back.

Anonymous said...

And my husband wonders why I say I hate men.

zoe said...

Sadly. I gained weight to escape them. Worked. Now I'm old, so it's safe to lose the weight.

zoe said...

Sorry. Should have added, it was the most peaceful 15 years of my life. Did NOT miss that. :D

Anonymous said...

Its just unwanted attention, the comments from men start when you are young and soon you can't walk down the street without expecting it and almost any comment becomes unwelcome. They may as well be shouting "I'm watching you!" From "Smile darling!" to "Sit on my face" you just get sick of being leered at and commented on. It would make me feel so selfconsious when I was younger that I could barely walk properly for trying to get rid of any perceived wiggle! London was terrible for builders shouting out and feeling the need to ask you to smile. I live in australia now and the men in general are so much more polite and respectful. I feel so much safer here and have hardly had anyone make sexual comments. Because of that, friendly gestures are taken for what they are instead of ignored suspiciously. Took me a while to get it though!

I think ignoring the catcalls/lecherous looks is the best policy, as unsatisfactory as it seems at the time and just tell all your male friends how it makes you feel about men like that. Men might think its fun and games but they should look at the impact their actions are having.

Anonymous said...

I allways get stuff shouted at me by random people in the street, and but i don't think it's just because your a woman, as i'm an 18 year old boy and regularly get taunts telling me to cut my hair etc.
i think it's just because some people like shouting there opinions at other people.

mandamia75 said...

It's very angering. Although, I have a sneaking suspicion that this is the kind of attention they want from a woman, apparently they can get no other form of it. Good, bad or otherwise.
Though, that may not be true for all of them, some of them may be dating, married... etc. etc. it seems as though it's almost a way of assaulting someone with no consequences. It's just verbal, right? Do you think any of them expect you to turn around and go "mmmmmm... i just love it when you tell me to suck your dick. yeah baby."? No. I think this may even stem from anger towards women since it's such an inappropriate thing to do. I'm almost positive that they know how rude it is. Maybe some of them are ignorant enough to actually think that this is okay. But let's face it, these kind of things are like bombs being thrown at you, they disrupt your zen, your time to walk alone and think, to prepare for your day or enjoy the scenery. Could you imagine how they would feel if gay men threw them the same kind of abuse from a passing car constantly? They would be angry and feel violated and give them the bird and wear headphones, bring a book and a cellphone.

What would piss your assailants off the most? No response at all. Pretend you never heard them. If they insist on you hearing them i.e. "hey! I said you're fucking hot!" turn to them and say "so?" continue on your way. It would be a slap in the face. no attention! she's refusing to acknowledge me and my rude behavior! It would end up deflating them. I think...

I know this is a hard thing to do and I don't know if I could keep it up forever...eventually i would have to go back to reading a book on the bus and listening to headphones or pretending to talk on the phone, but not acknowledging their harassment unblinkingly, puts the power back in your hand.
And fuck them, they don't deserve it anyway.

Kathleen said...

I never have this problem when I'm walking around. Guess I'm not as beautiful as you ladies.

But I don't think I would mind a nice comment (i.e "I like your dress", rather than "suck my dick" which is frankly horrifying). I don't think its men "exercising their sense of entitlement", its just being friendly and nice. If women are allowed to give compliments I don't see why men aren't.

The majority (yes...majority) of men are nice guys, not chauvanistic pigs trying to dominate women at every possible chance. I have lots of male friends and I know that compliments they give are just genuine nice comments and not an attempt to objectify or abuse.

If we start telling people that they can't be nice to strangers because it sends some kind of signal that we think we have the right to comment on them or whatever, then we would be left in a sad little world where we are all cut off from each other for fear of accidently abusing somebody. Just because you don't know somebody doesn't mean you have to ignore their presence completely, you should be allowed to be friendly.

(I want to point out that I am only talking about friendly comments, of course I agree that certain comments, cat calls, name calling etc is harrassment and is unacceptable in any way. I just don't see the problem with being nice to somebody.)

Jennifer said...

this form of harassment is usually coming from the same people who say women deserve to get raped. it's disgusting and ferocious. i've had to deal with it since i started walking to school at 15. i'm going to repost this on my website, if you don't mind.

brainsap said...

Well i'm not from the same country, and in India, well there is almost no law when it comes to cat-calling or sexual harassment in public places, but i certain that the law provides for action against the scum of the society, i dont know how effective it would be, but as suggested, taking pictures of the harassers and putting them up in the net, maybe some1 should set up a blog, may be a huge pin up board in a very public/popular place, where you could put up these photos(you know like mug shots or something).
Unless it has the undesired effect and people actually try and get on the list, which is a possibility considering the mentality of these people, if this is done as a community effort, it might just work(in a long term, which is what we need).
I have seen this happen to my friends, even when we are in a large group with many guys, and everytime it has happened i have felt pretty helpless of the fact that i couldn't do much to help, so if it is any consolation, i am certain it is just a minority of males that actually do the things mentioned, and most of them are either embarrassed by it or irritated by it.

Yttrai said...

Interesting how we all have such wildly different experiences. I rode my bike as a commuter for 9 years, and i never got catcalled or wolf whistled. I DID however, get insulted and death threated on the order of about once every two weeks.

(One foolish mortal made the mistake of being very threatening while driving a company van. Since his license plate was right there for me to see, a phone call later to the company in question they did the right thing and fired him.)

Part of it is probably the difference in our physiques and part is the culture of the respective cities in question. Either way, being commented on so publicly really makes a person undergo some major introspection. Why can they comment on me so freely? Why can't they give me the same anonymity and/or respect i give them?

zen said...

"Power means not having to respond."

Maria said...

My roommate and I had to deal with this from some people outside our residence hall. She didn't notice, but the man was even trying to take our conversation and inject himself into it. We had both just woke up from naps before our classes and I was cranky so I turned around and told him to shut the fuck up. She nearly fell down laughing, and he got semi confrontational, asking if I was talking to him. I told him I was and that he should 'sit the fuck down' his friends and my roommate were laughing so hard they couldn't breathe, and when he started to approach us I just turned around and walked away...

That was the last time we got harassed in front of our building.

Anonymous said...

There's no way to win, you're fucked. My practical advice is either to ignore them or scream, "FUCK YOU, PENCIL DICK."

My non-practical advice is to start conspiculously carrying a gun.

Marks said...

I'd really like to apologize on behalf of my gender but if i were to do so i would become the subject of ridicule so I refuse to apologize for people who would do such a thing... All i can say is that I hope you never let my fellow XY chromosome'd cohorts mode of expression affect you to the point where you feel emotionally unwell inside as you enjoy your walk, before your sojourn in the "climate controlled office" lol. Please remember it's like a rite of passage to treat women like objects and my best metaphor for all cat calling is womb envy, they have womb envy and the best treatment fathers can give is for sons for this ailment is to vent their insecurities towards those with the genetic mitochondrial lineage. A great book if your interested in feminism - "Freidrich Engels - Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State"

Emma said...

I hate all this bloody nonsense. I'm currently seventeen, so I can drive now, but I was getting catcalls and stupid harassment at 12 years old. I'm from a small town originally, so I didn't know how to deal with strangers just yet. I would get stopped in parking lots by guys in cars asking for my name or where I lived. Ugh.

I'm really small and chronically sick, so I know better than to think I could ever defend myself, so for now I just don't walk anywhere. Ignoring doesn't seem to be the right response because then sometimes they follow and get angry, and start to threaten. I'm afraid to respond rudely because I worry that could result in violence.

When I walk with my boyfriend, who is a pretty large and imposing guy (just by looks, he couldn't hurt a fly), comments get reduced, but not entirely eliminated. I end up only getting comments from guys who think they could take him in a fight. -.-

Anonymous said...

these "compliments" really affected me as a very beautiful and extremely timid 15 year old. they affected me all through my college years.

i started eating. gained a lot of weight. got fewer "compliments".

so now i receive less unwanted attention, but now my health is at risk and i hate that i let myself get this way.

i wish i had been taught at a young age how to respond to such idiotic behavior.

i'm still pissed off about it, and i'm wondering how i will prepare any future daughters of mine how to deal with it in a healthy, positive manner.

Honey said...

Good God, where do you live?

Amelia said...

So many comments, but one in particular that I want to respond to is Kathleen's.

You said, Kathleen, that "I never have this problem when I'm walking around. Guess I'm not as beautiful as you ladies."

Well, I highly doubt it has anything to do with beauty/physical attractiveness. I used to think along these same lines, because my sister and mother would experience this sort of harassment on a much higher level than I ever did, so I chalked it up to them being prettier than me. But really, I think it has a lot to do with which men are around you as you walk, and where you are. For example, I would guess that if you have to walk through a city/next to a busy street every day, the liklihood of getting harassed would be much higher than if you were in a more rural area. My first bad experience with street harassment came when I was visiting my then-boyfriend in St. Paul and was walking along the street (along) and some man asked me for directions, which I gave him, before her continued to compliment me on my nice rear end.

Just some thoughts.

Liz said...

I would like to punch every guy who have made a sexual comment or even just a whistle but I haven't, not even once. I feel disgusted and angry every time but what can I do? I'm annoyed at the fact that there are a lot of men out there who have no manners.

I am all too familiar with cat calls and nasty things men say around me when all I want is to walk my dog or go for a quick jog. And sometimes men wonder why I sneer at them or try to avoid them? It's because I'd rather them call me a bitch than tell me something else.

Anonymous said...

I think this kind of problem is going to be more prevalent in large cities.


I live in Cheyenne, WY and in 3 years I've never once been harassed while walking/biking through this town.

Lauren O said...

But really, I think it has a lot to do with which men are around you as you walk, and where you are.

Very true. I lived in Northern California my whole life and got catcalled only rarely. I studied abroad in England for 3 months and got catcalled all the goddamn time. Pretty sure my attractiveness didn't magically rise when I went to a different country. It's a very cultural thing. I just moved to Austin, Texas a week ago, we'll see how catcalling goes here.

PS I wrote a post about this here a little while ago.

Anonymous said...

If in a moderate distance, I ask the person harassing me if his dick feels any bigger, and if at long distance I will usually give a casual glance and ignore them, because a response is usually what they're trying to gain.

Anonymous said...

part of my has to agree with jennifer.

and again im on about the nice comments, which in all the places ive visited (which are major places, london, manchester, liverpool to name but a few) its been 95% of the comments.

i think we live in a society where we are far too watchfull of our own safety to realise when someone is simply paying us a compliment. and i hate to say this ladies, but im sure you'd prefer to get the odd foul comment than no comments at all, as we also live in a society that strives towards looking perfect even to just walk down the street. we strive towards looking attractive, yet lash out when guys take notice? i dont blame any man for being confused

Anonymous said...

and sorry, as i said before. i have had a LOT of experience of female friends being disgusted by a comment one minute, only to strutt around trying to get a comment the next simply because someone else got a comment and not them.

Anonymous said...

I don't know where you people are living, but I've never been catcalled or whistled at in my life. I'm not an ugly woman, nor am I overweight (and frankly, that one commenter who said she gained weight to escape this harassment, that's just stupid - she put her own health and body on the line to escape a few comments). But this just never happens to me. I used to live in Barrie, Ontario, and now I'm in Hamilton, where it's much busier. Still no catcalls. But my advice is to ignore them completely, they just want to see a reaction out of you, and you flipping them off does not help. If it bothers you that much, I recommend wearing headphones and listening to music.

Tyska said...

I do as my male friend does whenever someone driving by revs their car. Cup your mouth, stop and yell "SORRY ABOUT YOUR PENIS."

If you are with a friend, it will get you a giggle :)

Agnes said...

I'm from sweden and the men here are known for being shy and are always getting yelled/whined at for not whistling and flirting with us girls. I've never been whistled or, what did you call it "catcalled"(?), at here in sweden but it happens all the time when im in spain, italy or france at holidays. It's fun for a few days, then it just gets annoying and it feels kinda creepy when men closer to your fathers age whistles at you.

Doesn't really have a point other than.. you always want what you don't have I guess :P

happyfungirl said...

I used to get a lot of this sort of abuse routinely when I worked in a chemical plant a few years ago. There was lots of walking involved in my job, and no matter what, a few guys always had to show off and whistle or catcall at me, in my plain work clothes and hard hat. No point in complaining to management - I would have been the "troublemaker". Usually I just ignored it, but it really bothered me. I view it as a veiled threat, as well as an insult. One day, I just spit on the ground in the direction of the offending whistler. That felt oddly empowering. I'm sure the whisting idiot didn't expect it.

PG said...

@ happyfungirl: I love it! It's the perfect response. I'm go to spit in the general direction of anyone harassing me! (As soon as I learn to spit in an pointed manner.) It's so much better than flicking them off, which is directed attention. It's just the right level of casual-condescending-and-unexpected. Thanks!

Pizza Diavola said...

im sure you'd prefer to get the odd foul comment than no comments at all, as we also live in a society that strives towards looking perfect even to just walk down the street.

Anonymous @ 3:31 P.M.: Please don't generalize from your experience to everyone else, particularly since multiple people here have talked about how the "comments" made them feel unsafe and harassed. Your attitude saying that women secretly want to be harassed, because they desperately want male attention, and therefore they deserve the harassment they get. If that's how you feel about yourself, I'm sorry, but speaking for myself, I'd much rather have zero attention than objectifying and harassing attention, because my self worth doesn't depend on the number of cat calls I get.

Pizza Diavola said...

All the "just leave them alone, they won't hurt you" comments remind me of this approach to school bullies: If you leave them alone, they'll leave you alone!

Yeah, did that ever work for anyone? No. If you try to ignore them, they'll just escalate, because they think that their behavior is acceptable and that they won't face any consequences or resistence.

Griguthul said...

I would absolutely hate that. Made me think of this video where a woman has revenge on the construction working cat callers.


http://www.break.com/usercontent/2008/6/Chick-Gets-Revenge-On-Construction-Workers-512510.html

Annie said...

Yes. Yes. Yes.

What the fuck. First of all, you can read my mind. Lately, I've been thinking of this more than anything, and then I get a Facebook message from Amelia telling me to check out this recent post that got a zillion comments and I say, "right on, let's check it out."

I don't usually comment on many websites, but this. This gets me.

1. Lately, living in downtown Galesburg (above Kaldis) and biking to work on the Knox campus each day, there are creepy, nasty men who whistle, say crude things ("wanna suck a dick?" yes, word for word), or just plain STARE.

Can we talk about the staring? Staring is such an interesting thing that makes me feel uncomfortable when it comes from a strange stranger who is obviously looking at me in terms of his cock. Sometimes they don't even have to SAY anything, and that irks me a fuck-ton.

ALSO. Walking a HALF A BLOCK to the apartment where two of my friends live each night to hang out, watch a movie, etc., I often run into a man we ladies living on this street call "the Eye Patch Man." Because he wears an Eye Patch, and also because it's easy for us to warn other girls to look out for him. A nice, distinguishing characteristic of a guy to get away from, right? Oh, it sucks.

Anyway, I was walking down the right side of the street, and he was walking down the left side. I see him cross the street. To get to me. So, I cross the street to the side he WAS on, to get away from him. He stops in the middle of the street and almost walks up to me but maybe got the vibe that I was pissed/terrified. Then he holds out is arms, hug-like, and says, "Hey, I'm in love with you. Wanna go somewhere?"

SOMETIMES I JUST HATE THE WORLD.

So can I just say "Go fuck yourself" to these guys? Please tell me I can. Is that okay? I hope so. Usually I just look very angry and walk away. probably out of fear. Also sucky.

2. I try not to hold it against WHERE I live. So many people talk about Galesburg being full of creeps. I really love this town. But I think being brought up in very rich Geneva, Illinois where problems exist but are much less seen, and then coming here and living near a street with lots of bars and businesses, I think I run into a lot more people here, in various states of mind and sobriety, many of them seemingly sexist.

I will say this, though - an offering of hope... when I'm with my ladyfriends and we're going home for the night and ask each other things like 'Do you need a walk home?' or 'I saw Eye Patch Man outside, so maybe Sam should walk you home,' I at least hear some angry remarks from my male friends, too. Some of them say they hate that we can't walk as easily as they can. Lots of them think it's fucked up. So there's my hope. But boy, I hope this shit ends. I wonder if it ever will.

arctic-ninja said...

All of the above comments (except for that weird comment by anonymous regarding the myth that all women secretly WANT to be catcalled and leered at, ugh wtf) I can so relate to.

I work in the center of downtown (in Reykjavik, Iceland, tiny freakin island in the north), on my way there I pass through a small square and past the adjacent café, where certain men (both local and foreigners, who obviously do not have jobs or have some very strange ones which involve sitting on a bench/café all day) will give me looks, yell out comments, whisper creepy shit (audible enough to hear, though), or literally follow me around for some time.
It's infuriating and aggravating, ESPECIALLY in the mornings, as I usually go to the café to get my morning caffeine fix, and 9 times out of 10 get some fucking unwanted attention from these losers.

Just this morning I came past the café, and there were two (non-Icelandic) guys sitting outside (not in conversation). I dropped my stuff at my desk and headed over again to pick up my coffee. On my way back, just as I passed them again I heard the distinct tone of a sexual comment being thrown at me. Now, I do not speak fluent Spanish, but I do know a word or two, and one of those words is 'puta'. They then proceeded to laugh among themselves, much to my irritation and disgust.

I truly wish this had happened after I'd read this post, as I would have hocked the biggest loogie I could muster straight in their direction, accompanied by a very obvious F U gesture.

Reading all of these comments and discussions here has strengthened my opinion of this behaviour, that it is indeed harrassment and in some cases pure verbal assault. I've often had to defend my reactions to people (men and women) who don't seem to understand WHY this pisses me off, but coming here and reading has really made me feel better.

Thanks for bringing this up to the table, it is a very pervasive matter which concernes all women.

Kevin said...

It's kind of a complex issue, and not a completely feminist one. As a guy, I usually avoid certain parts of town - not because I'm homophobic (anything but), but I am uncomfortable with the type of attention you're describing while I'm just trying to go about my business. I've had women whistle at me as well, but it's rare. It is, by far, a phenomenon perpetrated by men, but does transcend, to some extent, gender.

One half of the solution is to try to raise awareness of the issue, and to say to people on a basic level - be classy. You might think you're hot shit, but people don't appreciate that, and you look like an asshole. It's good to educate people and try to get at the root cause of these things, rather than trying for a prohibitive solution.

The other half of the solution is, after we've done our best in that regard, to realize that some people are just going to be douchebags. We don't have to take an apologist attitude or anything, but it's a healthy mental attitude to be able to brush things off that offend us.

Kevin said...

Also, I might mention, that I got a pretty heavy dose of instruction regarding what is and isn't appropriate from my mother, growing up. much of it was informative and instructional.

also, (off topic), i also got a good dose of how a bitter woman felt towards men who do this kind of thing - or men in general - and, unfortunately, to this day, i'm left with an inability to even give a woman in public a shy hello. as i said, off topic.

Truelorax said...

You mentioned you had a cell phone, does it have a camera? Take their pictures. There are public forums where you can post the date time and picture of the offender. Fight back.

Sofia Magliacano said...

Let me start off by saying I lived in California where if you're walking down the street men think you're "working" and now I live in Buenos Aires where you can't walk 10 feet without having something said to you (sometimes sweet, sometimes vulgar and completely direspectful.)

I can understand women getting mad if a man says something vulgar to them. I definitely would be! But come on, if a guy is saying something sweet, just let it go. A lot of these men are harmless and if anything a lot of them are just appreciating the beauty of women. Last night on my way to a show a guy about my age (early twenties) passed by and said "linda" which means pretty. I found this completely harmless. Also I would like to add something that may be off the subject... a lot of my female friends in California would complain that they would go out lock eyes with a cute guy, smile and then the guy would never come up to talk to them. This is one of the reasons why, because a lot of men are scared of women treating them like crap when they do get the guts to talk to them.

I think there are a few ways of dealing with this.

1. ignore it. :)
2. like one of the readers said put on your glasses and your headphones. :)
3. get angry about it and ruin your whole day. :/
4. If they are vulgar flip them off or yell at them, still making you mad and ruining your day. :/
5. or my personal favorite, if they say something sweet, take it as a compliment and keep walking. If they say something vulgar ignore it, don't let it get to you, and keep walking. :)

If you're attractive you will always attract attention. It's just the way it is. Getting angry won't get you anywhere but ruin your own day.

This is just my opinion and I hope no one took it the wrong way. I say this with peace and love, without trying to get anyone angry or upset. :) just a different way to look at the situation.

Anonymous said...

im sorry but I'm a male, and I'm a runner and no matter where I go, what Im wearing I get "wolf whistles and cat calls" from all sexes, I think people just Like to yell things at people while they drive by. Its dumb but don't feel like it only happens to women

Amelia said...

No one said this was a female-only problem. However, most of the cases of street harassment are perpetrated by men against women. That's the sad reality.

RAD said...

someone tells me to suck his dick, i say' "not even with YOUR mouth"

Anonymous said...

Ignoring it sounds like the best option in my opinion. But if they get too close or too harassing, kindly ask for their names and make a report. Or you could have a police officer escort you in civilian clothes and make a point by catching them in broad daylight and in public. That ought to show it's not tolerated?

Anonymous said...

One one of the (mercifully) few times I've been harrassed...

I was waiting to board my train, and some guy who was leaving the train made a comment about my breasts.
I told him to suck my dick.
It confused him into silence, and I got on the train :)

Bad Fish said...

I'm usually very rude to men who ogle or hit on me. No matter what I wear, it does not matter--there will be men staring, pointing me out to their friends, hooting, hollering, etc. My response is to flip them off, insult them, or worse. Sometimes I go up to them and start making gorilla noises (kind of my way of reminding them how animalistic they're being). One time a group of boys at a bus stop were pointing me out from blocks away so when I got close enough I flipped them off, and once I got to the bus stop, I walked right up to the them, stared each and every one of them down, and asked if there was a reason they were staring. I looked mean enough that I'm pretty sure I scared the daylights out of them. These days, hostility seems to get the point across. Because I'm pretty enough, I get away with it. Just more sexism in a different form.

I'm sick of it. I remember being sexually harassed so many times when I was a meat cutter. One customer even sexually assaulted me. I'm sick of being stared at. I'm not the type of women who dresses to the nines trying to get attention, I wear modest clothing, never wear anything flashy. But it doesn't matter. The attention is always there whether your want it or not.

Bad Fish said...

And wow I just love Sofia's response: put up with it! Enjoy it! Let them off the hook! Let the unabashed and unchecked objectification of women go on and on and on! Let men sum up our worth by our body parts--if they're not rude, how could it be harmful...right? Screw that.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind, it's not an excuse.

Men typically have a predisposition towards sexualizing everything they see. Sure, it's evolution, blah blah blah, but, with a little bit of willpower--and I do mean a little bit--it can easily be overcome. These guys simply don't care about how these actions affect women. They say that they don't care when it happens to them so women shouldn't care, either, and also, well, because they simply don't care if women don't like it.

Anyway, this is what's going on. These men--ahem, boys--are simply unwilling to look at their actions because they fulfill their sexual desires.

I wish I had some advice to give on how to stop it. When someone acts against me I typically respond with reason, and I think we all know that won't really work too well in this case. I just thought I'd give you the inside scoop.

Anonymous said...

I have a more complex issue with catcalling and the like where I live--in the midst of a neighborhood where racial tensions tend to run high--poorer, black communities surrounding a college full of mostly white kids.

I am a white woman and the vast majority of the men who catcall at me are black. I really want to adopt a more aggressive response than "just ignoring" it. I feel like it would make me feel less helpless in the face of threatening masculinity. But if I respond negatively to men who aren't white, I am automatically a racist bitch and--depending on where I am in the neighborhood--might be putting myself in some physical danger by doing so. How do I deal with this? It frustrates me so much that I feel like I literally can't do anything in these situations that might indicate that what these men are doing is wrong.