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Street Harassment: How About Standing Up To It, Guys? [Lady Bits]


We’ve tackled the issue of street harassment before here in Lady Bits, because the sad truth is that it’s something many women face nearly every day. I’ve been receiving unwanted male attention in public since I was about 13 or 14 years old, and it’s never gotten any easier. Sometimes I’m able to brush it off and move on with my day, but other times it makes me feel like a tiny bug that someone is crushing under their heel. Many someones, actually, because it seems that once I’ve been harassed during the course of a day, more guys feel free to pile on the crap. It makes me sad, but it also pisses me off. Really, if I were a superhero, I’d be a superhero that spends her days kicking the asses of guys who harass women.

Lately, I’ve noticed something about the way many men behave toward women when they’re in groups. Often, when I walk past a group of men, one or two of them will make unwanted comments. A few other guys in the group might nod and grin along, but don’t actually say anything. And then, there’s almost always at least one guy in the group who says nothing. I’ve even gotten a lot of apologetic looks from “that guy” as his friends harass me. Now, I’ve never spoken to any of these guys, but I get the distinct feeling that many of them disapprove of the way their friends treat women.

Sometimes, I really, really wish that one guy, the one who realizes that street harassment is nasty and demeaning, would stand up to his friends. A simple, “Hey, that’s not cool,” would make a huge difference to me. The reason why so many men harass women, even when they’re visibly uncomfortable, is because everything in our culture tells them it’s ok. They have learned that it’s acceptable to treat women like objects who exist for their sexual gratification, because that’s how women are portrayed in the media. But that doesn’t justify their behavior. And a simple comment from a friend would at least let them know that not everyone sees women the way they do, and not everyone behaves that way.

In my experience, it can be scary to stand up to your harasser. Though most men who fling unwanted comments at women as they go about their daily lives are all talk and no action, you never know who might be dangerous. And because I’ve been followed and threatened before, I’m reluctant to stand up to a harasser unless I feel completely safe. A little help every now and then would be much appreciated.

By no means am I saying that I need a white knight to ride in on his horse and save me. I don’t need a man to take care of me and I’m not implying that other women do, either. I’m definitely not suggesting that guys pretend to be defenders of women’s humanity in order to pick up chicks. Because that’s underhanded and slimy. I’m just suggesting that, if you’re a guy and you see another man harass a woman, tell him to stop. Yeah, your friends might make fun of you for it. They might insinuate that declining to ogle women in public makes you less of a man. But the idea that your masculinity is tied to your sexuality and that your sexuality should involve aggressively pursuing women is part of the same problem. Stand up to it.

Give it a thought dudes. We ladies do just fine for ourselves, because we have to. A little support would be welcome.

[Lead image via chsherbakova yuliya/Shutterstock]

Dancer, choreographer, personal trainer, and freelance writer based in New York City. More here.