Tag Archives: street harassment

How Not to Be Rapey on the City Bus


Let me tell you about something that just happened.

On an overcrowded 62 southbound bus in Chicago, I was standing to the side of a seated woman in her 30’s who had her purse on her lap. I noticed her when I got on because she was very pretty and dressed well. Standing next to me (and in front of the woman) was a white man in his 40’s: 5’5” or so, very slim, large glasses, wearing a polo shirt. He raises his voice a little to be heard and says to the seated woman, “That’s a beautiful purse.”

Her: Thank you. [small, polite smile.]

A few minutes pass in silence. Then,

Him: It goes very nicely with your shirt. [His voice is a little different now. It has taken on a wheedling tone. He’s making it clear he’s hitting on her.]

Her: Thank you. [only a glimmer of a smile. She averts her eyes.]

A few minutes pass in silence.

Him: So. Are you coming from work? [now he’s in full on creep mode. It is important to note that the way they are positioned places his crotch almost fully in her face.]

Her: [silence. Averted eyes.]

A minute later:

Him: Did you not hear me? Are you coming from work?

[enter Olivia]

Me: Excuse me, has she given you any indication that she is in the least bit interested in you?

Him: No. [stutters] Don’t worry about it.

Me: Well, I’m going to worry about it if you’re making her uncomfortable. And you’re making her uncomfortable. Leave her alone.

Him: Shut up. If she was uncomfortable, she would have said so.

Her: [looks up at me, refusing to look at him]

Me: Dude, are you blind? She’s uncomfortable. Leave her alone.

Him: [muttering insults]

Me: Did you say something?

Him: Yes.

Me: Oh I didn’t hear you. Because you were mumbling

Him: [silence]

The rest of the bus ride passed without incident. The woman got off five stops later and I got off seven stops after that (two after my actual stop: I didn’t want him to know my real stop in case he was a psycho). He stared at me for much of the ride but said nothing.

So why am I writing this blog? For a number of reasons.

Even if someone is not saying the words “You’re making me uncomfortable” they might still be telling you they’re uncomfortable. The woman’s clasped hands, the aversion of her eyes, the shifting in her seat, the refusal to answer his questions? This is discomfort. Part of living in a civilized society is taking social cues from one another. If you can’t restrain yourself enough to not hit on a woman in public—and I urge you to do exactly that: restrain yourself—at least have the humanity, respect, and presence of mind to take note of the behavior of the subject of your attention. Often, men who engage in street harassment rely on the societally taught politeness that is ingrained in most women in order to subjugate their target. They interpret this politeness as either interest or “playing hard to get.”   Hint: “Playing hard to get” doesn’t really exist in these kinds of scenarios. She’s not “playing hard to get.” She wants you to leave her the fuck alone.

Additionally, take stock of your privilege. Not just your male privilege—hopefully you’re already taking stock of that daily—but your physical privilege. Standing in front of a woman on the bus with your crotch in her face is not the time and place to compliment her on her shirt. Trust me. You are in a position of physical dominance. Allowing this posture to inflate your sense of control in the situation is not “being confident.” It’s being rapey. Don’t be rapey.

We need to teach men. Men need to be taught about boundaries, dominance, privilege, intimidation, street harassment, and a multitude of other microaggressions that they employ—sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously—when they interact with women.

Men, the first step is paying attention. Please, please pay attention. Sometimes you can’t see because you’re standing in your own way. Advice? Move.

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For men who don’t understand how street harassment is a problem

ImageThis started as a series of tweets. I think it deserves a blog. For men who don’t understand how street harassment is a problem, let me explain.

You know those Greenpeace workers who block your way on the sidewalk and demand your time and money? Who stare at you as you approach? The ones who you can see in your peripheral and you try not to make eye contact with? The ones you really don’t want to give any time or money and you know that they’re going to say something no matter how much you pretend to be on the phone and you just wish you could be invisible for the ten seconds it takes to pass?

It’s like that. But imagine they want your dignity instead of your money.

Then take it a step further. Imagine them blocking your way on every sidewalk. Imagine they follow you onto the train. Imagine you want to take a cab to get away from the Greenpeace workers, but it turns out a Greenpeace worker is driving the taxi and is staring at you in the rearview mirror. Imagine those Greenpeace workers staring at your ass and telling you what it looks like, imagine them cussing you out and threatening you with violence for not caring about the environment. Imagine you want to tell the cop on the corner to tell the Greenpeace workers to stop harassing you, but then he tries to start telling you about whales too. It’s midnight, and you just want to get home. But it’s whales, whales, whales.

You would hate them, wouldn’t you? Those Greenpeace workers. Every time you saw one you’d be pissed, afraid, suspicious, cold. You’d do anything to avoid them. People would say “They’re not all like that” and you’d say, “Prove it.”

Image courtesy of http://stopstreetharassment.com/

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Wednesday: A Poem

This is a rant. A soft rant, but a rant.

I made this video in 2010 with a dear friend while in college. I have never made it available for public consumption, but now seems as good a time as any. Only three years ago, but I was such a kid when we collaborated on this. Still….I feel much the same now as I did then when I wrote this poem. Some things never change.

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