Winks and More

Photo via DazzleD via flickr

Photo via DazzleD via flickr

Something is in the water today. As I left my office building to go to the Farrugut North metro station directly underneath, I walked by a group of 3 men that stared at my backside and immediately started catcalling. I totally ignored them and headed towards the escalator, and one of the men started mocking the others about how I didn’t want to talk to their “sorry asses.” Yep, pretty much.

I got on the Metro and headed towards Columbia Heights. Aside from being asked for donations or change, I had an older man in a suit sitting in a seat with his colleagues and facing me (I was standing near the door). He caught my eye and, mid-conversation, smiled and winked at me. If his friends noticed, they didn’t mind it, but it made me hella uncomfortable. I can’t stand being winked at. How are you supposed to react? It’s a small action, but sometimes it’s even more creepy than being catcalled. Again, I just looked away and ignored it.

I went up the escalator at Columbia Heights and almost immediately a man walked by me, stopped, looked me up and down (as I was calling my friend who was meeting me there) and told me it was his lucky day for “seeing a little mama like you.” I ignored him as he kept staring and walked away a few feet — right by a group of guys eating at Pete’s Pizza who were looking at me too. I took off to Payless just to wander the aisles, since being on the street was obviously not going to work, and waited for my friend from inside. I pretty much refused to come out until he got there — I had hit my limit. If I accidentally met someone’s eye or walked too close to somebody, that was it — I was sure to get a look, a comment or worse, just for being female and out in public.

A side note: many girls or women are taught to smile at people no matter how they talk to you — taught not to be a “bitch” or be rude, even when you have no obligation to be nice, smiling or friendly to someone that’s leering at you. Just don’t. The best way I’ve found to deal with it, as uncomfortable as I get, is to completely ignore whatever it is they’re saying and keep moving. They want a reaction from you, and if you give them nothing a lot of the time they’ll get bored and find someone who will. Not always, but a lot of the time.

Submitted by KS on 10/23/2009

Location: Columbia Heights, Farragut North

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8 responses to “Winks and More

  1. Ok, I posted this last week, and while I was writing I felt pretty upset — but that owl picture just made my day. Lol!

  2. Sorry, KS. There are some days when the harassment’s back-to-back and can drive you to the point of insanity. It’s like these men make a career out of harassing! Ugh!

    I was going to make a trip to the CH Target today, but after reading your story I’m going to a different one. CH is a magnet for these ridiculous harassers!

    They can build all the new shops and restaurants they want around there, but it’s done nothing to curb the harassment there. It’s still “The Gauntlet.”

    • “The Gauntlet” is the perfect word for it. If you have to go there, just bring someone with you — even just having someone else to be paying attention to helps… good luck!

  3. Thanks for sharing your comment, KS. It seems that on a global level our stories often make references to areas of the city as being “worse” than others. As we think about intervention and change, I wonder if it might be useful to start naming things more or at least exploring some of the common threads. In other words, what environments support and encourage street harrassment? Our individual stories are so important, in part because they help us to see the common factors that lead to our oppression (and resistance!)

    • Thank you for your idea and comment, Erika. One of the things we would really like to see on HBDC, is a dialogue around exactly what you said. What environments and societal norms support harassment? How can we address the root causes of street harassment?

    • That’s a really interesting thing to think about. I actually help run the Feminism2.0 blog — it’s about feminism and technology but topics really run the gamut to anything that’s important to women. We have a very well-connected community of women on the site and on Twitter at @fem2pt0 — I wonder if there is potential here?

  4. KS, We would definitely like to talk to you further about getting a dialogue started on the Feminism2.0blog.

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