This post is more of a question for this blogging community in general. I have struggled with the question of whether to ignore harassers or address them.
On the one hand, a reaction may be desired by the harasser so ignoring them would clearly be best. I have also heard that even eye contact alone is recognized in the brain as a “reward” and I certainly don’t want to add to such a reward cycle in street harassers by looking at them when they try to engage me.
However, I am also done with handing over my power and rights to be comfortable in public to disrespectful men misusing their own power. They shouldn’t have the ability to entertain themselves at my expense with no repercussions.
At the risk of sounding like a crazy person, I’ll share a couple ways I have responded. Some days I get so angry at the lusty, oppressive leers from men on sidewalks that I glare a look of death at them while I approach, as I pass them, and I turn my head to keep glaring directly at them until they look away. In almost all cases, these men have looked away- and most rather uncomfortably. This might work only because I had been so angry as to actually be daring them to say something in my head or because the men may have thought I was actually crazy. I’m not sure if its an entirely constructive approach, but I felt better by reclaiming my space.
I have responded to a man in a truck catcalling me by immediately stopping my walk and asking very loudly and sternly “Who are you talking to??” He looked confused and said “What?”. I then shouted with a bit of anger and even more pronounced: “WHO are you talking to???” He looked uncomfortable and drove away w/o saying anything. I used this same approach with a man on the same sidewalk as me. He muttered something back that was probably rude but he also looked uncomfortable and stopped.
My patience line has been crossed and I will likely attempt to wrestle my public rights back by responding to future harassment. I have considered announcing that I am calling the police (and not bluffing) as one response to use.
One important detail is that these interactions have all been during the day. I’m not sure yet if my feelings or strength would be different at night. I also may just be lucky so far that my first attempts to respond to harassment have produced a desirable result. I do feel that my visible anger and being unafraid to make my voice loud enough for others to hear me has helped. But my biggest fear is making the situation worse and more uncomfortable by responding.
Has anyone who reads or comments on this blog tried responding and how did it go?
I am curious because it would be great to share with each other the methods that have worked the best, as well as the methods or situations that made the harassment worse.
I would love to hear any opinions!