“I like your walk.”

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I wanted to share an experience with your readers and see what they thought. First, like many women in DC, I get hollered at all the time and I find it infuriating — I typically wear headphones (when safe) not because I need music 24 hours a day, but just so I won’t hear people yelling and honking at me on my walk to work.

Last week I was walking home from work and was approaching Scott Circle. A man walking a little faster than me began to pass me, gave me a great big friendly smile and said, “I just wanted to tell you I like your walk. I hope you have a great weekend.” Instead of my usual angry roll of the eyes or “Get some class, would you?” I found myself smiling back and saying, “Thanks” (to the ‘have a great weekend part’ anyway) — pretty rare for me.

Now, let me say that if some dude is ogling me from behind, I really don’t want him to tell me about it, and still found that part irritating. But there was something about the way he spoke to me that caught me off-guard, and in retrospect I think it was that, yes, he was “hollering,” but he also spoke to me like a fellow decent human being, and not his personal sex toy walking down the street. (Unlike this morning when I passed a guy on a corner who yelled “Oh baby, you sexy thing!” over and over in front of 10 other loiterers until I got half a block away.)

I guess this encounter made me feel that finding a solution to street harassment isn’t a zero sum game. I’ve often told harassers that “If you want to speak to me, just say hello, and ask if I’m having a good day, it’s really not that difficult.” And that’s basically what this guy was doing. He didn’t yell, he wasn’t trying to prove his dominance, and he certainly wasn’t threatening. So I’m sort of torn, but I do know that if every person who approached me on the street spoke to me like this guy, I wouldn’t be left feeling so rage-y at the end of my walk.

Submitted by HG on 8/8/2010

Location: Scott Circle

Time of Harassment: Evening Rush Hour (3:30P-7:30P)

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3 responses to ““I like your walk.”

  1. “I like your walk” sounds pretty objectifying to me…

    Let me guess: you found him attractive and/or he was dressed professionally?

  2. It’s really interesting, because I think there is so much in the delivery that can change something from a friendly holla to harassment.

    The ones I don’t like are either screaming, which makes me feel threatened (because if they’re not ashamed of this what else might they not be ashamed to do), or muttering so I can only pick up a few of the words, which I find very sinister because I feel I can’t challenge them and directly prove they were saying anything bad. Sounds like this man caught your eye first and spoke at a normal-person volume, like someone with respect for women would do.

    Other things that can affect how a “holla” is received, IMO – the facial expression and body language. While “I like your walk” could be harassing in combination with with threatening body language, invasion of personal space or touching, or leering, without those things, it was OK in this case. Not to mention that the words were not *that* sexual – it’s always, always awful when they mention specific body parts or things they want to do to you.

  3. I’ve either run into this guy before or his twin… I was in a metro station on a weekend morning & he used the same exact line in the same tone – and I agree, I know it sounds objectifying (and I hate catcallers), but his tone was so polite and almost oddly disinterested that I wasn’t offended at all. It felt more like the times where another woman taps you on the shoulder and compliments that sweater you’re wearing than a typical catcall.

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