Monthly Archives: September 2011

“Hey, why can’t you put a smile on that pretty face?”

I was walking down the street in my neighborhood when I passed a panhandler. We know each other by sight – occasionally I give him money or we exchange nods. Today, I didn’t make eye contact, so he called out to me, “Hey, why can’t you put a smile on that pretty face?”

I probably would have shook my head, then spent the rest of the day thinking up snappy comebacks I could say when I saw him again. But I had just finished reading a book about harassment: “Back Off: How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers” by Martha J. Langelan. It teaches women how to confront sexual harassers in their community, on the street, at the workplace, etc., without being aggressive (yelling curses or insulting him) or timid (ignoring it or not walking that way).

I did exactly what the book advised – I kept my calm, looked him in the eye, named the behavior and told him not to do it again: “Don’t tell me to smile,” I said.

He started wheedling, saying “Oh, I didn’t TELL you to smile, I asked if maybe you could, maybe-”

I said (again, calmly naming the behavior and holding him accountable): “I don’t like it when strangers tell me to smile.”

He apologized right away. We told each other, “Have a good day.” I felt a bit tense in the moment, but afterwards, I felt good for having asked for respect!

It works! Even though it’s about 20 years old, I highly recommend this book.

Submitted by Laura

Location: Connecticut Ave & 24th St., NW

Time of harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

“There seems to be something in the water!”

Photo by Rob.Wall via Flickr

Interestingly enough, my experience with harassment was not completely negative. That is to say, the actual harassing was extremely frustrating, but the way my friend and I responded to it made the rest of my day.

I am a high school junior who attends an all girls school in the DC area. We have a brother school at which many girls attend classes. There seems to be something in the water at this particular school, as a majority of their boys seem to have trouble treating women with respect and dignity. A friend and I were in an afternoon class at the brother school, and so we made a point of walking over together. Occasionally, as we walked by, we would hear boys yelling at us from the upper windows. Our typical response was to ignore it and keep walking. On that particular day, however, I suppose we were simply too aggravated to just deal with it. She and I were walking over, having a perfectly civil and enjoyable conversation, when a boy began barking at us from an upper window. Yes, actually barking. It was rather bizarre. The first time, we ignored it and continued our conversation. Then he started yelling at us again. My friend and I, entirely unrehearsed, said ‘Oh, fuck you!; not quite under our breaths. We looked at each other and laughed all the way to our class, leaving behind us a very puzzled and surprised harasser. We still laugh about it now. Although the fact that I have to worry about being harassed makes me very frustrated, it feels good that I, too, have the power to stop someone with my words.

Submitted by M

Location: 14th & U St. NW

Time of harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

“Do you have any socks or shoes for me?”

So on Friday I was walking though Franklin Park and I had time left before I had to be back in the office so I sat down on a bench. I work really close to the park so I know a lot about the homeless. I’ve actually had a couple of remarks made at me before but this experience was different. So I’m on the bench when this young guy ( who appears to be homeless) comes up to me and asks me for some change. He smells like urine and was barefoot so I obliged and gave him so change out of my purse. Then he asked me if I had any socks or shoes he could have, which of course I didn’t. He then proceeded to spit on me and took my flats right off my feet! I was shocked! Nobody seemed to see it either. I was so in a daze the whole rest of the day. It was awful. This guy ruined my day. I walked back to the office barefoot and had to take the metro that way too. Please if anyone has seen this guy before please say something. I have a pretty good description from what I remember.

He was white,tall with black hair and glasses. He was wearing a white john deer shirt with black athletic pants and was barefoot. He was very young, id say 19 or 20. It feels really good to get that off my chest. I’ve never had anything like that happen to me before.

Submitted by Kim

Location: Franklin Park

Time of harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

Boys & Girls Club Scammer

I think this is the same “Boys and Girls Club” scammer as previous entries. I was walking to a doctor appointment when a 20-ish guy with dreads and a baseball cap came up to me and asked me something incomprehensible. I said, “Excuse me? No, I’m sorry, I–” and he cut me off with, “Is it because I’m black?” Needless to say I went off on him to the point where he took out his phone (a way to deflect people so I ignored it) and said he was calling the police. I gave him my doctor’s address and told him to send them there. He said he represented B&G Club but wouldn’t show me his binder. On my way back from the doctor, I told him I had all the time in the world now and lit into him again. He kept asking me to donate something to him or “the kids.

Submitted by Kelly

Location: Connecticut Ave at Dupont Circle

Time of harassment: Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

Pedestrian Crossing

I was walking hope around 1pm on Saturday. As I was crossing 14th street, a car barreled through the pedestrian crossing right in front of me. It really bothers me when drivers disobey the rules of the road – so I signaled to the sign and said to the driver ‘this is a pedestrian crossing!’

There was a man walking towards me on the other side of the street. He looked older than a teenager, but definitely younger than me (say 21). He said “Why you so angry?” I just kept walking, because I was so incensed by him. But he kept talking “Its a beautiful day. You’re beautiful. Why you look so bad?”

I’m sure there are people (idiots) out there who would say, oh what a compliment. But this guy did not know me from Adam. Plus I am several years older than him. It is extremely condescending for a random man on the street to start telling me what to do because I’m female. If I had been a middle-aged man, you bet he would not have said anything. But because I’m a young-looking female, he felt entitled to scold me for being upset.

Whenever a man tells me to ‘smile’ on the street, I want to respond with “Say no to drugs.” That message is as insulting, presumptious and inappropriate as telling a woman you don’t know to smile. I could be coming from a stressful job, or thinking about a situation with a family member. But all that doesn’t matter because I’m female aren’t I? And wasn’t I born to smile for random shitheads on the street?

Submitted by Anonymous

Location: Upper 14th street, near Takoma

Time of harassment:  Day Time (9:30A-3:30P)

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

Capital Pride

Photo by Anokarina via Flickr

I marched in the Capital Pride Parade last weekend as part of a marching band. For part of the parade route, the crowds had pushed up into the street, leaving very little room to march through and no space to separate us from the crowd. One man at the front of the crowd took the opportunity to grab my ass as I marched by.

Because I was concentrating hard on playing and marching, I couldn’t respond. Nonetheless this upset me. Obviously, being part of a parade does not make my body public property. I was also disturbed by the fact that, given the context, this guy probably assumed I was a lesbian, yet still felt entitled (perhaps even felt more entitled) to sexually assault me.

Submitted by Anonymous

Location: Capitol Pride parade route

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

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

“Please behave!”

This event happened over two months ago, but I wanted to share because I think it’s important to show how these types of events can turn out a little better than you think sometimes.

I was on the red line travelling towards downtown. There were two boys of about 13-15 years old sitting across the aisle from me, talking about some girls in a very rude way. One was talking about raping this girl they were talking about, and other objectifying and gross comments. At one point, an elderly man sitting near them got up and moved. Others on the metro did nothing. After the elderly man moved, I thought, “this is enough.” I approached the two boys and asked them to behave since they were in a public place. They tried to play dumb, but I pointed out that others were moving to get away from them and that they should act appropriately in public. They got quiet, and hopefully were embarrassed. Then, one or two stops later, I heard one mutter, “let’s get out of here” and they moved to another car.

I felt proud that at least for that one moment, I was able to influence their behavior.

Submitted by VLM

Location: On the metro (red line)

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

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.