“What is not okay…”

I know a lot of the people reading this blog are doing so because they’ve reached a point at which they’re completely fed up with being fearful when they walk out of their homes. But I’ve been reading a lot of stories today – and their comments – and there are so many people defending the harassers. Let me just clear up what is and what is not okay using my own experiences:

Crossing guard who told me in a nice manner that I looked really pretty today – that made me feel good, and I smiled.

Teenage boy who started air-humping me in H&M, then ran back to his posse of snickering friends when I turned around – You’re a sick little coward. If I’m worthless enough that you can publicly molest me, why is it that you run to the safety of 11 other young men when I notice you?

Huge bouncer-type guy that remarked “Cute hairdo” while passing by me – That was actually a compliment, and you pulled it off pretty nicely.

Van full of guys that rolled slowly alongside me as I slipped treacherously on the icy sidewalk carrying heavy bags (of Christmas presents, it was Christmas Eve!), heckling me relentlessly – that was cruel, and I hate that you made me so full of rage on a holiday.

Some nice incidents of bystander help:

When my crazy boyfriend was chasing me around the neighborhood, the guy that came out of his house to intimidate him into leaving me alone made me promise myself to step in if I ever saw that sort of thing going on.

When I was in a huge fight with my husband and he left the house, I sat alone on the front steps, shivering and looking hopeless. To the nice man that stopped, leaned over, smiled nicely and asked if I was cold – I couldn’t be more grateful for the kindness in your voice and in your expression. That actually changed me.

It’s true that talking to a woman on the street is usually harassment, but sometimes its not. Sometimes it’s been really nice that a strange man interacted with me.

But it all depends on the level of respect you show. We can tell when you think we’re objects. We can tell the difference between a nice guy, and a guy who is acting nice so he can get something out of us.

Submitted by anonymous on 8/14/2011

Location: Unknown

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.

11 responses to ““What is not okay…”

  1. Thank you for sharing your stories. They definitely show the difference between what’s acceptable and what isn’t. However, there will still be knuckleheaded numbskulls who will never get it and will continue to post hateful and instigating comments. I know in my gut that us allies outnumber them though.

  2. Thank you. Not everyone is trying to rape and murder you or harass you. Half the shit I see on here is BEYOND creepy. about a quarter is down right harassment. another quarter is probably just sorta weird guys with really bad game approaching a girl who happens to be extremely uptight. Biologically men want to be with women, I’m sorry but that’s how it is. That doesn’t excuse blatant harassment – but a guy making a playful comment that is clearly harmless like “nice hairdo” or “ayyy shorty” shouldn’t be met with fear or discomfort. Then again, its all about who is doing it and their tone. Some guys get away with a lot more because they are just better at it. Other can be completely innocent but come off as serial killers.

  3. I’m a female, get harrassed and also questioned the legitimacy of some of the posts on this blog. There is a huge difference between a creeper and an innocent guy saying you look nice. When I’m having a bad day, I actually appreciate the guy on the corner shouting “heyyy! smile, pretty lady!” So while I respect most of the disputes on this blog, I also realize that at some point in our lives a handsome man came up to each of us asking for a date with some cheesy pick-up line and we took the bait.

    • A lot of times when I hear comments encouraging me to smile it’s irritating, just because I’m generally not a fan of unsolicited commentary. I agree that there definitely can be exceptions. One night a few years back I was walking home in the snow (I didn’t live here at the time) and was going through just…a really terrible time in my life, so I was pretty much always crying and looking and feeling like the world was going to end. As I crossed a street near my apartment this guy who appeared to be homeless (I’d seen him around asking for change before) that was outside the corner store saw me in tears, stopped me, and said “The world isn’t that terrible, whatever’s wrong will get better. Even if you’re crying put a smile on your face, and it might make the rest of you feel a little bit better.”

      I remember that like it was yesterday instead of over four years ago. In a way I was so grateful for his kindness (his comment was in no way sleazy or rude at all) when I wasn’t seeing it from anybody else. I was so touched that this man who clearly had it worse than I did was trying to cheer me up.

      Obviously, I didn’t and still don’t feel that was harassment. But I think that man was an example that not all strange men on the street mean to make women uncomfortable. God knows I’ve had far more experience dealing with that sort, unfortunately, but it’s nice to remember that not everyone’s rotten.

  4. Thank you so much for addressing this and acknowledging that not EVERY time a strange man says something to a woman does it qualify as harrassment. This has been one of my favorite posts on this site, thank you!!

  5. Thank you for this post.

    Kevin&Rock- Don’t make excuses for the “guys with no game.” If it’s even borderline, don’t say it. “Biology” isn’t an excuse. I have needs too, and somehow manage to get through the day without harrassing the attractive men that I see. The harrassment I’ve experienced is NOT some sort of misinterpreted compliment by an extremely uptight girl. There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to approach women, if you’re interested in getting to know them, as is well-illustrated by the commenter above. If you think it’s a grey area, then don’t say it, don’t gesture it, don’t do it. PERIOD. The poster is right- it’s a matter of respecting the people around you. Male or female, everyone has a right to the same respect.

  6. Kevin&Rock, if you don’t want women to be justifiably annoyed with you, don’t call the women who aren’t comfortable being catcalled (no matter how innocent) “uptight.” You don’t know what may have happened in a woman’s past, and you can’t expect people to be okay with men they don’t know approaching them in a sexual manner.

    Also, just a nitpick…biologically, SOME men want to be with women, but some do not. Ignoring the existence of gay men isn’t cool, and neither is ignoring the fact that some of these women aren’t into men, and therefore especially shouldn’t be expected to deal with their catcalling.

  7. someone with “no game” gets treated poorly. if he can’t pull himself together to learn how to talk to someone, he’ll face the consequences. it’s not on me to teach him how to talk to women. i will gladly teach him how not to by telling him when he’s being rude or creepy.

  8. I agree, telling them they are rude ir creepy is good if not required, but Slut Walk girl on here like two posts earlier claiming sexual harassment because a bartended said “enjoying all the beautiful women”? Come on. Im all about empowering women and them sticking up for themselves but just throwing SEXUAL HARASSMENT around is obnoxious and puts women who actually experience sexual harassment in a bad situation.

  9. The problem with trying to delineate which specific types of comments are acceptable is that how they are received depends, at least to some degree, on the individuals giving and receiving the comments. The two “not okay” examples are obviously way out of line by any reasonable standard. However, with different individuals in the roles, the comment from the crossing guard might easily have been taken as harassment as well. Were it posted to this site under different circumstances, the comments would probably recommend that the poster contact the crossing guard’s employer and have him reprimanded for harassment. I’m not suggesting that either of these interpretations of the comment are incorrect, only that this apparent contradiction can be very perplexing for those in the position to potentially be seen as harassers.

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