Last week while walking home a dude stopped me (at first I assumed for directions, dumb country girl that I am) and then said he’d “seen me before”, “wasn’t punkin’ me”, and how I must live/work in the area- I told him I had to go and he asked my name (which I refused) and then he got mad and swore at me and walked off ranting about how “That’s Toronto for you!!! B*tches!” etc etc. Clearly his approach-strange-women-who-are-alone act had gotten the same icy response with others (because obviously it’s wicked creepy to everyone but him). Major yuck. So much for Canadian manners! The experience was honestly upsetting, his sudden hatred and anger, and it made me feel unsafe in a neighborhood where I usually feel absolutely fine.
It made me think how women experience this type of thing almost every day, you don’t have to be wearing subculture clothing to be harassed- it happens to every single female I know regularly (of all sizes, styles, races). Though if you are wearing subculture/elaborate clothing chances are you’ve gotten street harassed by strangers about that too.
No matter what you are wearing- be it a frilly lolita ensemble, decadent Gothic look, or booty shorts and a crop top- you should be able to leave your home and not fear harassment, ridicule, violence, or abuse from strangers. It’s a basic human right I think and something we’ve overlooked for way too long. 🙂
The solution is not to modify your behavior or mode of dress or route to avoid potential harassment (as it happens no matter what you wear/do/look like) because that’s letting them win, it’s allowing the behavior to continue. Be cautious and safe but don’t perpetuate it by changing to try and prevent it.
There’s no one right way to deal with street harassment (even if carrying a supersoaker full of spoiled milk and black ink seems like the best idea ever) but here are some of the ways to respond to the lude gestures, rude comments, and general gross-ness of street harassment:
–Don’t respond. Pretend you didn’t hear it and just keep motoring past the harasser, sometimes responding or showing any indication that you heard them will elicit more of the same. Do not engage, do not respond, just get out of there. Especially important tactic if you are alone or out at night.
-If you do choose to respond (and I do think this is something more women need to do in order to hopefully reduce the instances of these experiences) be stern/firm! State their behavior is not okay/is rude/unacceptable and point out that it is harassment. “It is NOT okay to speak to me like that” or “that is harassment” or “No one asked you”. Don’t apologize, don’t ask for permission to comment just state it. Then LEAVE. Don’t stick around to argue as it could get out of hand and you don’t know the individual. Just make your statement and point out how the behavior isn’t okay and then go, move towards a populated public space as soon as you can.
–Self Defense: Taking some basic self defense classes or reading how-to articles (like this one) might help you feel safer out on your own. It’s good to know how to protect yourself even if you never have to (and I hope you won’t ever have to). It can also make you feel safer to carry a purse sized container of dog/bear mace (if legal in your area) or a keychain sound alarm.
Wear your frills, booty shorts, or whatever with pride and security. You deserve that. We all do. And let’s move towards a culture that doesn’t accept street harassment of any kind! 🙂