By Tiffany Chandler
There is nothing new about women getting unwanted attention in public. Whether we are Single or married, wearing figure-hugging dresses or casual loose clothing, this world is filled with people who will harass women for any reason at any time. Street harassment is an important cause to fight against because it is another form of oppression. Oppression is what keeps groups of people from succeeding and being equally a part of society. Oppression keeps women, as a group into believing that we are less valuable in society. However, our assets (mind, talent, gifts) are what keep this nation running.
Hollaback, an organization that seeks to end street harassment, defines that behavior as “a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. It is an expression of the interlocking and overlapping oppressions we face and it functions as a means to silence our voices and ‘keep us in our place.’” People like Feminista Jones with her #YouOkSis movement are trying to create dialogue that will ultimately lead to real solutions that will end street harassment. In the meantime, the reality is that we have to deal with these street harassers and below are a few ways to avoid or diffuse those unfortunate public interactions.
Talking on a cell phone (even if it’s a fake conversation) has become one of the most popular and accessible tactics for women to avoid interacting with sexual harassers. If you are on the phone, harassers might not be as aggressive to pursue you because they think that you genuinely did not hear them. Being on the phone also works as a safety net when people think you are alone and vulnerable. They do not know who is on the other end of the line and for all they know, everything they say or do can be recorded by the person on the phone. Earbuds have a similar effect. Whether you use earbuds or a phone, the key is to not react, not break your stride and keep going about your business as if you don’t hear the knuckleheads.
Great Street Harassing Man is a Great Woman
Street harassers are not always people you have to walk past. Sometimes you need to let them walk past you. If you sense that there is a potential harasser that is creeping behind you or in the nearby vicinity, one thing you can do is stop by the side of the sidewalk. Let the potential (or current) harassers walk ahead of you and avoid any eye contact with them. This would be a great opportunity to go back to the first tactic and fish your phone out of your bag. Let the men get several feet ahead of you before you continue on your way. Now you can watch them instead of them watching (and commenting) on you. It is key to be aware of your surroundings in public so that you can identify the potential street harassers and avoid at all cost.
Strangers with not much Danger
While the “Don’t talk to strangers” rule is meant to keep us safe from unknown danger, it is also a rule that can be broken while avoiding a street harassers. If someone is harassing you and you do not feel safe confronting the harasser, look for sympathetic looking bystanders in the vicinity. Make eye contact with them or if you think it is safe to do so, tell those people that you do not know the man who is following you or otherwise giving you unwanted attention. Sometimes when you need help, all you have to do is ask.
How has street harassment affected you? What tactics have you used to avoid or stop street harassment?