Chances are, if you’re a woman, you’ve been sexually harassed in a public space. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that rape culture is alive and manifests its ugly, hairy face in our daily interactions with strange men on the street.
This reality makes even the act getting dressed in the morning stressful; you think to yourself, Will I be harassed if I wear this top, or these boots, or these jeans? Which way should I walk to work? Sometimes you’ve got to tap deep into your inner warrior just to step out and face the day.
There is no “best" way to deal with street harassment because sometimes the threat of violence is so imminent that staying silent is the best survival tactic, but that’s okay. We all have our own ways of dealing with unwarranted advances, and by speaking up when it happens, we can let harassers know that what they’re doing is not acceptable.
Remember: As a woman, you are not obligated to smile, you are not even obligated to be nice to anyone, let alone a strange man on the street. Sometimes, we’ve gotta be, well, nasty women to actually have our boundaries respected.
So the next time you're gearing up to go outside, think about it: What kind of Street Harassment Warrior are you?
Note: It's okay if you're not any kind of warrior; we're all just doing our best out there, no matter how we approach—or don't approach—assholes in the streets. And also, know your rights. Here is a list of each U.S. state's street harassment law, compiled by StopStreetHarassment.org.
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Street Harassment Warrior 1: The Vocal Vixen Catch Cry: “Go Fuck Yourself!” "Leave me alone, loser!” “I’ll stomp on your neck!” “Go eat your dinner on the third rail!”
Vocal Vixens aren’t taking any shit from any sexist douchebags and will fight back. Loudly. You’re a bold, brave ball-buster who's not afraid to use your voice. You go after what you want in your life. You’re one tough cookie, and we wouldn’t want you any other way. Note: This tactic works best when you’re in a group or in a crowded public space. Be safe.
Street Harassment Warrior 2: The Awesome Ally Catch Cry: “Are you okay?” “Leave her alone!” “She’s not talking to you!”
The Awesome Ally comes in all shapes and sizes: You’re a brave justice warrior who stands up for what is right, even if it’s uncomfortable. You know that staying silent doesn't have to be the answer when you’re faced with a bad situation, so you’ll speak up on behalf of strangers or women who might feel afraid or intimidated to vocalize their discomfort themselves. You’re a thoughtful friend (and let's go out on a limb and say you’re probably an awesome lover too).
Note: Feel free to use this tactic any time you see a woman being harassed. First, ask her if she's okay. She may not be speaking up because she’s afraid. Show her you have her back. Loudly. Every voice helps.
Street Harassment Warrior 3: The Magnificent Medusa Catch Cry: A death stare.
You understand that a silent approach can be the deadliest. Men have no power under your forceful gaze, and you’ve had years of experience perfecting it. By showing him your disgust, you remind him quietly of the piece of human dog poop that he is. Mwahahaha!
Note: This is a great way to non-verbally communicate that you think things are not copasetic.
Street Harassment Warrior 4: The Incredible Inquirer Catch Cry: "Why are you speaking to me like that?” “Who Asked Your Opinion?” “Would you let someone talk to your sister like this?”
The Inquirer is whip-smart, compassionate, and interested in creating a dialogue around harassment. You like to understand why people behave the way they do, and you’d like to make these men think about it too in the hope that it will stop them from harassing other women in the future.
Note: These four words “Who asked your opinion?” work incredibly well. You’ve responded to harassment in a non-threatening way and turned the spotlight on to the harasser. And you’ve totally disarmed him. They rarely have a comeback.
Street Harassment Warrior 5: Snap Happy Sassy Catch Cry: “No, YOU smile, asshole!”
Content is king! You’ve got a bunch of followers on Instagram and thoroughly modern as you are, you understand the power of social media to speak up for what’s wrong in the world. A quick flash of the iPhone and you’ve got him spooked. You hashtag your image #iHollaback #StopStreetHarassment and share your story on iHollaback.
Street Harassment Warrior 6: The Boss Bitch Catch Cry: “This is sexual harassment." "I’m going to report you to your boss.”
The Boss Bitch knows how to get things done. You’re goal-oriented and focused on getting results. You’re the team organizer of your crew, and your girlfriends know they can count on you. You understand that by using the specific term “sexual harassment,” your harasser comprehends that there could be legal repercussions for their behavior—and that scares them. The perfect double whammy is threatening to report them to their boss, which could endanger their employment. Works like a charm.
Note: This tactic works for when you're walking by a worksite or the men are in a work vehicle.