Recently, team ChatterBlast adopted Slack, the newest, coolest way to communicate in workplaces.
This decision has already sparked positive changes in the ChatterWorld from task management bots to polls about office plants. Perhaps the greatest thing to come out of our Slack conversion has been the #cbmladiez girls-only channel.
As you can imagine, we’re a little less guarded on this channel, and we talk about everything from what we did over the weekend to our favorite trashy reality TV shows. The channel is a safe space — a judgment-free zone where we can complain about humidity ruining our hair, ask around for a tampon or (more often than not) laugh about our awkward personal experiences together.
One frequent topic that doesn’t follow this lighthearted tone of conversation is the inevitable recounting of creepy and unwanted comments men have made to us on the street, both in the past or earlier that morning.
Sadly, it happens so often that it’s as common of a conversation topic as where everyone wants to go for lunch.
See for yourself:
What became clear through our conversations was the irreverence with which we treat these unsolicited, unwanted interactions. All of us, who are a relatively random sample of the female demographic, are so used to being whistled at or harassed on the street that we talk about it like we talk about doing our laundry or paying our bills: just another everyday inconvenience that we have to roll our eyes and deal with.
To be perfectly honest, we’re really sick of how normal the general public views street harassment, which is why one day our ongoing conversation led us to this epiphany:
So here we are.
To start, let’s take a minute to define street harassment. It can be both extreme and subtle.
- It can be loud and obnoxious, like “DAYUM GURL!” or “Nice [insert body part]” as you make your way down the street.
- It can be a man reaching out to grab you without speaking a single word.
- It can be a comment like “Hey sexy” or “Have a good night, beautiful” said to you as you walk alone down a dark, empty street on your way home.
These comments aren’t compliments. Don’t tell us to be flattered by them.
These comments make us uncomfortable. They make us feel unsafe in public places, and they make us feel like animals or objects rather than human beings.
When we walk down the street, we aren’t looking for anyone’s approval.
Don’t honk at us to convey that you like how we look.
We didn’t ask.
So What’s Social Media Got to do with This?
When a woman is catcalled on the street, she often freezes up simply from being caught off guard or being scared. A snappy comeback isn’t usually the first thing on her mind — getting away from there quickly and safely is.
Often, we’re boiling with rage on the inside, but we force ourselves to smile because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t. Few things make us feel more powerless.
That’s why it often feels cathartic to relay our frustration in a tweet or a Facebook post. If one person reads the tweet where you shame your catcaller, and they get angry at him on your behalf, you feel a little better. “At least I did something,” you think to yourself.
Been outside a whole 30 seconds and already been told to "pull it down, baby!" while zipping up my jacket! Luv life!
— Valerie Hoke (@valperiepal) February 3, 2016
Dude looked so surprised when I hit him with not one, but both middle fingers. Maybe don't flick your tongue at me as I walk by?????
— punky brewster (@anaisnicolee) November 22, 2016
Posting on social media about our experiences with street harassment allows us to “cleanse” ourselves of the event, so to speak. Often we feel alone in these situations, but the internet is a place where we can reassure ourselves of our basic right to feel safe while walking to work in the morning.
Hashtagging Street Harassment into the Limelight
Cathartic post-harassment tweets are a huge part of why hashtags like #YesAllWomen and #NoWomanEver have had such a widespread impact on Twitter: They allow women to feel like their experiences are finally being acknowledged.
For context, #YesAllWomen took off after the misogyny-fueled Santa Barbara murders and in response to a hashtag claiming that #NotAllMen are creeps. Yes, that’s true, said Twitter, but the fact that not all men are creeps doesn’t discount the fact that yes, all women live in fear of harassment, misogyny and assault.
I shouldn't have to hold my car keys in hand like a weapon & check over my shoulder every few seconds when I walk at night #YesAllWomen
— Sophia Bush Hughes (@SophiaBush) May 25, 2014
Similarly, #NoWomanEver addressed a very valid question: What do catcallers possibly think they’re going to gain from harassing us on the street? “Come back, I want to go on a date with you now that you made that inappropriate gesture at me!” said #NoWomanEver.
I was on the fence when he kept talking about my body, but I definitely got his number after he said I was ugly anyway #nowomanever
— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) June 18, 2016
Obviously, we #cbmladiez have also discussed this.
Want More Proof that Street Harassment Sucks?
Just to remind you that this continually happens to women everywhere, here’s each of us, the ChatterBlast ladies, with a bad memory of harassment, either on the street or indoors, directed at us or at our friends.
Valerie: Two friends and I had just left a bar and were standing on the sidewalk, waiting for an Uber. Out of nowhere, a man pushed his way between us and started drunkenly saying things like, “I’d like to take you home and get to you know better,” to my friend, way up in her personal space. My other friend and I jumped in to try and keep him from touching her and to tell him to stop (in a far more polite way than he deserved, because we were scared).
He then turned to me and snarled, “I’m talking to her, not to you,” in my face and proceeded to wrap his arms all the way around my friend’s waist. We helped my friend pull away from him while she literally pried his hands off of her, and then escaped to our car, which had finally arrived.
Louise: The first time I ever went to a concert at a club, this guy basically followed me and my friend around the club all night, to the extent that we’d evade him by going to the bathrooms and he would be chillin’ outside waiting for us.
After deciding to leave, we walked outside only to find the same guy, now with three other men, who proceeded to try and get us into his car for some “after party.” We were like, “f*ck no,” and we started walking back to our car.
He then offered a homeless man $100 to bring us back to his car. The homeless man chased us down the street yelling “The guy in the car up there said he’d give me $100 if I could get you back up there.” It was the most terrifying experience ever, and I have not worn heels since.
Shivani: I was out in New York City with my husband, Niral, and a few friends. We were all in a circle standing and talking. One friend in particular was dancing by herself within our circle, just having fun. I saw this guy walk to about 15 feet away from us, by himself, take out his phone and start videotaping my friend. He was not even trying to hide it.
I saw and I immediately walked over, yelling at him to put his phone away. He did, but was in no way ashamed or nervous that I had caught him. His friends came over and I told them what he was doing and that they need to delete it off his phone. They apologized on his behalf and said they would get rid of it.
Not even an hour later the guy came back and did the same thing! Niral had to hold me back. We told the bouncers and the waitresses, but before they could do anything, the guy got into a fight with someone else and got kicked out.
Jackie: Last summer, my friend and I were at a bar at the Jersey shore enjoying a few post-beach drinks. A man came up to me and asked if I wanted a shot, which I politely turned down. He followed up with, “Want a mixed drink? You look like a tequila kind of girl.” Turned that down too. After multiple failed attempts at a drink purchase, he stood with me and my friend and kept jumping in the conversation. This lasted for all of two minutes before we excused ourselves.
After making our way through the crowd, into the bathroom and then back out again, we were greeted by our new, creepy, beyond-drunk acquaintance, who was “looking all over” for us. He again requested that we all take a shot while grabbing my arm and suggestively pulling it towards the bar.
At this point I’d lost my chill and had zero tolerance for someone ruining our time and touching me. We ended up leaving the bar, only to be followed by him. Fortunately, thanks to smartphones and Uber, we had a car waiting outside. I took much joy from hopping inside, slamming the door in his face and safely peacing out.
Grace: In college, we always went to this fun, dance-y bar after midnight. This guy kept trying to dance with me and I kept pushing him away, so he thought it would be a great idea to try to choke me while dancing. One of my guy friends saw and knocked him out, and then we got kicked out of the bar instead of the creep.
A Final Plea
If you’re a dude reading this, you gotta help us out. Women can’t be the only ones talking about how degrading and downright frightening it is to be harassed on the street. We aren’t even going to get into the “What if it was your sister/girlfriend/mother?” argument because that shouldn’t matter.
Understanding that street harassment is alive and affecting 50 percent of the population should be reason enough for you to care.
S/o to the guy who just witnessed me get cat called and apologized on behalf of his entire gender.
— punky brewster (@anaisnicolee) May 2, 2016
No matter your gender, if you see someone making an unwanted advance or comment to a woman on the street or anywhere at all, tell him to knock it off. (Most of the time, men are more willing to listen to another man telling them to stop rather than a woman. It’s frustrating, but true.)
When your female friends post online about horrible experiences they’ve had with street harassment, give ‘em a retweet or a share. Make other people read about it so that nobody can argue it doesn’t happen.
Make people remember it happens all the time, and make them remember that it’s not okay.
And hey, who knows? If you put a stop to harassment when you see it in action, maybe you’ll end up in someone’s “Faith in humanity = restored” Facebook status.