Helping My Boys Understand Street Harassment [OPINION]


BDK Gif with words

A video documenting a day in street harassment for women has rightfully garnered a lot of attention. The clip produced by Hollaback details a day of one woman enduring a variety of comments from a number of men on the streets of Manhattan and has been viewed over 16 million times. The clip’s content has gotten the subject, Shoshana Roberts, death threats and rape threats (which kind of proves its point?)  and been picked apart for editing out most of the white men she encountered. It’s  flawed but shouldn’t be dismissed.

The video is extreme, but like most studies (and chitlin circuit plays) they beat you over the head with a feather to make their point because subtlety has not worked. You may take whatever personal issues you want with the editing, the motives of the company that produced it, the appearance of the subject and neighborhood chosen, but this is meant as ONE example or illustration of what many, MANY women go through on a regular basis walking the street. Big Daddy Kane, the president emeritus of all things cool, told us waaaay back in 1991 on “The Lover In You” that “Take it from the man that does it real smooth/All that, “Yo baby yo baby,” ss-ss-ss is not the move….” But we didn’t listen and this is where we are.

Instead of being defensive I want to explore the rebuttals being used by men to refute this video–and claims of street harassment as a whole–in hopes that we can have a real dialogue.

“My homegirl said this is bullshit…”

This is about a lot of women, but obviously not all women. So don’t use your friends who are cool with it to dismiss the feelings of those that are bothered by it.

“This isn’t harassment…”

Stop focusing on the word “harassment” and look at the feelings being evoked here. Call it “aggressive flirting” if that helps you sleep at night but it doesn’t change the fact that it’s behavior that sends women home in tears and afraid to go out of their own houses.

“I’d love to get that many compliments!”

This is not about you. That defense holds as much weight as the white person saying “I’ve never had a problem catching a cab.” It’s a false equivalency that only distracts from the core issue: we’re hurting our women. And as you imagine the improbable scenario where you are getting hit on by women all day, they’re all good looking right? Which leads me to my next point…

“It’s not harassment if she thinks the guy is cute.”

Even I’ve bought into this notion but consider this–and I know it may jar your ego–all of you guys are not as cute as you think you are. Out of five guys (and this is on the conservative side) that hit on a woman in a day she may find one attractive. MAYBE.  Now think of the least attractive woman you’ve ever met and multiply her by 5. Now make her varying ages from 14 to 55. Feeling creeped out yet? Now line up the Anita The Beast clones and have them give you compliments all day as you walk down the street. Really zero in on number 4’s breath and that number 3 is barely in high school. You need a shower don’t you? But again, this happens to women ery’day.

“But they like it when they dress up looking for compliments…”

Son, you buy a luxury car so you can enjoy it and maybe get some admiring looks, too. But if someone pulled up to YOUR bumper at every stop light asking for a ride you’d be mad as f*ck. Sh*t, you’ve gotten pissed off at the one dude always looking for a ride when you had a hooptie! Now imagine it’s a whole crew of ninjas like him asking for rides every time you step out of the house. Not even the remote start can save you from the freeloading, shotgun-calling zombie apocalypse. But at the very least you can peel off and give ’em the finger, but a woman can’t–and shouldn’t –have to speed walk through her ‘hood unless she’s training for a half mile or has to use the bathroom real bad.

“But it’s worked out so well for me.”

Ok, so you’ve approached women on the street and they reacted positively. You may have even ended up marrying the girl you holla’d  at Jones Beach that one day. Out of the 50 dudes that hit on her that day you won. Gold star for you.  Consider that she actually liked YOU because God knows she’s had options.  But try to understand it from the woman’s perspective.

You’re trying out for the basketball team and you know your J is money. But the coach, the woman you are trying to impress, has to watch everybody else with suspect form air ball from the free throw line before she even sees you shoot. Dozens of dudes. Your patience is wearing thin but what about hers?

Now imagine the coach didn’t even ask to be in the gym. She was on her way to teach sophomore health on the third floor and the Principal asked her to run a scrimmage real quick. And this is the third day in a row. She doesn’t say anything because she wants to keep her job and go about her business. You say “but thats not realistic” but that IS the reality for a lot of women.

“I’m just trying to be nice.”

Every woman with a big butt already knows it. Trust me. So you are not doing anything special by yelling “Damn, ma!” as she walks by.  You may think you’re just sending compliments but you know your end game is not to make her feel good, it’s to make YOU feel good. You’re fishing for a response because that good looking woman reacting somehow validates you.  And if you’re lucky enough to get a positive response you’re already unrolling condoms in your head before you’ve gotten her number down. Bruh, you don’t think SHE realizes that? Not one of you is hollering at a woman on the street thinking “I want her to be my girl” and she is not looking for a boyfriend/husband on the street.   Now let me bake your noodle some more. If you knew that a woman walked down the street hoping to find someone to f*ck what would you say about her then?  Exactly. She’s in a lose-lose scenario so leave her the f*ck alone.

Lastly, and this will probably be the most controversial part of this piece, but I’m here to help.  If your entire social circle is deplete of women to talk to and you have exhausted all other options other than random women that walk by to find potential hook-ups let’s try and help you help yourself with some simple steps to not being a d*ck about it.

1) Establish eye contact. Before you open your mouth look at her face–not her ass or her tits. If she is too far away to establish eye contact, shut the f*ck up.

2) If she doesn’t look back at you (and she definitely knows you’re looking) shut the f*ck up.

3) If she locks eyes with you, smile. If she smiles back, say ‘hello.’

4) If she is still walking but turns to say ‘hello’ back ASK her if you can talk to her. If she really wants to talk to you she will either STOP or invite you to keep walking with her and you will have a conversation. If she keeps walking she was just being polite. Take the smile and hello and shut the f*ck up.

This is a guide, not a rule book. This will not apply to every woman but it will keep you from getting pepper-sprayed and help us all get along better.

You don’t have to agree with any of what I’ve written but fellas, if you take away anything from this, it’s to just stop and at least consider that what you’re doing is hurting people.  That’s it.

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