Photo Credit: Salon
The other day I got into a debate on Facebook about a video showcasing
street harassment. It was shot and posted by an organization pushing the issue
of street calling being a formof sexual harassment towards women. A young
attractive woman walks through the streets of New York and is hit on by at
least 100 guys. As I watched I saw the usual imaginary players, the dirty
old men, the young rap star wannabe and the straight perv. These guys were
really aggressive and at times intimidating to the young lady. At one point a
simple “hello” turned into a 5 minutes side by side walk in silence. Fam,
Ignorant to the feelings of women who receive these unwarranted greetings,
I went asking several female friends about their experiences. I found out
that universally women really hate being hissed & whistled at. I mean really
hate it. And it’s a given when think you whistle for a dog or a pet. That is
what they are not. On the other hand most of the women, to my surprise,
thought this was staged and questioned the subject’s disgust. Some felt she
was being sensitive to men saying “hello” or “hey baby”. These women have
even said buy a pair of Beats and keep it moving. One even thought she was
being impolite by not responding to the “good morning”. At the end of the day
it is perception. No one on this planet should be harassed for just walking
down the street. The real question is, when does this become illegal and
I had to see what the Holla Back (http://www.ihollaback.org/) the organization
behind the video was about and how they would go about helping to stop
the street calling. The site had some tips on how to identify street harassment,
which was helpful for me as a man in NYC. It also brought to light many social
inequalities governing our actions day in and out. But still the video did bother me.
Trying to stop women in the street to talk is not the best way to meet them,
but I’ve done it in my youth. Why? Because it seemed like you never know
until you try. I was always polite though. Never have I called them a bitch
after a rejection, even a nasty one. Let’s be clear, most men do not know how
to speak to a woman, period. A nasty reaction comes from a juvenile place and
is not acceptable. Still I will bring up the question again. When does this become
I thought firstly, “It would be nearly impossible to enforce harassment on a
basis of cat calling.” Secondly, “How would you even force civil policy on this
issue?” Physical assault is definable but it becomes a cloudy area when it’s verbal.
Then, to make it more complicated, if the interaction is verbal where you do draw
the line? I took the basis of the list provided by the Hollaback organization myth
section to make a cheat sheet for us dumb ass guys who think you can talk to
women on the street by being the holla guy from the Dave Chappelle Show.
1- Your Right to Holla – Yes you do have a right to speak to a woman, but
not in a sexually driven or violent manner. General rule of thumb, if eye contact
is not given or is just a nervous glare back off!! You are making her uncomfortable.
I know it’s hard to understand to some of you guys being god’s gift to them and
all. Get over your ego and move on.
2- Sometimes it is a cultural thing – One of my disagreements with HB.
Although I have contended this forever with colleagues, sometimes there are
cultural differences. Case and point, I have a friend who does not like being called
‘Mami’, but lives close to Washington Heights. How does that work? Also in my
opinion some young Black and Latino men are too boisterous and lack etiquette
in regards to interacting with the opposite gender. My advice, be polite genuine
and speak to her as a person not to look at her like as walking pair of tits.
3- Harmless Flirting – Another grey area but I’m here to help you navigate.
I know some of you are truly macho and want to run the show, but letting her
take the reins of the convo is what wins. She is the boss in this situation and
nothing you do will force her to change her mind. If you cannot spark a conversation
after the initial greeting, get over it and move on. You will become the creepy guy quickly.
4- That’s how men are – We are hunters, but like all hunters, there is
a learning curve. (excuse the analogy ). Some have a clue on how to engage with
a woman, and some come off like Flavor Flav in a cathouse. Yes we can be aggressive,
but like I said above it is reciprocal. There is no conversation if you have no one
to talk to.
5- If she’s hot she’s asking for it – NO. SHE IS NOT. SHE’S JUST HOT. It is
up to her to respond to you. But seriously if you think that a cat call will win her
heart…you should seek mental help.
6- C’mon They like it – The Jacket Guy. Think of it this way…If people at work
kept commenting on a jacket you wore to the point where there was a nickname
for it and that is what you heard day in and day out for 20 + years…wouldn’t
you be annoyed. Just sayin.
7- But C’mon Look at her she wants attention – OK I even had a bit of a
problem with this. I know women want to be desirable. What is worn is to
compliment the form of a woman which I often appreciate. Here’s the thing.
If she is not interested in you, she is not interested in you. See a common
theme here. You cannot force the issue. I’m on the fence about the looks.
I work in Manhattan and lord knows the women here are drop dead gorgeous
but public restraint is key.
8- It only happens to younglings – No. I’ve seen women get hit on
as old as 62 years of age. Bottom line? Respect is respect.
9- Those Who Complain are Men Haters – I found the opposite. These
women love men. They just wish they were spoken too in a classier manner.
Take heed dummies.
10- As long as it’s not violent it’s not harmful – This one also can get
tricky. I will categorize talking or shouting at women in an aggressive and or
sexual manner as off limits. For real guys, grow up. Stop scaring women with
your begging, peering and path blocking. All it does is make them afraid of you.
Do I believe a man should be locked up for cat calling? I say if it is a simple
“good morning”, no. If it’s a “Fuck you bitch I didn’t want to talk to you anyway”,
strangely no. If it’s “I’d like to lick your butt”…creepy. Call the cops. Don’t get me
wrong, I don’t think women should feel uncomfortable just walking down the street,
but legal action towards an unwanted suitor can get subjective really quick. I beg
for situational severity. Please do not take my words as pro cat call. As with anything
there is a wrong way and a right way. Check your game fellas.