ONTD Political

SF Street Harassment Stabbing Is a Great Reminder That Catcalling Isn’t a Joke

10:54 pm - 01/08/2013
A woman was stabbed in San Francisco's Tenderloin district last night after she rejected a street harasser. According to the SF Appeal:

The 33-year-old victim was walking down the street when a stranger approached her and propositioned her, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

When she rejected him, the man became very upset and slashed the victim in the face and stabbed her in the arm.

I used to live in San Francisco and work near the seediest area of the Tenderloin, and I've never experienced worse street harassment in any other city. Every morning, as soon as I got off the bus, I'd hear calls of "sexyyy" and "give me some of that" and that horrid teeth-sucking sound that makes me feel like dirt. Often — especially if I hadn't had any coffee yet — I'd yell back.

I became somewhat obsessed with talking back to street harassers during the summer of 2011. The SlutWalk movement was in full gear, and I was covering it for the paper I worked for, so I probably would've been thinking about street harassment more than usual even if I wasn't experiencing it on a daily basis. I decided that the only way to truly combat street harassment was to publicly speak back whenever I felt it was safe. Women have been conditioned to ignore catcalls for centuries, which is why men, often learning from their older family members and peers, continue to catcall them in hopes of reasserting their masculinity. (Read: feeling like they have enormous dicks.) If they get away with it time and time again, why would they ever stop?

So I started answering their calls. When a dude smacked his lips at me, I'd say, "Why do you think it's okay to treat me like an object?" When a guy said, "I hope you're over 18 because, if you're not, you shouldn't be wearing that skirt" (which was not particularly short/paired with opaque tights and a winter jacket, just fyi), I snapped back, "That's none of your business." My experiments garnered mixed results. Sometimes the men were so shocked I responded that they apologized on the spot. "You're right; I have a mother and sisters, and I'd hate for them to be treated that way," one guy said. More often, I'd get called "a fucking dyke" for not wanting men to comment on me on the street. The skirt police guy told me he "didn't ask for any attitude" when I talked back to him. We ended up getting into a screaming fight on the sidewalk. Although the men were usually assholes, speaking back to them made me feel amazing. I felt empowered, like I was defending not only myself but other less feisty women.

Of course, there are downsides to feistiness, even if you make sure you feel safe when you speak back, as I always did. I don't know exactly what happened between the woman and her harasser last night, but my first thought after reading that news was, "God, was I an idiot?" Maybe I was. But what's the alternative?

Next time one of my male friends asks me why I'm so sensitive about street harassment — and this happens all of the time — I'm going to send them this story. Hey, "nice guys": want to know why we're not overcome with joy when you accost us on the street when we're going about our daily business? You know why we don't take street harassment lightly, even if it seems complimentary? Because we don't want to get fucking stabbed.


Source at Jezebel.
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astridmyrna 9th-Jan-2013 04:42 am (UTC)
I checked the original story and thankfully the woman was able to get away and her wounds weren't life-threatening.

That said, I know that woman is still going to get blamed for being attacked, and the complete and true blame will never be on the attacker. It's kind of an added reminder to me too that whenever you reject a man's advances, especially if you tell them the truth, you are not safe. You could be in a crowd of people and not be safe, because the sad fact is these men can't have their pride bruised. Shit, even when I'm trying to be nice to a guy because I feel sorry for him, I know I'm not safe, and I will somehow be to blame for crushing his sad little ego. :(

This reminds me of a few years back when there was this guy from the butcher block who was just a creep (that looked like Napoleon Dynamite, no joke) but liked me because we were both nerds, and was quite perplexed when I told him that I didn't want to see the new Batman movie with him. Another butcher block guy, who I'm close friends with, thought this was hilarious and told me that the creep asked my friend how he should ask me out (he suggested a movie), then after I rejected him, he went snivelling to my friend that I said no and totally did not see that coming. Even my friend didn't see that coming, and we both laughed about it. Afterwards, an older woman from the service deli, who is friends with the creep, came to talk to me and told me to be nice to him and basically alluded that I was a heartless bitch for not going out with him to humor him.

Fastforward a few months later, while I am in a tiny broom closet, the creep stood in front of the doorway and had this convo with me:
Creep: So Astrid, you seeing anyone?
Me: No, not really.
Creep: I have a girlfriend now. She's into anime and comics too.
Me: That's great! I'm glad you found someone you have something in common with.

Oh man, the guy's face. It was like a lightbulb blew-out that I seemed genuinely happy for him and not the least bit jealous. There was kind of an awkward moment and I became quite aware of the small space I was in. Then we chit-chatted something else before he left.

Also, survey shows from the other coworkers that knew him that the girlfriend was most likely fake. So glad he doesn't work at my store anymore!
chaya 9th-Jan-2013 05:56 am (UTC)
Afterwards, an older woman from the service deli, who is friends with the creep, came to talk to me and told me to be nice to him and basically alluded that I was a heartless bitch for not going out with him to humor him.

If you reject their conversation initiation, you're a bitch.
If you don't answer their questions in conversation, you're a bitch.
If you don't agree to give them your number, you're a bitch.
If you don't agree to go out on JUST ONE DATE, you're a bitch.
If you break up with them after one date, you're a bitch.
If you break up with them after more than one date, you led him on. You bitch.

There is literally no place in the timeline between first meeting a guy and dating a guy when it is completely okay to tell them you aren't interested. There is always some ~totally valid~ argument where you picked the wrong time, usually too early, and thus you are a bitch.
littlelauren86 9th-Jan-2013 05:00 am (UTC)
Good story. It's crazy how what you want or don't want isn't part of the equation. They just expect you to go out with a guy just because he asked nicely. They should be nice to everyone!
littlelauren86 9th-Jan-2013 05:00 am (UTC)
whoops was supposed to be a reply :(
kitschaster 9th-Jan-2013 05:01 am (UTC)
Oh god, this is fucking frightening. I haven't been approached very often on the street, but when I have, it's been by guys who fucking followed me or asked for sexual favors (I have a habit of walking late at night, because there's usually nobody around to bother me). I obviously turned these creeptoids down, but the one who followed me? I was alone and the walk back to my house was a dark, empty street. It's a very good thing I was accustomed to jogging at the time, because I jogged a good three blocks before letting myself stop (very long street blocks, mind you).

Also, astridmyrna bought up a wonderful point -- if you reject them, it's your fault and you get what's coming to you. I've turned down a few guys before, usually at parties. The couple I turned down outside of that situation made /me/ feel horrible for not wanting anything to do with them (one of them was a condescending asstart and constantly went on and on about being Mensa, which I cared little to nothing about), the other one was a creeper after the fact, and there is nothing worse than being approached by a guy at your job. *shivers* I quit one place after only a month because of that.

Though I cannot even believe that one guy's response in the article, "I didn't ask for any attitude." Well fuck you, I didn't ask for any opinions. Hth are there still men alive who think women aren't allowed to think for themselves?
astridmyrna 9th-Jan-2013 05:26 am (UTC)
The couple I turned down outside of that situation made /me/ feel horrible for not wanting anything to do with them (one of them was a condescending asstart and constantly went on and on about being Mensa, which I cared little to nothing about), the other one was a creeper after the fact, and there is nothing worse than being approached by a guy at your job. *shivers* I quit one place after only a month because of that.

Omg I am so, so sorry. *hugs if wanted* What I tell myself to feel better is that at least I'm not wasting anymore time and money on these assholes, so I hope that helps!
moonshaz 9th-Jan-2013 05:53 am (UTC)
Oh yes, I read this a long time ago and cannot recommend it more highly. I had forgotten the title and so did not recognize the link, but as soon as I got there--oh hell yeah.

Everybody should read this. EVERYBODY.
encircleme 9th-Jan-2013 05:20 am (UTC)
It's so fucking awesome that I can't feel safe anywhere except my own home and even then....
cellared 9th-Jan-2013 05:31 am (UTC)
i fucking hate men

i also dont really like this implication that b/c a woman doesn't *stand up* to catcallers that she is enabling street harassment. i have never been in a situation where acknowledging these men in any way would get me anything other than additional virulent abuse and triggering sexual comments

you dont have to be stabbed to understand the threat and power dynamics of street harassment. it is designed to produce fear and uneasiness in women because how dare we be out in public space, going about our own business, ignoring these fine specimens of the human evolutionary process

but then again, jezebel

i hope this woman is recovering well and able to press charges if she so desires
chaya 9th-Jan-2013 05:49 am (UTC)
i also dont really like this implication that b/c a woman doesn't *stand up* to catcallers that she is enabling street harassment.

Where did you get this impression? In the article I see her saying that she used to feel good about defending herself, like she was also helping women who couldn't speak up, but I don't see anywhere where there's judgment placed upon such women.
zharia 9th-Jan-2013 05:34 am (UTC)
I hate being wary of strangers CONSTANTLY. Everywhere I fucking go! I feel like I can't dress cute/the way I want because of the amount I get creeped on. Three times at the grocery store today alone. Some days I don't want to leave my apartment.
trivalent 9th-Jan-2013 05:43 am (UTC)
And of course, it doesn't always even MATTER what you're wearing. I've been wearing utterly non-form fitting not attractive-making clothes and still get hit on doing something mundane. Even dressed for winter, where I have NO SHAPE.
4o5pastmidnight 9th-Jan-2013 06:59 am (UTC)
So I'm either super hideous and men have no interest in cat-calling and/or hitting on me, or I'm just super fucking oblivious. I don't get catcalled, at all, ever. I've had a few guys attempt lamely to ask me out, but it didn't go well. One guy actually mouthed "give me your number?" and put his hand to his ear in a phone gesture FROM ACROSS THE BUS, and I mouthed "NO! :D" and he looked pretty embarrassed, but that's about the extent of it.
perthro 9th-Jan-2013 07:26 am (UTC)
Lucky! >D The guys who catcall me are almost always guys who haven't shaved in years, usually haven't bathed in about as long, are either very clearly on a LOT of hard drugs or look like they were for a long time, and often aren't coherent to begin with. Like the creepy guy at the laundromat who spent his time freezing up and staring at me like a scared cat, and then doing the quick look away-look back thing for an hour... before throwing a wad of paper at me on his way out with his number on it. Or it's some wanna-be pimp who thinks that stereotypical rap videos are real life.

It's kind of... a blow to the ego, thinking that that's the only type of guy interested in me. Logically, I have a husband who's a great guy, but still. I still want to kind of peel my skin off and burn it after those weirdos.
gloraelin tw: massively pedophilic creeperism9th-Jan-2013 07:39 am (UTC)
so I realized the other day that the very first street harassment I dealt with... I was seven, riding my bike down the sidewalk. Some car pulled over on the street and the guy called to me. He asked me where I got my bike. I answered, he asked me to come closer because he couldn't hear me/couldn't see my bike.

when I got close enough to see in the car, there was... what I now know to be his dick. His large, fully visible, erect dick. I, being seven, and being raised by fundies who never told me what a penis is other than "it's a boy part.", pointed and asked what "that was." I don't remember his exact answer but it was something horrifyingly disgusting about how it's what he plays with, or something?

Anyway, after he answered I finally got a clue and blasted out of there on my bike, and ... that was that. Never saw him again. And it's just... I didn't even feel that I could ... or needed ... to tell anyone, because I was just so conditioned that I, a girl, was There For Men, of any kind.

and holy fuck, that just brought up a lot of feelings. I'm going to go drink a cherry coke and eat chocolate now.
cellared Re: tw: massively pedophilic creeperism9th-Jan-2013 07:49 am (UTC)
ugh i'm so sorry that happened to you


<3 please stay safe
wowsolovely 9th-Jan-2013 08:00 am (UTC)
It's really a no win situation. I try to be polite but not really talk. If I ignore people I am a bitch who thinks I am to good for them and honestly I have gotten scarier reactions with that. So I usualy half smile and say hello. It depends but ugh this is seriously scary since I spend time in sf. I used to go to this gas station on the border of a bad neighborhood but it was the only one in the area and I had guys straigh up touching me and trying to get in my car so I just paid more to get gas after that.
violetrose 9th-Jan-2013 09:33 am (UTC)
If I ignore people I am a bitch who thinks I am to good for them

Quite frankly, I am too good for men who yell obscenities at women in the street. I'm a person that deserves to be treated with respect, like anyone else.
sandvich 9th-Jan-2013 08:05 am (UTC)
I hate that so many men think it's okay to catcall. Like, I just want to grab them by the shoulders and shake them until their teeth rattle. It's not flattering. It's scary. And despite umpteen guys I've flipped off for doing it saying that they were "just trying to give me a compliment," it always makes me feel like absolute shit.

This past weekend I went shopping with my grandmother at the local mall. At one point she got tired and had to sit down for a while, but told me to keep looking around on my own. The instant I was out of her sight, two Carhartt-wearing jackasses started to follow me around and shout at me. At first it was about how I was pretty and they liked my boots. Then it was about how I was a stuck-up bitch for not responding to them. Then, when I responded by giving them the finger, it was about how I was a whore. All of this in the middle of the day, in a mall full of people who could have said something to them and didn't.

They finally stopped following me when I ducked into a Victoria's Secret, but I was afraid to go back out for a long time. I just...hate street harassers. Flames on the sides of my face and so on.
alexvdl 9th-Jan-2013 08:13 am (UTC)
Holy shit. Reading the comments in this post is quite eye opening.
ellonwye 9th-Jan-2013 01:39 pm (UTC)
Are you a guy? I ask because I've noticed time and again that lots of guys are completely aghast and unaware of how terrible cat-calling is and it surprises me every time that so many don't realise how awful, scary and generally unwanted it is until women actually discuss it among each other. They tend to be quite shocked.
beetlebums 9th-Jan-2013 08:20 am (UTC)
I just had to reject someone via fb chat cause he thought cause he has a crush on me, after talking to me irl for 10 min 2 months ago and that my roommates are his friends, that it meant that I would make out with him. We're going to the same show on Sat, because I'm not changing my fucking plans because he's hurt, but at the same time I'm super worried that he's gonna get all Nice Guy(tm) on me. Luckily I have a friend to keep her ears open and what not and she's not afraid to punch anyone if they call me a slut/whore/etc.

It's super frustrating ;______;
violetrose 9th-Jan-2013 09:40 am (UTC)
I haven't been harassed that often, but when I have, it can be pretty unnerving and even frightening, particularly if you get a guy that will follow you and not take "I'm not interested/no thanks," for an answer (which happened to me a few years ago).

One time I had some drunk men (I assumed they were drunk - they had beer cans in their hands) yell at me, and I told my dad later that day, and even if he's more liberal than some might be, he was still like "well, your jeans are pretty tight." Thanks, dad.

I'm not going to stop wearing the clothes I like and that I feel confident in, or stop wearing the make-up I like, just because there are gross, creepy men out there.

I've also found something slightly interesting; I have never been harassed when I was with another man. I guess they're too chickenshit to harass me in front who they probably believe to be my boyfriend.
ginger_maya 9th-Jan-2013 10:53 am (UTC)
I've endured various instances of street harassment since before I hit puberty, but two instances (well, the first one was an ongoing thing that happened every single day for years on end) come to mind.

As a kid I used to live close to a military barracks the windows of which overlooked the only street I could've used to get to school. There was no way to go through anywhere else because that street (more like a boulevard) was surrounded by both wooded areas and construction sites. The barracks was a this very long, four-storey building and all of its windows overlooked the street. Every single day when I walked to school there were soldiers looking out those windows and they immediately started catcalling and talking dirty when they saw me (and pretty much every other girl or a woman) walking down the sidewalk. I must've been around 11 or 12 years old when it began and it went on for years. All I remember was feeling so frightened and ashamed every single time, as if it was me who did something bad and wrong.

The other time that really stands out happened much later on, when I was a university student. There was a tall construction site near my university, and one of the workers there apparently saw me every time when I was walking to and from the university building even when I changed my route in an attempt to avoid him. He always managed to intercept me and start asking me out, "compliment me" and otherwise act like an entitled douchebag. He was older than my father, had three of four teeth left and stunk of cheap tobacco and alcohol. It was incredibly creepy and disconcerting.

Don't even get me started on all the other incidents when some fucker talked dirty to me on the street, or cussed out at me when I told them to buzz off, or felt me up on the bus, or the pervert PE teacher I had in elementary school who used to get erections while he watched us 7-8 year old girls exercise, or the other teacher much later on who repeatedly molested me at school again.

...Now that I thought about all of this I hate everything. I'll just go stuff myself with chocolate.

Edited at 2013-01-09 10:54 am (UTC)
tabaqui 9th-Jan-2013 01:41 pm (UTC)
BAH. Makes me sick to think of grown men doing that to a little kid. Bad enough they harass adult women, but KIDS? Wtf.

*hugs you*
tabaqui 9th-Jan-2013 01:40 pm (UTC)
For some guys it seems like it's so ingrained they're not even aware. Years ago i was running errands (my SO worked at a tattoo shop in a fairly crappy part of town and i was getting some food/supplies for the shop).

Go into a gas station and there's this guy standing outside in this huge, puffy, pale-blue coat, with the hood pulled up tight around his face, drinking a giant Slurp-ee.

And he sort of does this glaze-stare-zone thing as i go by and he's mumbling around the straw 'hey, how about we go out, hey, hey' and i'm like - dude, you're standing outside the Kum-n-Go (no lie) with a Slurp-ee bigger than your head, what makes you think i'd want to go out with you?'

And he looks all...startled, like he wasn't even aware he was talking and just kind of wanders off. Sadly, unless i'm in a part of town i know or with another person/people, it's often just *not safe enough* to snarl. Then i usually either ignore or give them a foul look. I *hate* reacting by actually saying anything - they don't deserve the consideration.

I hate that my daughter will have to deal with this shite.
tonicat 9th-Jan-2013 01:58 pm (UTC)
I've never been more harassed on the streets as I was while living in the US. Coming from a country where this is almost non-existent it was quite a shock!
igglepoof 9th-Jan-2013 04:09 pm (UTC)
What country are you from?
keeperofthekeys 9th-Jan-2013 02:02 pm (UTC)
Cool stories: I was walking to a bus stop on Monday after a first meeting with a possible new therapist. It had gone really well, and I was feeling good, when suddenly this dude walking towards me is all ~hey honey~. It completely ruined my good mood. I was equally pissed that it had upset me so much as I was that it had happened at all. I thought about saying something back but the only thing that came to me was "fuck you" and he was already past me at that point.

I think the worst I'd gotten was when I was 18 an wearing a V-neck shirt, was in a grocery store with a friend, and a pair of guys, probably in their 40's, walked by and one of them leaned over and said "Very attractive top" in my ear as he walked by. I'm still creeped out by it.
kahluaandcream 9th-Jan-2013 02:19 pm (UTC)
I still remember my first day studying abroad in the UK. I was walking from my dorm to an on-campus party in the middle of the night. It's not a long walk at all, but it's my first day so it felt that way. A man greeted me and, having internalized a lot of rules about niceness, I said hello back. He immediately beelined for me, asking me if I was an American student and offering to "give me a proper tour" of the campus, while looking me up and down and licking his lips.

It was 9:30 at night, in January. He was the only person within sight, and while it was well-lit where we were standing, it would get significantly darker between there and the party. I managed to refuse politely without causing a problem, but I was unnerved by the whole thing and was afraid to walk back to my place afterwards.

Then I found out there had been a number of rapes on campus the past year. And another student was given a roofie at a different party a month later (nothing happened to her, thank god).

I've suffered a good bit of street harassment in DC, but I'm a lot colder now. I just turn up my headphones and ignore them - which, of course, can cause other problems thanks to the distraction.

It's amazing how dangerous it can be to just take a walk while being a woman.
yeats 9th-Jan-2013 02:49 pm (UTC)
"When I was writing the movie “Mean Girls”—which hopefully is playing on TBS right now!—I went to a workshop taught by Rosalind Wiseman as part of my research. Rosalind wrote the nonfiction book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” that “Mean Girls” was based on, and she conducted a lot of self-esteem and bullying workshops with women and girls around the country. She did this particular exercise in a hotel ballroom in Washington, D.C. with about two hundred grown women, asking them to write down the moment they first “knew they were a woman.” Meaning, “When did you first feel like a grown woman and not a girl?” We wrote down our answers and shared them, first in pairs, then in larger groups. The group of women was racially and economically diverse, but the answers had a very similar theme. Almost everyone first realized they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them. “I was walking home from ballet and a guy in a car yelled, ‘Lick me!’” “I was babysitting my younger cousins when a guy drove by and yelled, ‘Nice ass.’” There were pretty much zero examples like “I first knew I was a woman when my mother and father took me out to dinner to celebrate my success on the debate team.” It was mostly men yelling shit from cars. Are they a patrol sent out to let girls know they’ve crossed into puberty? If so, it’s working."

Tina Fey, Bossypants
angelofdeath275 9th-Jan-2013 03:52 pm (UTC)
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angelofdeath275 9th-Jan-2013 03:50 pm (UTC)
I will never ever trust men.
ultraelectric 9th-Jan-2013 04:27 pm (UTC)
:/ this is really scary.

I'm always super, super vigilant when I'm out (I take the bus) and it ugh.. this story, just freaks me out. I've had people ask me to go "walk with them", I've had a car STOP in the road and the guy was catcalling me from it -- which, I looked super sexy that day, with all the thick fog around and me looking like the Michalan-man. I was at a party once and some guy asked me to "show him the bathroom", umm eww no..

I wish more guys would realize this is not okay and it never will be okay.
poetic_pixie_13 9th-Jan-2013 05:15 pm (UTC)
Men are terrible and I hate them.



Edited at 2013-01-09 05:16 pm (UTC)
ellonwye 10th-Jan-2013 01:28 am (UTC)
Whoaa I never noticed that knee-in-the-dick in Atlantis before
flyingwild 9th-Jan-2013 05:41 pm (UTC)
Goddamn. That poor woman.

Just. Ugh. I don't take public transportation or walk many places, so I don't experience this as much as many women probably do, but I've had times where I couldn't even walk from my car to my place of work (across a very small parking lot) without having some guy yelling at me. And that is fucking scary - he knew where I work AND what my car looks like! More than once I've called the non-emergency number to have the cops come drive through the parking lot after I closed the store and before I left because of a creep of a customer that would not go away. I've had the cops escort me to the bank before because of someone we told to leave the store who decided to hang around outside and there was no fucking way I was leaving on my own, even if he had left by then.

I hate that I have to worry about things like that. It's fucked up.

The thing I remember most is when I was a sophomore in high school - so 15-16 years old - and the math teacher I had was slightly creepy. Most of the girls I knew had an off feeling about him. After spring break I'd worn this new outfit I'd bought and loved - blue flowered capris and a black v-neck shirt. He just kind of leered at me and said "nice shirt" :\ I didn't wear it again the rest of the year.

Just, fuck it all. I hate worrying about what I'm going to wear and what kind of attention it'll attract. I hate being hit on somewhere I'm stuck and can't leave. I hate it all.
la_sabre 9th-Jan-2013 07:35 pm (UTC)
Cool story: My dad was seriously thought that street harassment doesn't happen in the USA anymore, that it's just something that happens in places like South America and the Middle East. He was VERY shocked when my two sisters and I informed him that street harassment occurs here too and we all knew that from many personal experiences.
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