Thursday, August 13, 2009

holla back, dc

In my boredom this summer, I've taken to reading a lot of random stuff online. One site that's been popping up a lot on the DCBlogs daily links is called Holla Back DC. The basic premise of the site is that women who are harassed by strangers on the street can submit their stories as a means of catharsis and get some support from the blogoverse. By empowering these women to share their stories, perhaps the next time, they won't be so silent in the face of men harassing them in public.

Since I started reading this site, it got me thinking. As a male, I'm clearly not privy to what goes on in women's minds when a stranger makes rude or lewd remarks to you in public. Does it happen often? If it's happened to you before, does it make you paranoid that all men are leering at you?

It reminds me of an anonymous friend that liked to wear sunglasses while on campus, so he could check out attractive coeds without being noticed. Voyeuristic, yes, but at least he had the decency and manners to not openly harass strangers based on appearances alone. Do guys like this eventually fall into the catcaller category?

I'm beginning to think that it happens more often than I witness, as most women on the street barely raise their eyes to meet a stranger's. Smiling at a perfect stranger is looked at with contempt instead of a return smile. I just don't get it.

I doubt any readers of this web rag are catcallers or harassers in question. If so, have any of your opening comments about a woman's appearance actually worked?

I thought not.


Brando said...

Ha! I actually had a friend try the sunglasses thing on the train, it didn't work--the woman said to the guy next to her "that creepy guy in sunglasses is staring at me".

I dont' think any normal woman (i.e., no chip on the shoulder) minds a smile or a simple "hello" on the street--seems the issue is where a guy won't leave her alone, or will get a bit threatening. That website seems to run the gamut from overreacting to harmless flirting to guys actually doing something criminal. The unfortunatele thing about the latter is that it causes the overreactions to the former.

Brando said...

As well as the unfortunate-ness of the criminal act itself, I might add.

rachel said...

I think the fear, at least for me as a woman, is that you have no idea if something is harmless flirting or if that person is going to take things much further.

One time at the downtown Gainesville library, a man said hi to me, and not knowing what to do, I smiled at him. This led to him following me around through the stacks, not saying anything but always being on the other side of the shelf I was looking at, breathing heavily and just being creepy in general. When I was ready to leave, he was waiting outside the front door. Luckily there was a security officer that walked me to my car.

If there were a real way to tell on sight whether a man is going to get all creepy on me, then no, I wouldn't mind a nice hello or smile from men on the street. But in the real world, there's no way to tell. I don't I'm paranoid, but definitely wary. I'd really just like to be able to go to the library or walk through a parking lot without feeling anxious about who is talking to me/about me/ whistling, etc. I appreciate that men with good intentions sometimes want to let a woman know they think she's pretty or whatever, but when it has the potential to make her feel afraid, I don't think it's worth it.

~Christina~ said...

I think I am one of the friendliest strangers anyone would meet but these days, if Im alone, sometimes Im afraid to make eye contact though 90% of the time I do. I actaully think its important to make eye contact and to use someones name. But when alone, I still raise my head to smile but thats about it. Im sure its all of the crime in today society. :(