“What’s this?” one of the young men says, scanning the sheet. Hooting, sexual comments, kissy-sucky noises, leering, groping, grabbing, molesting: It’s not friendly — it’s crude, it’s creepy and it’s over. STOP DISSING WOMEN. WE DON’T LIKE IT — NO ONE LIKES IT. SHOW SOME RESPECT ON THE STREET.
“I tell you one thing, I don’t touch no [expletive] females.”
“That’s great,” Langelan says, smiling. “But if you want to go for the gold star, if you see someone disrespecting us, say something.”
“That’s how people get killed,” he says.
“People have guns,” adds his friend, pulling a cigarette from his mouth. “And females ain’t as innocent as you think they are.”
“The point is women feel afraid,” Langelan says.
“Y’all ain’t afraid,” he says.
The truth is Langelan is less afraid than most. She teaches self-defense and has tested more than a hundred ways for women to respond to unwanted attention from men in public spaces.
Consider the flier. There is no such campaign — at least not officially. Langelan printed the fliers after another Washington-area activist declared March 20 Anti-Street Harassment Day and two local women used their blog to find volunteers for a safety audit, one that’s been done in only three other U.S. cities.
How these women came to know one another and how Langelan ended up walking the streets this night, fliers and audit forms in hand, is a story about a local movement that has become part of an international crusade. It’s about what “Hey, Sexy!” means to different people and about how, for a growing group, it’s neither a compliment nor a tolerable nuisance.
For them, it’s a form of street harassment, the unwelcome words and actions of strangers that can encompass everything from passing comments to physical attacks. And, for them, the catcalls that others might ignore, or even welcome, are not only something to vent about — they’re grounds to act.
“You Look Tired,” reads a recent headline on Holla Back DC!, a Web site created for people to share their street harassment experiences. This post continues: A man walking past me on my way home from work: “You look tired.” The only thing I’m tiredof is men providing unsolicited commentary about what I look like while I’m trying to go about my business.
Scroll up a little higher:
I’m only 15 years old, and I was walking down from my HIGH SCHOOL . ... [The guy] said “Girl, you a classy bitch”, presumably because that day I had on a nice outfit for an interview. I didn’t turn around and I just kept walking, so his friend sped up, and grabbed me by my shoulder. ... They called profanities and stuff like I should be happy they’re saying it after me, but the rest of the day I was really shaken.”