Tired of just writing about street harassment

Three weeks ago when I was in Oregon, a man harassed me from behind bushes during my run. He scared me and made me feel unsafe as a woman runner, a woman in public, and a woman traveling alone. I blogged about it and then fumed about what else I should have done. Should I have called the police? Yelled at him? Tried to reason with him about the inappropriateness of his behavior? Tee-peed his house? Written up a fake citation and left it in his mailbox?

The truth is, I felt too unsafe to do anything but leave and never go back and I didn’t think the police would care.

So what I did was draw on my strength as a writer and I wrote and submitted an op-ed to the Portland, Oregon, newspaper, the Oregonian. Today they published it.

I’m glad to have my story and the plight of other women runners featured in a prominent newspaper so that hopefully it will raise people’s awareness about  the crap we put up with and how we don’t like it. But I’m also getting tired of just writing about street harassment. (Especially when what I write for online publications only seems to incite ignorance and harassment in the comments section, where men try to justify why they should be allowed to harass women. Aarrgh!!)

So now I’m plotting what my action will be and brainstorming what I can do in addition to writing about street harassment. And I’m glad there are already wonderful anti-street harassment activists (featured in my book) whose projects I can look to for ideas.

Thoughts? What type of action would you like to see happen?

14 Responses to Tired of just writing about street harassment

  1. Golden Silence says:

    The ignorance and troll behavior in those comments on there sicken me! I hope one day you get to post an article and receive respect in return. You know you have my respect and support.

  2. Spoonful says:

    How about some anti-street harassment impromptu street theater? Write a skit, act it out in an area where real street harassment often happens, make sure you film it, then post on YouTube.

  3. Golden Silence says:

    Ooh, Spoonful, that’s a great idea!

  4. Jen says:

    Reading comments like those posted on your article make me so mad! So harassing women is ‘free speech’ is it – I seriously doubt that anyone would defend hurling racist abuse at strangers or making jokes about a disability as legitimate ‘free speech’, and abuse based on gender is no different in my book.

  5. Reading the comments on the op-ed made me so upset too, but I keep thinking that at least people are engaging in dialogue about street harassment. Every single time people speak out and demand their rights throughout history, they have been hit with this kind of response, so I say to all of us who read this blog and who know personally how much we hate being street harassed keep talking, keep posting and keep getting articles in the press! Its a start and hopefully we will have marches, and anti street harassment events and on and on, but the pen is mightier than the sword. At all costs keep talking keep writing! Do not let them, the group of people who always fight change, discourage us!!!!!!!!!

  6. drew says:

    The other day I was running and it was hot so I took my shirt off, and a car load of young women kept yelling at me, circling the block twice to drive by me yelling things that were very sexually explicit. Should I call the cops, tee pee the local high school or community college, stop and tell them I will take them up on their offers, or maybe draw on my strength as a person with common sense and realize the world is made up with a large percentage of idiots and crude people. Sure there are criminals who will take advantage of any situation, a runner, walker in a remote park or area, a person who lives alone, someone leaving work and getting into their car in a parking lot, kids walking home from school or the bus stop, etc. etc etc. The list goes on and on. If you feel so uncomfortable walking and running alone in our society why dont you find a partner to run with, stay with others and get some self defense. They make and sell small pepper spray cannisters at almost every running store I have ever been in, and they work great for dogs too. Your site makes America seem like we treat women here similar to how a woman would be treated in Ahghanistan if whe forgot her burka. I understand the situation may have been creepy, but in our society and the sexualization of womane by our media I don’t understand how you could be so surprised by stupid men treating woman with disrespect.

  7. thank you for the support @goldensilence, @jen & @beckieweinheimer & thank you for that good idea @spoonful.

    @drew – I’m sorry to hear you faced harassment. What did you end up doing?

    I have lost track of how many times men have said “oh i get harassed too” blah blah blah. Did you fear you would be raped or assaulted? I think that’s a very real difference in most cases when men harass women than when women harass men. Also, we are living in a society where men overall have more power than women overall. I have a whole chapter in my book about the difference context makes because this is such a common response to the very real problem of men harassing women.

    I have been a runner in “our society” for 16 years and it’s not very realistic to always have someone to run with. In the particular situation in Oregon I was by myself on a business trip. Who was I supposed to run with? Men get to run by themselves all the time and no one says anything. Why am I suddenly supposed to always run with someone? So the alternative is to not run?

    You’re right, I shouldn’t be surprised about men harassing women and guess what, considering I read women’s stories EVERY DAY about being harassed by men, I am NOT surprised. It’s because of all the stories I read that I won’t stop speaking out about this issue and advocating for change.

  8. Golden Silence says:

    I don’t understand how you could be so surprised by stupid men treating woman with disrespect.

    And I don’t understand how you can come here and treat the admin of this site and her story with disrespect. Your whole post just reeks of “woman, if you can’t take it stay home.” That’s the kind of mentality that lets gender-based harassment perpetuate.

  9. amen golden silence!

  10. drew says:

    I may have come across a little strong, I am just surprised that women are surprised that this is a common occurence. Currently in our society there is a feeling of entitlement to be able to say and do almost anything. I am married and have two young daughters, who at elementary school are constantly being chased by boys who want to kiss them and see thier underwwear. I am all for women empowering each other and fathers empowering their daughters to protecting themselves and their rights. The school just tells my wife and I that it is what kids do, and that we are the only parents who ever say anything. What message is this sending to my young daughters? That boys can just come up and kiss them because they want to or lift thier skirts to see their panties. Everyone should feel that it is okay to stand up for themselves and it can be taught at an early age. It is my opinon that women should carry pepper spray, a whistle, or preferable a handgun. You may think this is too much, but if you are ever confronted and absolutely have to defend yourself it is far better to be prepared than to wish you had a tool to defend yourself with. Hindsight is 20/20. Both my wife and 69 year old mother are prepared if anything ever happens to them.

  11. Flutterby says:

    Drew, as the admin clearly said, we are NOT remotely surprised that we get harassed. Your bafflement with our reactions seems to be solely based in that A)you think we somehow don’t expect harassment, and B) you’re surprised that we’re actually trying to do something to make it so we don’t have to deal with as much street harassment.

    Many women do prepare themselves in case they’re assaulted. But is it really such a novel idea to you that we -oh, I don’t know- try and do something about it so we DON’T have to fear for our safety walking down the street, DON’T get put in a bad mood by some asshole calling us cunts because we won’t flash him, DON’T have to invest time and money in getting a gun, ammo, training to use it, and a license to carry it concealed?

    What’s happening to your daughters is terrible. Why do you take our wish for change so lightly when you know from the experiences of your loved ones that it’s a very real and potentially dangerous problem?

  12. #drew I’m so sorry that your daughters are facing harassment at school and that the admins are not doing anything about it! That is very upsetting. I work for AAUW and I am getting ready to start a research report on sexual harassment and bullying in 7-12th grades. In addition to surveying students, my colleagues and I will be looking for examples of schools that are correctly addressing the problem so that concerned parents and students can put pressure on their own schools to follow suit. It will probably be out next year. In the meantime, I’d say talk with other parents and as a group go talk to the school administrators about this. Also, if the harassment is interfering with your daughters’ education, it’s a violation of Title IX of the Educational Amendment of 1972 and the schools are legally obligated to do something.

    I agree, everyone should learn to stand up for themselves. But I think the better goal is to work to address why this is happening and how to make it stop. Sure, there may still be a few people who are hopeless, but social change can happen so that at least that behavior is not acceptable. It took decades to outlaw slavery, overturn “separate but equal,” and guarantee women the right to vote. Making sexual harassment socially unacceptable in all contexts will be a long fight, but a worthwhile one.

  13. V says:

    Amen, admin. I get goosebumps sometimes reading discussions on and stories about street harassment. There is a pulse to this movement, get ready for the revolution.

  14. I not only have a self defense business that tries to Mpower women and yes even men, Drew, to protect themselves, but I am also a middle school teacher of 29 years. No, it is not what guys and girls do at this age and if your school administrators are ignoring this then as a father you need to step in and file sexual harassment charges.

    My question to Drew is, how could you even begin to make such all the wall comments at first if your own daughters are experiencing this? This is where the message about harassment needs to start. With examples from the parents! As women we never know for sure when a harassing remark may lead to a criminal attack.

    All joggers should arm themselves with some type of pepper spray. I’d rather risk spraying some jerk with pepper spray that “may” have only been making comments than take the chance of this guy harming me.

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