Standing up to street harassers for the first time

[Editor’s Note, this story is from my mom and I am so proud of her!!!]

I have been staying in a hotel on Ocean Blvd in South Beach Florida that I stay at every winter. It’s safe and in a nice area. But because there is a vacant store next door, this year men gather in front and every time I go out, day or night, I have to pass them and hear all of their comments: “Oheee, I really like a babe in purple.” I was wearing a purple sweater and visor with my shorts. “What you doing tonight?” Whistles. Chuckles.

After two days of this I finally called the hotel and complained. They said they have had other complaints and are working with the police. But because the vacant building is an art deco building in the art deco district they aren’t allowed to put up a no trespassing sign, but actually have to have the same police officer find the same men three times before they can get arrested. “We are working on it,” the front desk told me.

I told my daughter and she said, “Mom, if it happens again, take a picture, if they are doing it to you think of the young girls.”

After calling the front desk yesterday they called the police and the men were gone for nearly 24 hours, but tonight they were back when I went out to get something at the local market.

“Hey can I talk to you for a minute?” one of the three asks. “Hey where you going?” the second one asks.

I found my voice, every other time I had just walked past them ignoring them. “I don’t want to talk to you. Please just leave me alone.”

They laughed. “What? We can’t talk to you? You too good to talk to us?”

“You are harassing me. I’m going to call the police if you are here again.”

“What? It’s illegal to talk to someone on the street?” They laughed at me like I was so stupid.

“I’m taking your picture.” I said and took out my phone.

“Hey don’t be taking our picture.” One guy covered his face the other two turned and backed away.

They stopped someone on the street while I was getting out my phone camera. “This lady is crazy she says we can’t talk to her. What the f–?”

I snapped the picture of the back of them the one guy still had his hands over his face.

My hands were shaking as I said, “What if I were your sister, would you want strange men talking to her?”

“Hell yes, she might meet a millionaire.”

“Well you don’t look like millionaires,” I said and walked away. I was gone five minutes. They were still gone when I returned.

They made me feel stupid, But what did I expect, that they were going to say, “We are so sorry. We should have respected your rights to not be harassed on the streets.”

What I thought of saying after I left was, why do you only stop women?

But I’m sure those guys would have said, “What you think we want to be thought of as gay?”

Anyway I did it and I’ll do it again. It was my first time talking back and I am scared but glad I tried and next time hopefully I’ll have smarter things and a kinder voice, not angry. When I’m angry they just get defensive. But I’m new at this–at standing up to harassers that is, not new to being harassed–sadly, so I’ll give myself some slack!

Beckie Weinheimer

Location: South Beach, Florida

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

8 Responses to Standing up to street harassers for the first time

  1. Emily R says:

    your mom is awesome! ❤

  2. Marty Langelan says:

    Hi, Beckie —

    So glad you spoke up to hold those persistent harassers accountable! Here in Washington DC we’ve been doing a lot of research on what works — what you say and how you say it.

    One of the most effective techniques is the All-Purpose Statement:

    Turn and face the harassers. Stand tall (we call it owning your space). In a calm, matter-of-fact, almost bored voice, say three lines:

    “Stop harassing women.
    I don’t like it — no one likes it.
    Show some respect.”

    Most harassers back off immediately. Some will even apologize.

    If they give you any back-talk, don’t get caught up in anything they say. Stick to your own agenda. Just calmly repeat the third line: “You heard me — show some respect.”

    Repetition is powerful — for the harassers, it’s like running into a brick wall — they can’t get anywhere.

    End the brief interaction on your own terms: “Stop harassing women. Have a good afternoon.”

    This works even better if various women in the neighborhood all start saying it to the harassers — same words, same bored tone of voice. That’s a technique called Consistent Group Action, and we’ve used it successfully to take back quite a few street corners and parks here.

    Good luck and bravo for speaking up! What could be more basic than the simple human right to walk in your own neighborhood without abuse?

    Best always —
    Marty Langelan

  3. Golden Silence says:

    Beckie, I’m glad to hear you stood up for yourself! I know it’s scary, but you did it. This group of “Loitering Losers” is a bunch of idiots and it sadly doesn’t seem they’re going to learn the error of their ways. Keep calling the police on them and keep documenting their actions. I hope something’s done with these losers before your trip’s over.

    Stay strong!

  4. thank you for all the tips and support. They are gone today, I’ve been by twice. So it did good for at least one day!

  5. Mark says:

    Nice work, Beckie!

  6. alan says:

    Not only are they NOT millionaires, they’re LOSERS!! Good for you, I can only imagine how scared you were to get that first word out. Glad you were able to find your voice.

  7. b says:

    Yay Beckie! Way to fight back!!

  8. […] mom has been dealing with street harassment for four decades. It was only last December that she stood up to street harassers for the first time (for many of us, that is not an easy thing to do at any age). I was so proud of […]

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