ABC News did a very interesting experiment regarding street harassment and bystanders. They had three actors portray construction workers and had them harass an actress portraying a regular woman. Even as the men escalated, most people nearby did nothing. One woman bystander was too hesitant to confront the men, but suggested to the woman targeted to just ignore them and walk away.
But, across the time they were play-acting harassment, there were THREE good male bystanders who stepped up to the plate.
Bystander #1 (you can see this exchange in the video clip):
“You don’t treat people that way. It’s wrong,” one man said to the construction workers.
As he stood next to our actress, he offered to apologize on behalf of our construction workers.
“Are you apologizing for men in general?” our actress asked.
“If I have to,” the man said.
“You are disrespecting this woman here. If you have a problem with her, you’re going to have a problem with me. Anyone who wants to be tough just stand up,” the man said.
“She’s flirting,” one of our actors said.
“She ain’t flirting,” the man shot back. “She’s over here and you guys are bothering her. Leave.”
When we [ABC] caught up with this man he told us, “I don’t know her. I don’t know them. I was pretty annoyed the way they were treating her. You know, three guys, a female … she’s very distressed. No one else stepped up to the plate. I had to do something.”
“Why don’t you get your lunch and take a hike” said one man.
He happened to be a construction manager who told us [ABC] that he sees a lot of what he called “shenanigans.”
“One, two, three of you picking on her?” he asked. “What are you guys doing? What is this?”
He told our construction workers that one day they might have a daughter and asked them if they would want somebody else to treat her the way they were treating our actress.
“I’m sure she has a father that wouldn’t appreciate that,” he said
“I don’t have a daughter and until then I’m going to have some fun,” one of our fake construction worker replied.
We noticed the man standing by the side of our actress, not allowing the construction workers to get any closer.
As the abuse continued from our workers, he decided the best thing to do would be to walk our actress away from the scene. When we caught up with him, he told us, “I saw one guy grabbing for her. If it went any further, I would probably have to lay him out,” he said.
At the end of the article, ABC said, “In the course of the day, many people witnessed our construction workers verbal assault on our actress. But we wondered; what would happen if our construction workers traded in their hardhats and boots for suits and ties? – Find out tonight at 9 p.m. EST”
Go ABC for addressing street harassment! I’m also interested to see what will happen when the harassers are wearing suits and ties since that ALSO happens despite the stereotype that it’s only construction workers or “blue collar” workers.
I know it can be challenging to be a bystander and the three men who “stepped up to the plate” are a great example for all of us. Here’s more info on being a good bystander as well as suggestions for what you can say or do if you’re the one being harassed.
[Update 1/15: You can watch the full episode online]