Today, my partner and I attended the Join Me On the Bridge event in DC (hosted by Women for Women International to mark International Women’s Day — I was there representing the women’s organization I work for) when a guy came up to our group harassing some of the women. My partner was the only man there until this other guy came along. I gave him the benefit of a doubt and thought maybe he was a male ally, too.
He went up to some of the women and was talking to them, then told the organizer of the event that she was “hot” while she was trying to explain what the event was about, etc. Then he went back to a couple of the women who were sitting down, and started to feel up one of their legs! She looked very uncomfortable and pulled her leg away from him. So, I ran over, and yelled, “Hey!”
He turned towards me, and I said, “Look, this is supposed to be a safe place for women. You need to stop harassing people.”
In his colorful language he told me he wasn’t harassing anyone because he didn’t have a weapon and his “dick [was] behind a zipper, behind a zipper.” And then he started to unzip his coveralls!
I told him that he was clearly harassing people, and that he shouldn’t be touching anyone, especially when it is obviously unwanted. He said fine and that he’d just leave. And he did, but not before telling a couple women that they were hot as he walked away.
My partner didn’t see what was happening at first, but when he heard me raise my voice he ran over to check if I was okay. He was incredibly bothered by what happened and gets upset whenever I’m street harassed.
I told him what happened and vented my frustration that a group of women (and men) can’t even gather together for a peaceful event honoring women across the globe without someone getting harassed.
I’m always scared when I speak out against harassing behavior because you never know when someone is going to be violent. My partner and I have seen a guy pull a knife on a bus before, so we both feel that it’s a real potential threat.
But I did feel a small victory today — and not just by stopping street harassment. I got to meet some other cool women’s rights advocates. It’s just a shame they had to experience that today.
– Katie B.
Location: Duke Ellington Bridge in Washington, DC