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In spending time with a friend, we couldn’t help discussing (again) the disgusting, harassing things men said to us since the last time we saw each other. While she was telling me how happy she was the I introduced her to Hollaback!, and that she finally feels like she has some control over how she is treated when walking on the street and that she has been empowered to speak her mind to her harassers, her husband groaned and said, “Well, as long as you don’t say that stuff around me. It’s embarrassing.”
Rewind a week. I’m with two women friends walking down the street. A man passing us slows his gate to openly stare at us, looking us up and down, until I respond with a very clear, “Don’t stare at women.” The man hurried away without saying anything, and I thought just once that I won this battle in the war against street harassment, but my friends didn’t think so. They didn’t say anything, but they were visibly uncomfortable, more uncomfortable than they were at the man’s very unwelcome attention.
I passed off the first woman’s husband’s embarrassment because he didn’t understand what it was like to be a target on the streets constantly. However, I couldn’t do that with my other friends. They also experienced this every day. They knew how it felt to be ogled against their will and defend themselves against supposedly complimentary comments all the time.
So in this post I ask the Holla-community – do you have friends who would rather ignore harassment? Who are embarrassed when you stand up for yourself, or when you’re being a positive bystander? How do you maintain your right to not be harassed while being sensitive to their wishes? Let us know!
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