Clever or Creepy?

A few days ago, a friend working on a PhD in another state sent a text:

clever or creepy? // hollaback! boston

My immediate response was one of shock – if this had happened to me, I would have lost it, infuriated at the invasion of privacy. So I was perplexed as the conversation continued:

clever or creepy? // hollaback! boston

My friend and I had a chance to talk through this a bit more yesterday, and she expressed surprise that I would equate this encounter with street harassment. I acknowledged that, because of the work I do for Hollaback! and the time I spend reading, writing and speaking about street harassment as more than catcalls, but as part of a larger culture that values her sneaky suitor’s wishes and time over hers, I’m predisposed to think of harassment. I understand that I’ve focused my attention that way.

Discussing street harassment, especially with those not already primed to consider it a problem, or even a thing that happens, can be challenging for all involved. While activists like Hollaback! site leaders, interns and volunteers are working to frame street harassment as part of a larger, global phenomenon, millions of women around the world are having minor interactions like my friend’s – and sometimes, they might welcome them. While I was busy being furious for her, my friend felt that in the context in which she had this experience, it was more clever than creepy.

It’s important, I think, in the midst of our discussions of how to respond and how to intervene, to also acknowledge the right of an individual to assess their situation and decide that in that moment, in that context, they feel flattered. Accepting this doesn’t lessen the importance of working to change the culture that allows for the exchange to take place as it did, with (in my opinion) a huge presumption on the part of the stranger, but it does remind us that in the end, individual experiences are all valid, and that’s what this is all about.

Street harassment doesn’t have to make you feel unsafe in all cases to still exist, and to still be identified as such; our experiences can illustrate the culture behind street harassment without necessarily having ruined our day. These stories are valid, too – and Hollaback! is for sharing them!

What do you think? Would you have been furious as I would have in my friend’s situation, or do you think it was clever and mostly harmless?



We actively denounce the notion that street harassment is culturally accepted and that victims somehow "deserve" it. Through raising awareness and sharing experiences, we hope to put an end to catcalling, groping, stalking, public masturbation, assaults, racial slurs, and other forms of street harassment. Because we believe we have the power to create a world where we can feel hot, confident, and badass, while still feeling safe!

7 Responses

Author comments are in a darker gray color for you to easily identify the posts author in the comments

  1. Sabine says:

    Creeepppy omg omg creepy. i would flipped my s#!t

  2. [...] blogger and marathoner Alex for this week’s edition of the “Introducing” series. In another post, site leader Britni makes some intriguing points about the subjectivity of individual experience [...]

  3. Marlène says:

    Well… I thought it was kind of cute :) If the situation was uncomfortable for her, then it would’ve been a problem.

  4. Britni says:

    I have to wonder if her response would be different if she didn’t think the guy was handsome or cute.

    Also, this kind of behavior sends up serious red flags for me in terms of potenial abuser– but that might be the domestic violence worker in me.

  5. [...] week, I shared a story – and my personal reaction to that story – about the experience of a friend. Amelia is [...]

  6. [...] One of my oldest and dearest friends is a leader in the Boston branch of this movement. She shared my story on the Hollaback!Boston blog last week. Her choice to even associate it with street harassment [...]

  7. [...] been a busy week online for Hollaback! Boston, with some really terrific engagement surrounding Amelia’s experience and her response. If you haven’t weighed in yet, please [...]

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