As I approached the bus stop, a man was walking past; he was in his mid 20s in a heavy canvas coat and a wool cap with ribbons twisted into his hair. It’s cold in Syracuse, so I’m wearing my heavy coat buttoned all the way to the top. He looked at me and smiled.
ME: Good morning.
He abruptly stops walking and looks at me. After an awkward moment, he smiles again…
HE: It’s getting a tad bit nipply!
ME: (shocked) Wow! That’s inappropriate.
He pauses, looking puzzled, as if trying to figure out how it is inappropriate.
HE: Did I just sexually harass you?
ME: No, but… kinda.
HE: I’m just gonna keep moving.
I didn’t feel harassed, but I couldn’t figure out how that would be appropriate in any way, shape, or form. It doesn’t compare to the battles that women are fighting on the street worldwide, but… wow.
In addition, I was very proud of myself to be able to respond quickly and directly. When faced with this kind of behavior from men, women are often trained to deal with it, under the premise that “boys will be boys.” When women respond with assertiveness, we become bitches, questioning the right of men to assert their masculinity on the street. Suddenly, what the men originally saw as humorous becomes a direct attack on their masculinity, and can result in hostility, anger and aggression. I was grateful that this was the the case here, but I have avoided responded when facing a similar situation with a group of men, as you never know who might decide to “take that bitch down a peg.” I was really impressed with Hannah Price’s photo series where she turns her camera on her catcallers, and suddenly, they are held accountable for their actions…