Men and Street Harassment

I want you to watch that video. I want you to really digest what is happening.

I want you to put yourself in her shoes. I want you to put your wife, your daughter, your mother, your sister, or any woman you love in her shoes.

Then I want you to ask yourself how it would make you feel. How it would feel to be in her position. How it would be to see the women you love being treated that way.

And I hope it pisses you off. I hope it makes you feel afraid and sick to your stomach. Because that is the response that we should all have to these kind of actions.

When I was growing up the most I heard about this sort of thing was portrayed as a joke. Whether it was in cartoons or the trope of the construction worker whistling or yelling at a women in a skirt as she walked past him. And it was never played as a bad thing. We were taught to think that women like this sort of attention. That it made them feel good to be ogled and yelled at as they walked past you.

But that is not the reality of street harassment. From listening to women talk about their real experiences during the #YouOkSis campaign on Twitter; it revealed a completely different world. It was something I really never thought about in that way before. And what I learned shocked and appalled me, and it made me mad.

Personally, I’ve never yelled anything at a woman in the street. That has never been my attitude towards women, but I’ve also been complacent in never noticing that it is a problem that many women face on a daily basis.

A lot of the arguments I’ve heard have stated such things like ‘I just want to tell her she’s pretty’ or ‘why can’t I compliment her’. But we men aren’t seeing things from their perspective. We don’t know where she’s come from, what she’s experienced. What we think may be an innocent comment, may bring her fear or hurt or anger. And on the other side of the coin, maybe she just doesn’t want to be yelled at in the street.

Picture yourself walking down the street alone at night. All the sudden one person or a group of people start yelling at you. Then they start following you. How comfortable would this make you? Women not only face this sort of treatment, but this can also lead to worse. And it has and will again.

No woman should have to fear walking down the street. The way she dresses doesn’t matter. No one deserves to be accosted just trying to get to where they are going. Now imagine having to get this treatment every single day. First thing in the morning when you are going to work, when you go to get a coffee with friends, when you are with your children, when you are just trying to go home at night. There is no excuse for street harassment.

This issue falls directly and only on men. Women do not need to change anything about them to not be harassed in the street or anywhere else for that matter. This is a male issue that needs to be changed. We are the ones causing this problem and we are the ones who need to stop it. This is an ingrained behavior that needs to eradicated in our gender.

I’ve seen a lot of men pass this off with the explanation ‘Well, I don’t do this so I don’t have to be blamed for it’ along with the entire #NotAllMen movement. Yes, not all men behave this way, but NO man should behave this way. And our silence on the issue makes us an accomplice to the behavior. Because we are still allowing it to continue; which is giving a silent consent. If we aren’t working to put an end to it, we are telling the other people in our gender that we accept it is just part of being a man.

We need to teach our brothers to be better. We need to raise our sons the right way. We need to organize and support each other in this endeavor. We need to keep an open discussion with the men in our communities about these sorts of issues. We shouldn’t have to be lumped in with this sort of issue because it should not exist in the first place. Just because we were taught a certain way doesn’t mean that we can’t learn and grow and change our experience. If we continue allowing it, the issue will never go away.

If we want to be taken seriously by saying ‘not all men’ then it is up to us to really do some work to change that perception. Because even though you may not personally be doing the act, you are going to get lumped into it because that is perception the world has of you.

Each year, too many of our sisters are being harassed, raped, and murdered. And this alone should make us take action. We can never fully see things from a woman’s perception, but we need to THINK more of the way we act toward them, and try and put ourselves in the situations they face. We need to really think of how it would affect us if we received that same kind of treatment. This is a worldwide epidemic and if men want to be treated equally and thought of in better light, then we need to do more to show that world what we can be.

It is the lazy attitude that says I’m not doing anything about it because I don’t do it now. We have the ability to change this issue, to really stand up and fight for equality and justice. If you want to be seen as a ‘good guy’ then goddamnit DO something that shows that you are.


To see more, I ask you to check out #YouOkSis on twitter. Read the experience of women and what they have shared. And take note of a lot of the male response to it. It is really eye opening



27 thoughts on “Men and Street Harassment

  1. ❤ ❤ ❤


    Seth, I cannot tell you how much I appreciate this. Whenever a woman speaks out against these things, she's being hysterical and just a typical woman and all that. It is encouraging when a man speaks out and voices an opinion. It is refreshing to hear that men DO understand the plight.

    I get terrified walking around sometimes – especially alone. This is never attempted if a man is with me. No one dares to catcall, whistle, follow me… Some guys are relentless, and they just won't let things go. It can get really scary. Granted, not all men have bad and twisted things in their mind, but still, it can be scary.

  2. So has anyone else noticed that nearly (possibly none) of those guys were white? I think that’s also an issue that needs to be addressed. Yes, I know, white guys do it too, but ask any woman and I’m sure they’ll tell you that black and hispanic guys are the worst, while Mexicans stare like a creeper.

    • I did notice that , I also read it was ten hours worth of film – so I’m guessing most if not all was edited out – as a film student that part seems suspect to me – while I do admit it’s a problem ill have to see a lot more footage that proves this cause is not about criminalizing black men and minorities as super predators again.

  3. Good post. I do agree but its a tricky issue to fix.

    Several generations have been exposed to the normalization of this behavior. But on the other hand I don’t like the idea of telling people how they should behave. But it is essentially harassment. Tricky.

  4. I appreciate you thinking about this topic. I really do. Thank you. A couple of things though.

    One, framing violence on women with this sentence “I want you to put your wife, your daughter, your mother, your sister, or any woman you love in her shoes.” is problematic. Men easily want safety for women they view in terms of property relations while still enacting violence on other women (or even those same women). This can no longer be framed in a patriarchal sense where ownership of valued property must be raised in order to consider other property. And that’s what happens when this frame is used. It has to be stripped out considering how much violence men commit on women in their own families. It’s a bad framework.

    Two, as I and other Black women on Twitter today discussed, the consistent framing of street harassment as “delicate” White woman/”brute” Black man (the video gives that off) is a problem for complex and long reasons that I won’t get into here (but I did discuss before many times, including in an essay on Gradient Lair titled Race IS Relevant In Street Harassment. But Not In The Racist Way Regularly Assumed.). Until this conversation is purposely intersectional and queered, it will remain one that continues to eclipse the roles of race/gender/class/poverty/gentrification/colonialism/carceral state etc. in street harassment. It cannot be flattened into one solely about patriarchy and gender. Intersectionality alludes to the fact that not all women experience gender the same. And because of this, we do not experience violence the same either. Nuance matters. It’s not oppression olympics but intellectual honesty and accuracy.

    Anyway, thanks for mentioning FJ’s work on #YouOkSis. She and Tatyana on Stop Telling Women To Smile have done incredible work on examining the complexities of street harassment without pretending this is intersectionality-averse in order to continue to center White women and flatten discourse in a way to make this solely about patriarchy, versus the anti-Blackness, misogynoir and other violence and oppression this involves.

    I appreciate you wanting men to engage differently.

    • Trudy, thank you so much again for reading and for your comments. I believe 100% that street harassment comes from all men, not some specific group. And I definitely agree that this video has a slant toward only showing one group, which with 100 hours of footage, I’m sure they had more examples which should have been used.

      I really do appreciate it, as I’ve learned a lot from you and others.

  5. Thank you SO much for this post. I used to live in an apartment complex where I was the only white woman – the rest of the folks where either of Hispanic descent or black. Most of them were great – kept to themselves and quiet neighbors. But I had two incidences which were scary enough (one from a Hispanic man and the other a black man AND his friends) that I never felt safe. I had some of the worst things said to me during that time period – about what these men wanted to do to my body, that’s how explicit they were. On one of these men, I had to call the cops THREE times before anything was done about him. Imagine how safe I felt knowing that the cops didn’t seem to care. (Also I’ve had cops in NYC yell and whistle at me as I walked down the street – wonderful, huh?).

    And I do want to say that the above isn’t a race thing – white men do this as well – in fact the guy who sexually assaulted me was white…just I’ve always (for whatever reason) received more attention from non-white men, so it’s just my personal experience.

    • Thank you so much for sharing Misty. I’m sorry you had to experience those things. I don’t know if we can eradicate it fully, but we need to do something to change it.

  6. Thank you Seth, as a young man whose been learning about this and other issues related to gender equality, rape culture and all the rest recently and who firmly believes in the complete and undeniable equality of the sexes its heartening and encouraging to know that theres another dude out there whose speaking up about it.

    Thanx again.

    • Thank you for reading and for your comments. we should never stop learning and understanding. And it’s always good to see there are others following that path.

  7. I know this isn’t the point of the video, or this long post of yours, but I just want to say that personally, as a man – nay, as a PERSON! – I absolutely HATE when people say hello to me or tell me to have a good day. Why can’t they just leave me alone and stop harassing me with their “Have a nice day”s and their “How are you today”s? Don’t they know that being nice to someone you don’t know is a horrible way to be?

    Now, after having said that, I understand that women have it worse than men when it comes to this kind of thing, but to call everything that happened in that video “harassment” is way over the line.

    I have no problem with her not saying anything to the guys that made comments like, “Damn!” or things of that nature. Fine. That makes sense, they’re being rude. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll give her a pass on the ones like, “Good morning, beautiful” or things like that. But honestly? If someone called ME beautiful (or whatever word they would use for a man) I’d smile as I walked away. I’d be pleased that someone complimented me.

    But for the ones that just say hello or say something like “How are you today?” she was just being plain rude. She was being a bitch to them. Granted, that’s a typical New Yorker so I’m really not surprised, but still.

    There was a little harassment in this video, but very little. Being complimented, even by strangers, isn’t a bad thing. Someone saying hello isn’t a bad thing.

    • So she’s a bitch for not responding to someone she didn’t initiate contact with? That is EXACTLY the problem. If I tried to speak to a man who didn’t want to speak to me and he didn’t respond, would be he an asshole?

      • Absolutely he’d be an asshole! If someone walked towards me and said “Hello, how are you today?” and I just blatantly ignored that person, then yes, I’d be an asshole.

        I wasn’t saying she was being a bitch to everybody, just the ones that were being nice. Again, most of the stuff in that video is not harassment, no matter how much people want it to be.

  8. Excellent post, Seth. I watched this clip the other day when I saw it in the news. It’s sad that women are STILL treated this way. Like Zoe said, it’s nice to have a guy speak out about this. This kind of attention isn’t nice – it’s annoying or, at times, just plain scary.

    • It’s very sad. the world is still very geared toward men, and that is something that needs to change now

  9. Well said. I’ve shared your post on my blog. Thank you for calling out to men that they are the ones who need to stop harassment. As women alone we can only initiate so much change.

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