Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Men of DC: Stop Harassing Women

Men of DC: get it together. Street harassment is really out of control here. It happens everyday all day and every night all night. Women endure catcalls, unwanted touching, name calling, assault and worse as a matter of fact. Come on, we're better than that!

I witness street harassment A LOT. Not just in Mount Pleasant or Columbia Heights; all over DC, in all neighborhoods. Harassment truly knows no race, age, class or scene bounds. I've seen women in mini-dresses harrased on U Street at midnight by guys in cars and women in baggy sweatpants harrased on the way to class at 8 in the morning by other students. Harassment is more about power than circumstance. Not that circumstance is meaningless, but some men will harass women (and girls) at any opportunity because they think they're entitled. Everyone's definition is different, but in my opinion flirting and "complementing" are DOA excuses. Harassment is not flirting.

I've been trying something new, speaking up when I see it. Once, on a bus, it got a little iffy + too close for comfort. But since I've been cursed out before by people I actually care about, it's no big deal getting the same treatment from some rando dude on the 54 bus. Of course this can get tricky because the offenders can get really defensive or loud & aggressive, but really, they have to be called out by other guys for this to work. Here are some strategies for bystanders I probably should have looked up before hand. I like those ideas, but part of me thinks they need to be told why you are intervening, if indeed that's the track you decide to walk on.

Often the harassment I see is not on the street; it happens in the club: on the dance floor. Club harassment is arguably worse. You see it all the time in almost every club; over-aggressive dudes taking one too many liberties on the dance floor. It can get pretty gross. 

Dancing "up on" a woman you don't know from behind (or the front for that matter) is wrong. Some people like to grind (royalty paid to eric nies) at the club, but it should be a mutually agreed upon consensual grind. No, in this case it is not better to have to beg for forgiveness. Ask permission. Before. 

Also, news flash: many people like to go to dance clubs to dance with themselves. Not you or me.

Even though no physical contact is involved, leering can be another issue. No one likes to be stared at. And less than no one likes to be sized up by drunk guy at close range. People do go clubbing to see and be seen. But not club-stalked. There is a difference. Along the same lines, if you're trying to talk to a woman, maybe dance with her, just ask. If she says no, PEACE OUT. As in move on dot org. Leave her alone. 

What I saw a lot of last weekend --which mostly inspired this post-- was unnecessary touching. Crowded dance floor, you're trying to get across to the bar, and yeah, you have to clear a path for yourself. Squeezing past flailing, dancing bodies isn't easy. But there is absolutely no need to caress anyone's backside on the way to the bathroom, especially a perfect stranger. It's just gross. And it's assault. Bouncers are often not around or lacking in enthusiasm to regulate these activities. (Some clubs do a better job at this than others.)

Look, duding out every now and then is fine. A good bro down can be therapeutic. Go watch the game, ice some other bros, play fantasy football, pre-order the new Call of Duty; whatever. But bros being bros on the dance floor is lame if it involves trying to grind on every other woman in sight because you erroneously think they like it. They don't like it, I don't like it, nobody likes it.

This week Stop Street Harassment is asking people to log instances of street harassment, if you see or experience it. And Holla Back DC and it's contributors have been logging harassment daily for over two years. Be a part of the solution guys. This one is on us.