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Thursday, February 18, 2010


I live in the South Bronx, and I am harassed by men almost every day as I make the 10-minute schlep from my apartment to the subway, or vice versa; as I walk the five blocks to the grocery store; and even as I walk the one block to the laundromat. I literally cannot step outside my apartment without getting some kind of unwanted comment or stare. It makes living in a down-trodden neighborhood that much worse.

I used to ignore the harassers, but lately I'm just so enraged by this behavior that I've been trying to confront them, in an attempt to make them think about what they're doing. My past attempts have thus far failed--the harassers just don't get it, and the fact that I'm talking to them at all seems to make them feel even more self-satisfied.

But yesterday morning, as I reached East 160th Street and Courtlandt Avenue, I think my approach worked. I was walking back to my apartment from the grocery store when a man called out, in an very cheerful tone, "Good morning, gorgeous!" I said, in the same tone of voice as his, "Good morning, asshole!" He said, "Awww, that's not nice. I called you gorgeous." I said, "I don't need you to call me that. I'm not an animal. I'm not a prostitute. I'm just walking home from the grocery store, minding my own business. I don't need you to call me anything." He said, "Well, I'm sorry. Most women like it." I said, "Actually, most women don't like it, and the ones who do like it only feel that way because they don't know the difference." To my complete surprise, he seemed very sincere and apologetic. He said, "OK. You're probably right." I said, "I AM right. Don't talk to women like that. We don't need it." As I was walking away, he said, "Alright, have a nice day."

I am quite confident that this man did not have any ill intentions towards me--he just didn't understand the implications of what he was doing. Obviously I will never know whether or not he continues to cat-call, but my hunch is that he will stop. If one conversation can change one man's mind, then I think we've accomplished something. Maybe that man will one day have a son, and maybe he will teach his son how to treat women with respect. Or maybe I'm being naive--but the experience gave me a little bit of hope, and I'm going to continue spreading this message however I can: ALL human beings have the right to be let alone. Women are human beings. Unless I ask you to talk to me, don't.

Submitted by R.B.