Ever since I posted about a guy bothering me on the train a couple of weeks ago, I have been patiently waiting for my chance to yell at the next guy who bothered me. My chance came yesterday afternoon on my way home from the gym.
The guy who bothered me looked the part – he was wearing a tacky leather jacket, cheap sunglasses, and was about two inches shorter than me. As he walked toward me, he stepped into my path, said, “Hot hot hot!” and then did a thing with his tongue that I think you can only learn at a special school for harassing women on the street.
Unfortunately for this guy, I was ready this time. It took me a couple of seconds to process everything (yes, he was being inappropriate, yes I would indeed do something about it), then I turned around and yelled “HEY!” and walked back up to him and got in his face. “YOU DO NOT DO THAT TO WOMEN. ARE YOU A FUCKING IDIOT?”
Somewhere between HEY and YOU the guy’s entire body language and expression changed. He actually put up his hands and started slowly walking backwards. Somewhere between FUCKING and IDIOT he turned around and ran.
It was about the most awesome thing ever. It felt great to raise my voice, which I realized was something I simply never do as soon as I did it. It also felt great to utterly shatter this guy’s confidence, at least in relation to doing weird tongue things to women in the street.
I wouldn’t do it in just any circumstances, though: in this case, I was on my very safe and familiar block, 100 yards from my apartment, in the middle of the day. And, as I mentioned, the guy was shorter than me. He also might not have spoken any English besides “Hot hot hot!” But even if that was the case, I think I stated my point in a way that crossed language barriers.
I also wonder if I’m not really just making things worse in the world – is harassing someone who is harassing you solving any problems? Or is it more like a messed up version of Pay It Forward, where every time someone is a jerk to you, you go out of your way to be a jerk to someone else? Should I have just gone all Ghandi on the guy and used more noble tactics than he did to prove my point? I’m not sure what that interaction would even look like, but it might involve fasting.
I think I am convinced, though, that not doing anything is the wrong thing to do. Just as I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am too passive at work, I think that I (and perhaps other women) would rather not cause a fuss than speak up about not being comfortable in more general situations.
Mostly, though, I wish I had said something wittier and more demeaning. Maybe next time.