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10 of the Most Effective Responses to Men Harassing You on the Street

by Lidia Infante Sep 13, 2016

1. Record everything.

Take pictures with your phone or record his reaction. Whether you choose to post it online or not, you are protected from a possible violent response on his part. If the camera is on he likely won’t escalate the encounter.

2. Pretend you didn’t hear him correctly.

Ask the harasser to repeat it over and over again. Pretend you still don’t understand what he’s saying. Have it explained to you. He will end up realizing how stupid he sounds and feeling embarrassed. You win when he leaves or asks you to leave.

3. Pick your nose.

Another good response would be to do something regarded “unfeminine” or unattractive. Pick your nose, spit on the floor, fart, scratch your armpit… They will feel disgusted and stop treating you like an object.

4. Make animal sounds.

A few months ago I was being harassed and my first reaction was to moo. Yes, I mooed. Like a cow. I don’t even know why I did it. I still laugh remembering my harasser’s face when I mooed at him. I bet it was the first time. You don’t teach them a thing by doing this, but it’s just too funny. Any unexpected response will surprise the harasser and leave him not knowing what to do. Actually, almost any response leaves them frozen. They never thought you could speak.

5. Start a conversation.

If you feel like teaching them some respect for women and you feel safe you can start a conversation to try and make your harasser understand his behavior is sexist and has no room in the 21th century. Most times you’ll be called fat, ugly or feminazi, even if just a few minutes before you were the most beautiful woman on Earth.

6. Ignore him.

You have the right to ignore harassment. Sometimes you are too tired or don’t feel like facing your harasser’s anger. You’re not any less of a feminist for choosing not to respond.

7. Unleash hell.

Express how you’re feeling. Scream, call them all the names you know. Because your anger is legitimate and is part of the message. There are many tone policing and silencing tactics oriented to making you feel like your message is less valid if it’s expressed in an emotional way, but this is based on the false notion that you can’t be rational and emotional at the same time. Our anger when we are treated like objects is part of the message and it’s important that we feel we have the right to express it.

8. Start a punk band.

Feminist Mexican group Las Hijas De La Violencia (which would translate as Daughters of Violence) explained in this AJ+ micro-documentary how they shoot confetti guns at their harassers and sing them a song against street harassment. Definitely an unexpected response. In words of one of the members of the band, “make it fun so you can keep having an amazing day.”

9. Hollaback! Dare to answer.

You can download the app Hollaback where you can post your street harassment experiences and place them on a map. On their site you can also find advice and resources to fight street harassment.

10. Get creative!

Whatever you do, you do you. You are the receiving end of harassment, it’s your body and the public space belongs to you too. Don’t be shy and respond however you want. I’ve given you some ideas, but I’m sure you can come up with more! If we can’t have fun it’s not our revolution.

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