But this week I’ve also been reflecting on a common reaction to stories of street harassment: the “why-didn’t-you-just…?” You know…
- Why didn’t you yell back at them?
- Why don’t you just ignore them?
- Why didn’t you just walk down a different street?
- You’re a feminist. Why don’t you teach them?
Let’s be clear: all of these are perfectly legit ways of handling street harassment. But none are required responses.
When someone suggests there’s a right way to handle harassment, it feeds into a larger culture of victim blaming. It’s just as bad as suggesting a person “was asking for it” through her or his style of dress or some other variable.
The “appropriate” reaction depends on a thousand different factors but comes down to one thing: the victims’ own judgment.
And a note on teaching, yelling, or otherwise fighting back against harassment: It’s not our job to educate every misinformed person in the world. Particularly in settings where we don’t feel safe. Or in situations where, if something were to happen, we’d be blamed for engaging them and otherwise “asking for it.”
When you hear questions like this, call them out. Ending street harassment is as much about stopping the perpetrators as it is the skeptical outsiders who hear our stories and dissect our behaviors.