Tag reading "NOT OK" lies on wet ground

Ways for men to respond to harassment of women

This isn’t exactly geek feminist, but we often get asked questions about how to be a better ally, so I thought this was worth sharing. It’s a video of a bunch of men demonstrating ways to respond to street harassment. Within geeky circles, stuff that’s not unlike street harassment does happen at conferences and other gatherings, and it’s worth being prepared.

Not only is this a good collection of lines to have in your head, but their delivery and expressions also help get the message across:

So if you see bad behaviour happening, these are some non-violent ways you can step in and tell someone to cut it out. Sometimes, a clear expression of disgust from other men will make a really big impression, and once one person says something others will chime in and make the offender really look and feel like he’s in the minority. It’s good to have a bunch of lines prepared and practiced so you aren’t left with your mouth gaping open thinking, “did he really just say that? here?” and instead you can launch right into responses like, “I can’t take you anywhere,” “That’s not ok,” “Are you serious?” or “It’s not a compliment.” This video is obviously targeted at male allies, but some of these lines may be useful to others who want to be able to step in.

Remember, the wiki has an article on allies that can always use more links and tips. If you’ve seen any great resources, please mention them in the comments or add them directly to the wiki!

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About terriko

Terri has a PhD in horribleness, assuming we can all agree that web security is kind of horrible. She stopped working on skynet (err, automated program repair and AI) before robots from the future came to kill her and got a job in open source, which at least sounds safer. Now, she gets paid to break things and tell people they're wrong, and maybe help fix things so that people won't agree so readily with the first sentence of this bio in the future. Terri writes/tweets under the name terriko, enjoys making things and mentoring others and has a plain ol' home page at http://terri.toybox.ca.

8 thoughts on “Ways for men to respond to harassment of women

  1. Nerdiquette 101

    Thank you so much for this. I’ve shared the link on the Nerdiquette 101 FaceBook page. It’s great to have some come-backs to practice and have handy when we see inappropriate behavior at sf conventions and other geek gatherings.

  2. Bruce Byfield

    Mod note: Be careful about black-and-white thinking. There is no clean division between “ethical, pro-feminist men” who don’t contribute to rape culture and don’t know anybody who does, and irredeemable sexists. Contributing to rape culture is something that most men and many women do without thinking about it or being aware of it.

    These suggestions are useful, but they’re a bit like self-defense training: you not only have to prepare, but to be ready to use your preparations.

    If you’re an ethical, pro-feminist man, you wouldn’t catcall and probably don’t know many other men who would, either. As a result, you tend not to expect street harassment. When you do see it, it tends to take you by surprise so you are too slow to react.

    Any ideas about how to train yourself to react on time? Thinking of a really cutting remark a couple of hours later isn’t very satisfying.

    1. Tim Chevalier

      Just a note, the reason you haven’t witnessed much street harassment is probably not because of your superb ethics or those of your friends (not that I’m questioning those). It’s because men tend not to engage in harassment when other men are watching. Obviously, it happens occasionally, which is why the video exists. But you probably do know men who would catcall; they just don’t do it when you’re around.

      1. Bruce Byfield

        At the risk of stating the obvioust, men do catcall when other men are around, but only when they feel sure that those men see nothing wrong with it.

        (Incidentally, I wasn’t trying to make any claim of superb ethics; I was more suggesting that it’s easy to be naive about something that’s not ordinarily in your environment)

    2. Terri

      How do you train yourself to play a concert? Practice.
      How to you get better at improv? Practice.
      How to you train yourself to drive defensively? Practice.
      How do you train yourself to handle violence? Practice.
      How do you prepare for an interview? Practice.

      It’s “hard” to prepare for the unexpected, but often the key is to have practiced reactions so your brain can do a quick association and react reflexively. That’s as true for snarky responses as it is for driving a car or sight-reading music. Part of it is making the unfamiliar familiar by doing similar things, and part of it is having a set of queued responses on hand so you can make an association quickly.

      If you’re really into it, I gather doing things like standup comedy can really work your ability to handle heckling on the fly and even respond in funny ways. But for lower-key approaches, building scenarios in your head is a good place to start. From there, try watching TV and movies and seeing if you can catch casual harassment as it happens, then heckle the screen or pause it so you can contemplate the best response until heckling comes naturally. It’s so prevalent in media that with a bit of practice you’ll be noticing plenty of examples. Action flicks and chick flicks are both especially “good” for this, as are things aimed at teen audiences, but I suspect nearly anything will do. Plus, heckling is a fun thing you can do with some like-minded friends, so practice can just be a weekly video night where you try to channel your MST3K abilities with a side of feminism.

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