Courtney Martin posted about a man masturbating in front of her while she was meeting with her mentee. Scary and unpleasant, for sure. Courtney knew how to take action in the moment.
Scarier-- read the comments section to the post. How many women has this happened to-- and how many while they were girls/teenagers?
When it happened to me, I was 16 or so and was enough of a feminist already to know it was wrong and to do something about it, even when those around me didn't believe me. (My story is under my name in the comments, for those interested.) But as a teenager I didn't have the context or perspective to understand how widespread this kind of experience was. I am sure I thought-- something is wrong with that guy. What I know now is that while harassment usually takes place on an individual to individual basis, but that if you were to add up all of the incidents of harassment-- it's like a pandemic. A single response to a single act of harassment doesn't change much.
What can we do?
One of the best ways to fight back against harassment is to talk about it and create a culture of acceptance for the harassed. Kudos to Courtney for blogging about her experience and for creating a forum for women and girls to share their stories. If you are a person working or volunteering with girls-- figure out how you might be able to open the door to talk about these experiences.
Document it. Turn the camera on the harasser. Check out Holla Back NYC. There's also the girl produced video on street harassment by girls from Girls for Gender Equity that I have blogged about before as well as a Girls Inc NYC video. How can you argue with that kind of evidence?
Start the dialogue with men and boys-- this behavior is not okay. Find a male ally to help in the fight. They are out there.
Take it to the politicans. More kudos go to the Manhattan Borough President for studying it