It’s Not A Compliment

written by Rebecca Evans, Hollaback! Baltimore Blogger

Today I had an interview at a local nonprofit in Baltimore. Three‐quarters of the
way there, I realized my scatter‐brained self had typed the wrong address into
Google Maps. I stopped on the street for a minute, when along came the hero of our
story, “Rude Perverted Man in Plaid.” I’m not going to tell you what I was wearing,
because it doesn’t freaking matter.
Now I am no stranger to street harassment. If I want to experience it (which I don’t),
I take a fifteen‐minute walk and BOOM BANG THERE IT IS, and it’s not because I’m
“super hot and begging for it,” but because I’m female.
Anyways, I was able to cross the street and avoid Mr. “Take your hair down so I can
pull on it while I screw you,” until Google told me I was going the wrong way. I
passed him again, this time with the assistance of my middle finger.
I’ve recounted stories like this to a handful of my male friends. Most of them are
horrified, but a few of them don’t understand why I’m so upset. “It’s a compliment,
right?” “I’d feel pretty good about myself if someone whistled at me on the street.”
One told me I merely needed to get better at directions.
What my well‐meaning male companions aren’t grasping is the fact that these
incidents severely restrict our lives. Street harassment is why I never smile at men
over the age of sixteen. It’s why I walk the streets with downcast eyes. After this
particularly bad experience, I even considered no longer working for the nonprofit,
which would ironically involve assisting underprivileged men.
F‐bombing my harassers doesn’t work, and I can’t (and don’t want) to rely on other
men for protection. Two men were severely beaten in the face a few days ago in
Berkeley, CA for defending a pair of women against street harassment.
“Rude Man in Plaid” temporarily took away my power, but when I took it back, it
only multiplied. We may not have the power to make our harassers stop in the act,
but here is what we can do: use the Hollaback! website and mobile app to
systematically track these incidents, and gather as many stories as possible. If we
holla back enough, the facts cannot be ignored.

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