Please note. . .

Don't Be Silent DC has been inactive since March 2008 and has not been accepting entries since. If you are in the DC area and have a harassment story to share, please go to HollaBack DC. If you are outside the DC area and want to submit your story, go to Stop Street Harassment. Thank you.

As of 3/1/08, I will no longer be working on this blog. Please read this post for more details.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


"You're supposed to pick up the trash, not act like it."

As I was leaving for work yesterday, the garbage men came by to pick up the trash. One of them said, "Hey, pretty lady." Ugh. . .I cannot stand "compliments" from strange men. Not even my headphones could tune them out.

"Pretty lady?" I said. "I appreciate compliments, but not from men I don't know. That is too personal. The next time you see me, please refer to me as 'miss' or 'ma'am.' Have a good day."

I headed off, and the guy's partner said, "Hey, leave that girl alone!" Good! (And they actually left my trash can upright this time. . .thank you!)

From Thursday's workshop, Martha Langelan explained why women don't like these "compliments." She explained a scenario at a workplace: A woman has a boss that pays more attention to how she's dressed, her body, her physique as opposed to the job she's doing. He'll say "I love the way that blouse looks on you." He'll rub her shoulders while "complimenting" her and make her feel uncomfortable. Martha said that (and I agree with this) we want to feel valued for substantial things---intelligence, good work ethics, strong morals---not the superficial (how "attractive" we are or how we're dressed). Men tend to get more substantial compliments than women do. It's as if women are put on this earth to only be attractive for men. That we have no other purpose or goals in life. A substantial compliment ("Great presentation today!") holds a lot more value than one on surface appearance.

But how can this apply to the men on the streets? These men most of the time don't know how to be cordial to women. Hitting on women is their way of saying "good morning." Martha recalled a story where a drunken man would make sexual come-ons to her when she headed for presentations. She flat-out told him it made her uncomfortable, and his response was "I'm just trying to say 'good morning.'"

Without missing a beat, she told him that if he wanted to say 'good morning,' he can say 'good morning.' From that point on he, even though still being a drunk, respected her and told her 'good morning.'

Martha says something that has common sense: If you don't know someone, for the love of God don't do that "hey, pretty," "hey, beautiful," "hey, sexy" mess. Be pleasant and say "hello." It carries a lot more respect and weight than a superficial "hey, pretty."

"Fools' weather brings out foolish behavior"

The weather yesterday was unseasonably warm, and the fools were out on the street. Men were beeping their horns at me, and one driver "slowed his roll" and started yelling "hey, baby!" at me. I told him that yelling from his car was tacky and ignorant behavior, but unfortunately drive-by harassment is "hit and run" and there's never enough time for the message to get through. A man across the street witnessed it and looked shocked. Yes, you got a temporary glimpse of what it's like to walk home while female.

The same thing happened today. In my mundane outfit (sand-colored khakis, a yellow shrug and matching tee, tan shoes and small leather jacket), I got wolf-whistles, "hey, baby!" catcalls, horn-beeping, and cars slowing down. As I said earlier, there are better ways of saying "hello," and a better way of doing so is not out of a car window from across the street, but at a respectful distance face-to-face. I hope these men learn some manners by the time the warm weather returns on a more regular basis.