AI: Harassment Where There Shouldn’t Be Harassment


Last week, there was a Slutwalk in the city where I leave. It was the first one I was able to attend, and came in a week marked by various protests and public manifestations here in Brazil, which made it bigger and better covered by the press. It was beautiful all the way.

Before the walk, we met at a public square downtown, and while we were waiting for people to arrive, making signs and painting our own bodies, a group of four of five men watched as the girls took off their shirts. They approached one of the leaders and started reading off of her body (she had “my body, my rules” on her stomach) and making jokes on her (which included taking off their own shirts and asking if they could be sluts as well).

She handled it well, and explained the aims of the walk to them all the while they stared at her boobs and laughed it off repeatedly. Eventually the crowd behind her became bigger than their little group and they left, saying they “respected our fight”, and the walk went on unscathed, though the scene of the five arrogant harassers kept coming back to my head.

The girl they targeted was one of the main speakers, she was used to responding to this kind of thing with a leveled head, managed to stay respectful and on topic the whole time, and still they made fun of it, refused to listen and blatantly objectified her while she explained how the walk condemns such objectification of women. Had it be me they targeted, I just know I would have been silence. Had it been any of the women that were just getting to know the movement, they would have been scared.

And all in all, I cannot see a “good” way to deal with harassers, especially when they think they’re being cute and funny, not threatening and disrespectful, especially when you’re somewhere that’s supposedly a safe space, free from such elements. So I ask:

How do you deal with harassment on your day-to-day life? How do you deal with it in safe spaces that are openly against harassment? Should it be part of the job, for the leaders of these movements, to handle this kind of aggression? How is it possible to keep harassers away from these movements when they should also try to be open and educational for the public?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it every Tuesday,Thursday and Sunday at 3pm ET.

Featured image is the front banner of the Slutwalk in Rio de Janeiro.

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  1. Wow, that sounds like a rough situation for the woman they were talking to. I wonder what she would say if someone asked her about it afterwards. I think one of the main problems is that people often have no idea that their own behavior is harassing or inappropriate – these men probably didn’t know that they were objectifying the woman they were talking to, but I doubt they would have responded well if she’d said “actually, the problem is exactly what you’re doing right now.” I wish people were more receptive to having their behavior called out directly. I think we could all benefit from a culture in which that conversation could happen.

    I haven’t really ever faced direct harassment in places that are supposed to be safe spaces, but I FREQUENTLY face mircoagressions related to my transgender status in kinky, poly, and LGB environments. When people ask ignorant/offensive questions in these spaces I have to consider carefully how to respond because sometimes it is actually helpful/productive to point out that their question is offensive and sometimes it is not. Usually in kinky spaces I am in a position of some authority since I am often a presenter or staff member. This position makes it safer and easier for me to point out the problems in their questions/comments. I’m far less comfortable in poly munches or LGB environments because the responses I have gotten have been less receptive and more aggressive.

  2. It’s really hard to respond when you’re the target of it. What I’ve found works is to be an ally when it’s happening to another woman. If I see a man harassing a woman on a train, I ask her if she knows him. If she says no, I ask if she wants him to leave her alone. Usually at that point the guy feels uncomfortable enough to stop what he’s doing. If we can all come to each other’s aid when this kind of thing happens, life is a lot easier.

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