Expecting someone else to get involved in your situation seems rather futile in Seattle. Some people might see those situations as having a potential for a violent outcome. Sticking your nose in someone else's business is a great way to get your nose broken.

While I may very well be interested in sparing you from some street bum's lewd advances, I need to be prepared to beat the fuck out of that guy (and maybe others) if I get involved. That's a high threshold to meet for someone who is also just trying to get home.
I will flex my thighs and speak up loudly and persistently in the best not-quite-so-super-gay-sounding voice I can muster.
People are cowards. In 1998 when I lived in Williamsburg I was taking the L train to work and a man, on a packed subway train, was sitting next to a woman with his arm around her neck and he kept punching her in the leg. She was crying. I went over to him and said "You might want to stop doing that, I don't think she likes it, she's crying." He told me to mind my own business. He told me she was his wife and he could do what he wanted. NOT ONE OTHER PERSON in that subway car did anything. I got off at my stop and there were 2 cops on the platform and I told them what was happening. They stopped the train and I went to work and as soon as I got there I burst out crying. All I know is if that were me, I WOULD WANT SOMEONE TO DO SOMETHING.

In Seattle it seems these days every crazy nut on the street has a gun and you'll be shot and killed for no reason. It's complete insanity to me. I lived in Seattle 2002 to 2007 and felt way more unsafe than I ever did living in NYC because of the people on the streets who would harass you and touch you and freak out if you didn't take kindly to whatever it was they were subjecting you to.

If I witnessed someone being harassed I would speak up and say something and provide some solidarity. I know that I am the exception, not the rule. I also know I could be physically harmed for doing so. I would still do it - because, again, if it were me, I would want someone to do the same.
Well, at least they've started posting a cop at that bus stop who does nothing but sit in his car and project quiet disdain at transit users.

Seattle: tolerating bullshit and botching the basics since 1852.
Well, my natural inclination would be to step in closer to the woman being harassed. Tell the cad to “lay off”, and then stay near enough to the woman to look menacing to the cad and let him think we are together until her bus comes.

But, then I’d be accused of chauvinistic sexism and enforcing the “bullshit patriarchal structures that control women's lives” for assuming she needed/wanted my help and I’d be written up in the pages of the stranger. (I learned my lesson about offering un-asked for help to women the last time I opened a door for a strange woman).

I think, in today’s world, it’s the woman’s responsibility to ask for help if she wants help from a stranger. So, if I’m there, I’ll probably stand and watch unless you make it very clear to me that you want help from me, and then I’ll do what comes naturally.

I’m sure that’s the wrong answer…

How about taking some smartphone videos when it happens and putting them on YouTube.

(A hidden camera would be best, if you can manage it.)

Mirrors can have a regulatory effect.

How about just ignoring the jerk and not giving them the satisfaction of a response. They'll typically start ignoring you soon after that.
@ 2 beat me to the punch. Not only is it risky playing hero, it has the potential to boomerang as the woman being harassed might lash out at you for butting in. Bottom line - you never know what a stranger's attitudes are. You don't know their thoughts, the state of their mental health, or anything.

Ultimately fighting this stuff is going to take decades of raising awareness. Until then, women will face a lot of unappealing choices when it comes to dealing with this, all of which boil down to fight (including telling them off) or flight (including changing bus routes, never travel alone, etc). I would suggest that fighting might be more effective (it ought to let the dingleberry know that some women aren't going to stand for it and make him think twice next time), and if you do you have one thing going for you - men won't fight back or raise their hands to a woman (unless she is already in a relationship with him)*. That's why they resort to verbal abuse.

In the meantime, keep the awareness up. That's ultimately what will beat street harassment.

* Most men. Not all. I'd guess that the ones who would hit you are a tiny minority of men overall (less than 1%) but what portion of street harassers they make, I have no clue. So there's always going to be a risk.
Since I'm 6'3" and can pretty much lift most people into the air I usually put myself between them if it's in a way that won't make the target of harassment feel uncomfortable. In either case I usually say "knock it the fuck off" or "what's wrong with you, they aren't interested" if they don't get the picture.

Usually works, although I've been called a "faggot" more than a handful of times in these situations which in some cases might have turned the whole thing into a different kind of problem.

Just do whatever feels safe to you.
I would come and engage you in a conversation and have the two of us move away from him:
"I'm sorry to interrupt but I just love your shoes! Where'd you get them "(edging myself between you and him and walking a bit away with you while still talking.)
That's about all I as a small middle aged lady could do, but since there is strength in numbers, showing the perpetrator that you are not alone might discourage him.
Apparently I'm both braver and more civic minded than some.
I have the exact same experiences as you, both in terms of what men I don't know say to me when I'm alone at a bus stop and what people say I should do differently. So I agree this is a real problem and wish it would stop. But in the dozen or so times where someone tried to step in to 'help' me, or I've tried to speak up when I thought another solo woman was being harassed, it made things worse -- my 'helpers' usually end up being too aggro and escalate the situation and/or try to then leverage their 'helping' me to ask me for money, and every woman I've tried to help by speaking up did not appreciate it and usually gets madder at me than the guy I was trying to protect her from. So now I just do nothing unless she asks for help or if I think she's about to be assaulted. I'm not advocating for everyone to adopt this method, but I haven't found another that works for me, either.
Waaay back in the early '90s, I was on a packed #7 bus that had just stopped at B'way/John. A young woman was walking down the street, minding her own beeswax, when a very inebriated large man (who was with a very inebriated lady) passed. The sidewalk was packed, as the bus had just let out, so everyone was very close to each other. As the woman walked past, the guy casually flicked his fingers upward, so he basically stroked her crotch (outside her pants). He barely even looked at her as it happened. She stopped and yelled at him - and he turned around and smacked her so hard her glasses flew off her face. She continued yelling at him and crying, the man just stood there mumbling at her to fuck off, and his ladyfriend started screaming at the woman. The bus didn't go anywhere, and all the badass rockers on the bus and in front of the cafe where Bleu later was (oh, where is my brain anymore?? the cafe where people shot heroin in the bathroom 24/7) lurched menacingly while clenching and unclenching their fists but NO ONE DID ANYTHING. Finally the guy threw his hands up and stumbled away with his harpy still screeching. I will never forget the horribleness of that moment, and the feeling of being completely trapped on a standing room only bus while this unfolded only 10 feet away, and how sick it all made me.

Would I have done anything different had I been on the street instead of on the bus? I'd like to think yes. But I honestly don't know, because my 21-ish year old self just wanted to be as far away from that moment as possible.

@11, I love that idea! Plus I wouldn't have any reason to de-gay my voice to make that work.
First of all, it is quite unfortunate that you must endure that harassment. My only suggestion for you is to remain strong and continue exercising perseverance.
Clearly, there's no easy solution to your situation. Alas, all to many women (and some men) suffer it.

As for what "one" would/could/will do" to render assistance to you while you are being harassed? That alas, is a moral conundrum that @2 Sir Vic alludes to. Much of it depends on circumstances. Kris Kime comes to mind:…

Yes, the example cited is extreme. A "heroic" action by a stranger may be necessary sometimes. But, I as a stranger walking up to the jerk harassing you would be a chance exercise as @2 mentions. Only once in my adult life have I gently intervened on behalf of two women (who happened to be my friends) to end some sort of harassment. It's rare. But to assess a situation and subsequently intervene with a stranger not knowing (& eavesdropping greatly) if the parties know one another is risky.

On the lighter side, an old roomate of mine actually met his wife hitting on/flirting with her at a bus stop! So, it genuinely depends.

Telling a woman that "you love her shoes" objectifies her as a sex object and enforces the patriarchal structure that controls her life....

Please try to keep up.
wish there was an answer. i don't like walking on the street alone as a male, i can't imagine how it is for females. not the answer you're looking for but if i had to ride metro all the time, much to goldy's chagrin, i'd probably carry my glock pistol with me. obviously you wouldn't pull a gun on someone for verbal harassment. I'd start out with a very polite could you please leave me alone then if that doesn't work, step it up to being a bitch if you have to. i'd rather let them think i was a bitch who didn't take shit than humor them along. as for what would i do, probably nothing unless it became physical, then i'd intervene.
@2 and @9: You're both right. I know there's a huge risk getting involved in these situations. What is verbal harassment to me, could turn into a physical altercation for you. I certainly didn't mean to imply that I would expect anyone to risk a broken nose (or worse!) for me to feel safer.

More than anything I just want to see how others might respond, and get ideas of what people could do in order to help in these situations. I haven't seen a lot of talk about what other people can do, when they see it happening.

It's frusting to hear, so many times, that yes street harassment is bad but also there's really nothing anyone can do.
What 6 said. I would worry about being accused of assuming you wanted my help and that you couldn't take care of yourself, especially since it didn't seem unsafe (as you say). Next time ask for help if you want it.

I'm reminded about something my wife once said back when we were dating and she was in her 20s. She was complaining at work about men who "complimented" her on the "L" train. One of her older female colleagues said "I remember when that used to happen to me and it bothered me. Now I don't remember why." The older colleague was making a joke, but there's something there anyhow.
@2 has a point in that most people won't want to get involved when confrontation might escalate the interaction from harassment to violence, unless it looks like it's already reaching the point of violence. I don't know what to do about that, because it's not an unreasonable concern.

@1, Not only do you clearly not understand what the grown-ups are talking about here, you didn't even call out the right staffer, you subliterate pinhead.
@4, as a native new yorker, I understand the reticence because there are so many human time bombs on the street who could do serious harm if you interfered with their "fun". In that situation, notifying a transit cop or a conductor is the best you can do.

Megan, do you carry mace? If the serious snark/obnoxiousness doesn't work and it get physical, use mace.
@6: Doing the right thing is doing the right thing. You don't do it to get a cookie, and you don't stop doing it because it didn't go smoothly that one time.
It is tricky to intervene and you do indeed need to take into account your own safety though.
@21 I don't carry mace, no. I should start again.

I used to carry pepper spray, and thankfully never had to use it, but it would always have to be thrown away when I'd go to a show and they'd searched my purse. So I just stopped replacing it.
Hi Megan,

Thanks for your call for action about this issue. About a year ago I had a guy I didn't know scream at me at the stop in front of the Uptown because I wouldn't let him pull the "how you doin'" shit and tried to give me a hug several times. I said several times in a loud, firm, clear voice, "Stop. Don't touch me. Back off." I think it was pretty clear I had no idea who the fuck he was, and regardless of that I was loud and clear that I didn't want him touching me. A bus stop full of people acted like it was all invisible. The interaction ended with me getting on the bus and him calling me a prostitute. I would like some social pressure to help with these situations and I would like to help provide it to other women. I'm not allowed to tell a stranger on the street I don't want to be touched or hug him without being called a bitch and a ho.

I don't really talk to men I don't know anymore on the street. I just ignore them. The past couple of years after 20 years of dealing with this have been the last straw. People I do know have to practically jump in front of me to break through my tunnel of no eye contact and headphones.
on the plus side, if you ever do shoot some guy, the law will usually fall on your side as a woman.…
2, 6, 9, and 12: Cowards.

You know why the women you tried to help probably got mad? Because they had literally just had their personal space and bodily autonomy invaded by a stranger. No matter how many times I've had that happen and no matter how calm I stay, I've never gotten used to it and it always upsets me. So if a woman has had two strange men interposing themselves in her space and her business, and she's upset because one of them was making her feel unsafe and she snaps, who's she going to snap on? Probably the one she's not worried about grabbing her tits, following her home, or assaulting her.

Does that make you feel bad? Themz the brakes, sugar. You know what makes me feel bad? Knowing that my personal safety isn't dictated by me, but the whims of the men around me. If you use a woman's admittedly crappy reaction to you trying to help her as an excuse not to step in when you see other women being harassed, not only are you missing the point, but you're a fucking pussy.

The point isn't for you to step in and be a knight in shining armor. The point is to let the harasser know that his behavior is unacceptable. Street harassment won't stop until enough men stand up and say, "We don't want women to be wary and frightened around us when they're going about their personal business in public."
That is a miserable situation. It is also probably why we still have more cars on the street than we need to. More women would take the bus if standing at the bus stop and riding the bus felt/was safer.

Personally, I would probably end up just carrying mace with me everywhere. As soon as the asshole started his routine, I would simply hold up the mace and ask if he wanted to say anything else. But I'm kind of an asshole myself, so there is that.
Random passersby shouldn't be expected to intervene in a conversation. Now if a man starts to grope or otherwise get physical, then bystanders should intervene. I have done so myself on occasion. But a woman old enough to be out on the street alone is old enough to handle a conversation with a strange man by herself.

I'm glad I haven't read the other articles like this, makes me ashamed to be female. Men are going to pursue women--like it or not that's their role in our culture. First response--silence and icy glare. Man keeps it up, second response--"I'm not looking," accompanied with icy glare. Man keeps it up, third response--"Fuck off." Hopefully not too many will reach that stage. Then they insult you and leave. What do you care about them insulting you? If they don't leave, take out your cellphone and call someone, for multiple reasons.
First suggestion Megan is to just walk down Third Avenue to the next bus stop, the one the bus gets to before the problem one. Yes, you shouldn't have to do this, etc., etc., but if problem areas can be avoided, why not?

Second suggestion is to call out "Leave Me Alone!" in a very loud voice. This gets the perpetrator's attention, and also lets all the bystanders know there's a problem.
Oddly, the last time I saw someone being harassed on the street I did nothing... because I was carrying a gun and wanted nothing to do with escalating the situation.

This was about two years ago. Here's what I saw:

I'm required to carry a gun for my work and was on my way home at the bus stop at 3rd and Pike around 9 pm. when a Caucasian man was clumsily trying to ride a bicycle on the very crowded sidewalk. Among the crowd were six African-American youths and one of them waited for the cyclist to almost pass by before kicking the cyclists rear wheel, knocking him to the ground.

The cyclist got up off the ground and confronted the youth who kicked him to the ground and the youth denied that it was him, while he and his buddies escalated the confrontation by surrounding the cyclist and using aggressive language.

Personally, I thought it was a chickenshit move to blindside the cyclist and then deny the attack. Even though the cyclist was being an idiot for trying to ride through the crowded sidewalk, the aggressive youth should've manned up and admitted what he did instead of claiming he didn't do anything.

I thought about telling him this, but because I was carrying a gun I bit my tongue and walked away. The other youths were pretty tough-looking and sounding and I could envision the situation going south in a hurry and wanted no part of a bloodbath.

I am a firm believer in firearms legal education and ethics for those who choose to carry a weapon. It's a hell of a responsibility and one needs to learn to turn the other cheek and stay the hell out of harm's way, because the ramifications of your actions will change your life and the lives of others forever.

I was on the 14 once and a guy was harassing a woman, and so I told him to stop it. He began yelling at me. To the point that finally he was made to get off the bus, but it took some time for that to happen. Everyone then thanked the bus driver for taking action. The woman and I got off at the same stop and she said nothing to me. I wondered if she'd preferred I'd said nothing. So I haven't done anything like that again.

Now I would too afraid to do anything because of all the people carrying guns.

I've felt there is not much you can do about street harassment. I used to get mad and scream at the guys at the top of my lungs, but all they'd do is laugh at me. There are a few safeguards: I used to wear headphones a lot (unplugged), then they think you're listening to something. Or pretend you don't speak English. Or drool or pick your nose; something gross.

One thing will fix it; time. When you get past 35, they'll stop making comments. Well, that's what happened w/me.
@27 - "Cowards ... Street harassment won't stop until enough men stand up and say, 'We don't want women to be wary and frightened around us when they're going about their personal business in public.'"

So ... you're asking men to take on all the physical risk here, because women are apparently too soft and delicate to handle it?

I mean, I suppose you might make an argument for it. But it seems to me that feminists shouldn't like the implications of that argument so much. Much as they probably shouldn't like your use of "pussy" as an insult.
@23: try putting it your boot. That's what I used to do.

@16: What a stupid comment. It adds nothing to the conversation and just makes you look like you can't read, in attempt score points against some imaginary feminist strawman.
There are legit concerns to consider when thinking about intervening in this sort of situation. Try discussing those.
I'm now going to be more inclined to ask you if everything is okay. I'd hope not to end up in a fight, but @2 isn't entirely off base suggesting that is possible. I've gotten myself in that situation on the Upper West Side. Not only did I risk getting shot by the assailant, but someone in the restaurant wanted to fight because I told him to shut up when he told me to stay out it. I think people saying something will help. I don't think that block is going to change, and I feel unsafe and avoid it whenever possible. I would buy a Vespa, but I understand your point that you shouldn't have to change when you're not the source of the problem.
A few points:

1. The concern Vic brings up @2 is not trivial. Something I'm not sure (most) women tend to fully understand is how real and unpredictable the threat of violence is in direct confrontations between men, and especially young (<25 years) men. (Not all young men are violent assholes, but most violent assholes are young men.) That doesn't excuse us from doing the right thing, but Vic is right: to confront is to accept the very real possibility of violence. We should be clear about that.

2. I have intervened in a situation once in my adult life, and it definitely escalated, fortunately not to the point of actual violence (though it got *very* close). That said, it was more of domestic violence situation that happened to be taking place in a park, rather than a case of street harassment. Which brings me to...

3. We shouldn't conflate these kinds of situations. As Megan points out, harassment always happens when she is alone. That suggests to me that the *typical* street harasser is probably a fucking coward at heart who will back off if he is credibly told to do so.

4. Despite walking and taking the bus in the city daily for the last three years, I honestly do not recall a time when I personally observed the kind of situation Megan is describing happening. And by that I do NOT mean that I doubt what Megan is saying, because I hear the same kind of stories from my wife and my female friends, far too fucking often.

I would suggest, however, that maybe the reason I don't see this happening is because I am there. Because I am a guy of decent size, who is not constantly zoned out on his phone, who is constantly aware of what is going on around him, who looks at people and notices what they are doing. And--emphatically--who is not doing the kind of creepy fucked up shit that Megan and my wife and my friends have to put up with. Who moves over on the bus, and minds his personal space, holds the door open, says "please", "thank you", and "excuse me" know, basic fundamental good person shit.

(I'm not saying any of this to brag, because this is just the stuff we are all supposed to be doing.)

So, what are we "good guys" to do? Should we say something when we see someone being harassed? Probably yes. But maybe if we make an effort to be present and be decent when we are out in public, we won't have to very often.
@6, I've heard this story so often that I am seriously starting to wonder, where are the roving armies of women who HATE having doors held open for us? You'll have to excuse me if I am starting to suspect they're all dating the hippie protestors who used to go to airports and spit on soldiers returning from 'Nam. If you get my drift.

@12, it's a good point. In these situations, bystanders should (imho) be careful to make sure their actions work to take pressure off the person being harassed, not aggressively escalate the situation. Personally, it would be my nightmare to have someone rush to my rescue and end up in a fistfight with the harasser or something. Nobody needs to put themselves into physical danger in these situations.

Personally, I usually ask the target of harassment if he or she is ok, and offer to stand with them till the bus comes, call them a cab, go grab a cup of coffee, etc. I like to have my phone out because it will sometimes remind harassers that the police could easily be called. In any case I don't normally confront the harasser directly unless their target is already confronting them and I can support in that. When harassed, I normally yell, "Get away from me! I don't know you and I don't want to talk to you!" and I know it definitely helps when other people chime in, "Yeah, leave her alone" or something like that.

Domestic violence in public places is harder to deal with - up until now, I've usually informed the police when there seems to be an escalating physical situation going on. I know that's not a perfect solution, but nobody deserves to be assaulted on the street and have that assault ignored.
I agree with @29. I have intervened before. When I haven't, it hasn't been because of fear of the harasser but the fear of misinterpreting the situation and getting involved when it is neither needed or wanted. A loud "stop grabbing me!" that isn't obeyed removes the ambiguity from the situation.

I can't help noticing how much of this discussion is turning into the exact "here's what women should do" discussion that Megan wanted to avoid. It's impossible, it always comes back to what we as women can do to make ourselves safer, not what we can all do as humans to stop purposely intimidating a repressed group.

I had a scary street harassment moment last week and wrote about it on my FB hoping to open a discussion like this to explore what we could all do to make things better and within 10 comments I was getting advice about tasers and pepper spray. It's fucking infuriating.
I hate men who harass on the street, one of the few things in the world that I really and truly hate. I am also sickened by that goddamn bus stop and have been known to walk down 3rd to avoid that corner full of assholes.

Every single day and at all times I am a fucking fat bitch. I am also over 60. When I observe bad situations (and by bad I mean an obvious stranger approaching a woman and opening his mouth) I watch for a few seconds to check on reality (I always imagine the worst) and then approach the woman and ask "Everything all right?" No matter what she says, and it is often a reluctant "yeah" I have interrupted and ignored the harasser and altered the flow a little bit. I do this in the US and in Mexico where street harassment is of a somewhat different flavor. Still I look at the woman and catch her eye and either say aloud or mouth "Are you OK?" "Todo bien?" I've never felt particularly afraid to do this. But I've never witnessed, that I know of, an obviously violent scene. Not sure what I would do in that case. I really really really hate that bus stop.
I've only stepped in and said something in one situation, a few weeks ago, where I felt a guy on the bus had crossed a line from annoying and obnoxious to creepy and harassing. He'd been bugging people the whole ride, but finally said some weird stuff to two high school girls, so I told him he was bothering them and to leave them alone, which he did.

That said, what I specifically said to him, and how I interacted with him, worked in a way that probably wouldn't have worked in other situations. In my opinion, in each situation there are ways to intervene that will escalate matters, and there are ways to intervene that will de-escalate them. Most of us, including myself, are not trained or experienced in how to de-escalate situations. Many of us tend to go for the most aggressive language possible--insulting the person rather than addressing their behavior.

Confrontation that depends on insulting, shaming, or intimidating the perpetrator is likely to feel cathartic for whoever is intervening, but I don't think it leads to long-term solutions or mass behavioral changes.
After a group of guys groped me at a bus stop one summer evening in front of other passengers waiting for the 43, didn't stop when I told them to, and followed me onto the bus while shouting insults at me as everyone looked away, I basically lost faith in humanity. And Metro drivers. Can someone tell me how that was my fault? Should I not have waited at 6th and Pine at 7pm in broad daylight? Should I have wrapped myself in some sort of non-gendered Nerf ball so the sight of my scandalous ankles didn't set off their lizard brains?
Being alone may be a common thread in street harrassment, but it's not absolute. My girlfriend has been harrassed several times with me standing right next to her or walking alongside her. It catches me off guard everytime, though when I'm with her she feels more comfortable in loudly telling the guy to fuck off.

As much as I'd love to say I would intervene each and every time I saw some mouth breather harrassing a woman, it's more likely to be a case-by-case basis. But if I see even the slightest bit of unwanted physical contact, I'm calling the cops.
Put on some headphones.
I've found walking around with headphones/a book prevents an awful lot of lewd comments being hurled in my direction - or perhaps not, because I've actually had someone ask me why I didn't acknowledge their "complement".

I've intervened before, but, like others, I approach the victim, not the person acting like an asshole. Sometimes "Do you know this person?" "You OK?" or something like that lets the asswipe know that 1) other people are paying attention and 2) other people find their behavior inappropriate, and they'll back off.

I don't think people ignore harassment because they think its OK (although I'm sure some do)...I think its more likely they just don't know ~how~ to intervene
Maybe your reading comprehension is poor. I said I am willing to assist, but in today’s world, I don’t just assume that women want my help and force it upon them. I extend women the respect of assuming that if they want help they are capable of asking for it.

I suggest that people who feel threatened or unsafe when they are alone, simply ask for help. Even if that just means asking the reasonably sane and bathed person also standing at the bus stop to act like they are with them so the drooling lunatic coming down the block won’t offer them a mustache ride.

You know… if we, as a practice, engaged the reasonably sane and bathed strangers around us in polite conversation when we’re standing three feet away from them waiting at the same bus stop (instead of gazing into iPhones with our ear buds crammed into our heads), it might end the kind of street harassment you’re highlighting in this post... It sounds like women seen to be in the company of other people (especially men) are less likely to be harassed. (But, I think that, in this day and age, women would have to instigate that change for all sorts of reasons).

How about a “Feel alone and threatened? Say “Hi” to a respectable stranger and ask about their day!” campaign?...
@36 - I like you. Good, non confrontational things to do.

@32 - No, it's just that those assholes listen to men first. If men flat out say it's unacceptable behaviour and say so, not just think so, it's more likely to stop. Those guys are often performing for a (male) audience, so if the audience says BOOOOOOOO GET OFF THE STAGE they will.
I also find it hilarious to hear dudes say they're plenty manly and intimidating but are afraid to step in for fear of things becoming violent. How do you think we, the harassed women feel? Likely the woman you're not stepping in to help has moments frequently and even presently where she is feeling a great sense of danger and has a right to. It's terrifying when someone pulls a public power play on you and purposely intimidates you. I've had moments where I'm afraid to move a muscle or even breathe differently for fear that it will set off a violent reaction and I will be attacked but whatever fucking creep is sitting too close to me or staring at the side of my head. It's paralyzing. I'm really sorry you're afraid to step in. It sounds really scary for you.
We were 3 pretty big dudes and they were 4 tiny dudes who were intimidating the hell out of a girl in Portland. I walked over close enough to touch them and asked if she was ok. They immediately started throwing punches and threatening to shoot us. They were drunk and high and possibly armed. We pushed them away from her while they made a "I'm reaching for my gun move" and backing off. In retrospect we should've just observed while calling the cops. We could've all been shot and she could've still been abducted
people are not going to step in when our society lets any nut have a gun, and when we already allow many people to not just be harassed but shot dead due to drug violence, and we, as a society, fail to stop it.

as for @47, yes, we feel sorry for you, but don't berate us. seems like you're demanding manly men to act all manly and gentlemanly and take on the role of protecting you. what?

we should do stuff that protects everyone from all the bad folks. first step is getting rid of guns. till you do that, no, sane people will not step in, they might get shot, duh.......
@49 I wasn't saying I want manly men to step in and defend me, not at all. I was just commenting on the fact that someone who portrays themselves as "tough" doesn't necessarily consider the immense fear the victim is experiencing. I was just calling for a little empathy.
@45, that certainly is a beautiful vision of how women could end harassment by seeking a chaperone at all times in public spaces.

I personally stopped getting into conversations with respectable-seeming, well-groomed strangers at bus stops, the day a man who looked and dressed pretty much like my dad decided that because I'd smiled back at him, he should sidle up to me and ask me if I was wearing panties, if I'd ever had sex for money, how much I would charge, and that he had a big penis. When I backed off and walked away swiftly down the street, he yelled "Crazy bitch!" after me.

I was 14 and I looked it.
A better question is what would you like me, a tallish, bearded, middle-aged male, to do? I would do it if I knew what it was.
A tough 22-year old guy is verbally harassing a woman and a fat middle-aged nerd (me) tells him to knock it off. What do you think he's going to do, stand down? Perhaps, but just as likely he's going to turn on me and attack me verbally, if not physically.
@45: I think asking for help is an excellent idea as well as engaging other reasonably sane and bathed people near by, as there is safety in numbers. Perhaps compliment them on their shoes? :)
I'm a total sucker for anyone who complements my anything!
I think maybe just making a friendly, obviously nonconfrontational friendly overture to the victim while just straight-up ignoring the offender is the optimal strategy here. It demonstrates that she's not alone and that there's someone actually paying attention to what's going on, but doesn't give the harasser anything to latch on to as provocation for a fight.

(I mean, if you're huge and intimidating and you don't think anyone's going to pick a fight with you, go ahead and be confrontational, I guess, but some of us are always going to be short no matter how fit we get, and when you're under 5'10" every guy on earth thinks he can take you.)

@26, your point is well taken, but I think it's unfair to lump the folks who have legitimate concerns about a confrontation escalating to violence in with that moron YGBKM, who's not even participating in the same discussion as the rest of us. He's just having a contemporaneous, tangential argument with straw feminists in his head about things that never actually happened.

And speaking of you, @45, the fact that you relentlessly talk down to the female Slog staffers and simultaneously insist that only "drooling lunatics" harass women means that you're really not qualified to be participating in this discussion anyway. Most victimizers are "normal" guys with day jobs who've let anger and/or alcohol run away with them because by and large there are no consequences for failing to keep their ugly bullshit to themselves. Maybe that sounds familiar?
Every time I ask I get yelled at (and accused of racism once laughably):

WHY isn't there SPD posted on EVERY corner in the area and at the bus stops during evening rush hour? Don't tell me it's a cost issue; that's BS. Post them from 3pm to 7pm at least, Monday-Friday.

1. In front of McDonalds on 3rd.
2. In front of the bus stop at Macy's on 3rd.
3. Between Walgreens and Aaron Brothers on 3rd.
4. Directly across the street from there.
5. At the bus stop in front of Benaroya.

It seems like every single story of criminal or obnoxious stuff always stems from one of theses five locations in the area during those time periods.
What part of "help when asked" is so controversial to you?
@46 - "No, it's just that those assholes listen to men first. If men flat out say it's unacceptable behaviour and say so, not just think so, it's more likely to stop. Those guys are often performing for a (male) audience, so if the audience says BOOOOOOOO GET OFF THE STAGE they will."

If you actually believe this, you are _dangerously_ misguided. Seriously? I can't believe that you actually think these guys are going to give a shit that I am not impressed by their remarks about your ass.

No, guys catcalling you are not looking for my approval. But if I challenge them, some of them will be looking for a fight. You're asking me to take that risk on for you when you say "Men need to call other men on this." And maybe you can make an argument that men should be doing that. But please acknowledge that it _is_ asking men to take on personal risk on your behalf.

You sell me short... I relentlessly talk down to the male Slog staffers too...
The next time it happens, scream as loud and as long as you can. It's an assault, so act like it's an assault. Scream, point, move like you intend to seek help, let there be no mistake that you have been assaulted.
Relatedly: you guys seen this?…
an example of why people hesitate to get involved: Walking down the street a few months back- dude is screaming at the lady with him, raising his fists, she is clearly terrified. 2 hispanic teenage boys see this and confront him, tell him to knock it off. As I get there he pulls a knife on the boys-at the end the lady accuses the boys of pushing her down and the cops arrest one of them.

I cannot count the number of times a woman has turned on me in situations like the one Megan describes, or the more 'domestic' type situations as above. I have found the 'start an innocuous conversation' tactic described by others to be particularly poorly received. Here is my 'code':
1-don't harass, don't tolerate harassment from those you know, project disapproval towards others when safe
2-assist when asked
3-assist without being asked only when it is reasonable to assume PHYSICAL harm is imminent or very likely. I'm sorry but your hurt feelings do not trump another broken nose or dislocated jaw on my part.
4-leave the situation as soon as everything is cooled out- sticking around is when angry people do stupid things...don't be there.
@61 considering that so many of these instances occur when we're alone, this tactic sounds like a quick way to get shot, stabbed, strangled or at least hit really hard. I would NEVER do this unless there was someone else within several steps of the incident.
While living in New York City for a decade as an under five-foot tall girl I evolved a system to deal with cat calling that’s kept me safe for 40 years, while getting rid of the PUAs (self-styled Pick Up Artists), harassers, stalkers or whichever strange man was bothering me in a public place. (With the added pleasure of embarrassing some, and scaring off others.)

Hollabacknyc has published it as guest post, I hope it can help you in dealing with street harassment, too.…

By the way, for all you cowards out there, I have told harassers to leave younger women alone, having been in their place, myself.
@50, if Megan needs help, I'm going to help her. The article makes me more aware and sensitive to the issue. With that said, I have a spouse and kids, and they depend on me. I can't afford to have the situation turn violent, but with guys who are prone to calling a woman a 'fat bitch,' that might not be possible. When I intervened in an abduction, the guys were huge and nonplused. I didn't think about it. I was concerned about the woman involved, and I wasn't going to be a coward in front of my spouse. To this day, the incident scares me. I'm not minimizing Megan's fear. I have a better understanding of her perspective now. I'm just sharing my perspective on the issues with getting involved.
Well, I've reached middle age and still have to deal with this shit. Last night I had to get on a bus that wasn't mine to get away from a man who was insisting, in graphic detail, that he could cure my lesbianism. This was immediately after another man insisted he could cure my exhaustion from a long night at work if only I'd come home with him. The second asshole followed me onto two buses.
I worked in clubs and bars for years. I saw dozens of well meaning guys get the shit beat out of them (one got stabbed for his trouble) trying step in and be a hero.

Men will see other men as a direct challenge, ego battle, and threat. Half the time a fight is exactly what a street harassed wants. Confronting them nearly always escalate unless you know what you are doing and/or are lucky.

It's not fair to ask your average untrained guy to do that. Certainly not alone. My advice to dudes is stand a good ten feet away and just yell "Hey is everything all right over there." But nothing much more than that.

I'm decent sized and know what I'm doing. And yet when I've confronted shit heads it has backfired almost every single time.

It's a serous fucking drag, not to mention a legal and health risk, to be a grown-ass fifty year old man tussling on the street.

In fact I found myself in exactly that situation few weeks back outside of Pettirosso where I stood up for some shop girl. I ended up getting in short fistfight with a drunk asshole with my wife standing right there holding our lunch. It was embarrassing.

It only works if you can outnumber the assholes before they get the gumption to be physical. But good luck with that in Seattle. And still better hope they don't have a gun.
"What Are You Going to Do the Next Time You See Someone Being Harassed on the Street?"

Support legislation to deal with aggressive street behavior.... oh wait, liberals think it's acceptable to harass people on the street.
@65, I fully agree with your article, thank you for posting it.

Also, ingopixel is asking how we change society. Legalizing prostitution might help. I have been on the receiving end of some genuine confusion whether I was a streetwalker, just because I was walking alone late at night in a bad part of town. I don't agree that other strangers should get involved in this sort of thing, because then it's a surefire way to escalate the situation into a test of machismo. The exception would be if some guy already in a group does this to a woman, but the odds are if the creep is with a group of friends, they are also creepy.
"I think maybe just making a friendly, obviously nonconfrontational friendly overture to the victim while just straight-up ignoring the offender is the optimal strategy here."

I've thought about this a lot, and I'm very tempted to try it whenever I witness street harassment, but I've I always decided against it. The problem is that if you're also a man, how is the victim supposed to determine that you're actually trying to help her? How is the victim supposed to know what side you're on? How is the victim supposed to know that this other unknown man who is intervening isn't just another asshole trying to White Knight his way her pants?

Someone else's example of using this technique started with walking over to the victim and saying "I'm sorry for interrupting but I really love your shoes..." That's not as rude as street harassment usually is, but a man walking over to a woman he doesn't know, in public, and saying that is also going to be treated possibly as street harassment or at least as objectification, a power-play, etc. I've think that, as a man, if you want to interrupt street harassment by striking up a conversation with the victim, whatever you start with has to be exhaustively platonic and non-complementary: the weather, news, the most base small talk only. Any compliment could be considered a come-on from a stranger and then you're not helping. And even if you bring up the weather to interrupt the harasser, you're still giving assistance that wasn't asked for, which also belittles the victim. You can be considered a White Knight or Nice Guy for intervening at all.

Women have to deal with so much awful shit and assholes are so good at being assholes that at this point male feminists are ALWAYS suspicious to female feminists, for good reason. As a man, if you intervene in street harassment, or bring up a feminist article you liked, your intentions are going to be called into question, and the more you try to prove you're being genuine the more suspicious you look.
Just this past Sunday, I got hit on by a pretty aggressive guy at a grocery store and politely asked him not to talk to me, and so he started following around calling me "bitch" and "cunt." I tried to walk away, and he followed me, repeating "I'd be a cunt too if I looked like you, you fucking ugly bitch." Security talked to the guy and told him not to speak to me, he said he wouldn't call me a cunt anymore, and then said "Have a nice day, sweetie!" while flipping me off. They didn't take his name, ID card, anything didn't kick him out. It was a Sunday morning, and there were almost no customers, but those who saw did nothing.

People don't believe street harassment happens. But it gets worse the more you stick up for yourself. And the security officer probably didn't realize that I had gotten harassed walking the three blocks to and from the store. And pretty much every day. Monday was a good day: I only got harassed one time. It would make a big difference to me if someone would stick up sometime.

I've stood up for other people and I've seen men stick up for other people. Since I'm a woman it's not so effective when I do it, but I've never seen anyone get physically attacked. Not to say it doesn't happen, but strength in numbers is the whole point.
I had a guy stand up for me once at the bus stop when I was getting harassed. The harasser wandered off, and "my hero" started hitting on me after making a racist comment about my harasser in this embarrassing, conspiratorial, we're-in-this-together kind of way. Then he got angry when I blew him off.
@64 Actually, self-defense experts say screaming like a maniac is a really effective way to deter attackers. Reports show that guys run when women start screaming. Most guys are counting on women to not resist and screaming freaks them out. Girls are generally taught to be docile and polite, which is why many kidnapped girls are led away in silence. Parents should always teach their daughters to scream.
Disclaimer: I haven't read all 75 messages above.

I'm a woman, and I have to say that unless it looks like I'm in imminent physical danger (or I ask for help), I wouldn't want anyone nearby to intervene. In these situations, I'm always assessing for myself how I want to respond to de-escalate things. Intervention is likely to either escalate matters or de-escalate them in a way that makes me feel less able to stand up for myself. What I (and I can only speak for me) appreciate most is people steadily looking at the harasser, making it obvious he (or she!) is being observed. If need be, they could step closer to make it even clearer that other people are watching and assessing.

I realize that this response might not be what other people being harassed would appreciate most, which is why it's so hard to figure out what to do to be a Good Person.

I've done the watching and assessing role myself, too. It has the benefit of putting you in position to directly intervene if it becomes necessary.
@63: That's a pretty good code I must say.
I don't think I've ever personally witnessed street harassment...I'm either talking to whoever I'm with, have my face buried in my phone, or am otherwise trying not to make eye contact or talk to strangers.

I also rarely go to bars and other places where drunks tend to be assholes towards women (and everyone else..)

If I did see something like that I'd stay out of it unless explicitly asked for help or there was physical violence.
@ 43: haha, like headphones do a goddamn bit of good. you're obviously not a woman.
Maybe I live in a bubble up here in Bellingham, but I've never heard my female friends complain about these issues.

Or, maybe my female friends have thicker skin.
i ride the bus and get harassed almost daily in some way or another. i've made a point of yelling, "leave me alone," and trying to make eye contact with other people, so they know it's unwelcome attention. a few times, other people have intervened. a few times it's been other women. this is really rare, though. about 49 times out of 50, the only person who ever helps me out is the bus driver, and that's only if i'm fortunate enough to still be on the bus when it happens.

it doesn't usually get the dude to fuck off immediately, but he's a LOT more likely to go away if someone speaks up. tons and tons more likely.

it was worse when i lived in new york, to be fair, but yeah, seattleites would sooner die than get involved in someone else's biz. and i say that as a native.

that said, i force myself to intervene when i see women getting harassed. i'm 5'11" and kind of a brick shithouse, though, and i boxed for a long time. not saying everyone should or could intervene, but i sure wish they would.
@ 80 : yeah. it's because you live in fucking bellingham.

i resent the implication that my being upset after getting followed for three blocks in WALLINGFORD by a carful of dudebros is a result of me being thin-skinned. fuck you. try being a woman for five minutes and then say that shit to the face of any woman who lives in a city.
@82- All I'm saying is that I'm almost 40 and I've never had a female friend complain about getting harassed like Megan does. Not the ones that live here, not the ones in Seattle, not the ones in California, not the ones in the midwest. Fat, hot, married, single, old, young, never heard about it once. Guess I have a new topic of discussion next time conversation gets slow.
Megan, you might think about staying off of Third Avenue, which pretty much has become Mayor McGinn's designated mayhem zone. Something about vibrant and walkable.
Wanna start shit. Carry a water pistol filled with ammonia. When you get hassled.. Squirt 'em in the face. They will not bother you any more...BTW, I am not gonna do anything when I see you get hassled. I am not on any payroll or under any obligation to do anything at all. Take care of yourself. Will you pay my dental bills?? Thought not. When women seek a protector from the pother male brutes, there is a trade off that is old as mankind itself. . You miss the point of humanity existing, I think...
I don't talk to most people I know about getting harassed... unless it's more ridiculous than usual or I can make it funny. But I'm not a journalist who can try to do something about it by starting a collective conversation.
Bhamjason, try asking your friends if it happens to them. You might find that low-level harassment happens to a lot of women frequently enough that they don't bother making it a topic of conversation.
@86- If it's as bad as Megan makes it sound, you'd think over the course of a 10-20 year friendship it would come up. Maybe you don't get into deep discussions with your friends, but I talk about all sorts of subjects with mine and this has never came up as a personal issue that any of them face. Like I said, maybe I need to ask them about it. Like @87 said, maybe it's time for a conversation.
For not particularly aggressive verbal harassment how about this:

Walk up to the woman and ask "Sorry, have we met? Are you Kate's friend? Did we meet at her party?"

If she says no, apologize and walk away. Or maybe she says yes and you start a fictional conversation.
Bham: My family had no idea how much I get harassed until I came home in tears one day because a man followed me for six blocks. For some reason (I have no idea why) my girlfriend rarely if ever gets hit on or catcalled. Like, ever. We have no idea why I draw so much attention.

But respect that for many women it's real and it's every day. The problem is not that we are thin skinned or look a certain way or take it a certain way: the problem is that people think it's acceptable to disrespect us and treat us like we're animals while we walk down the street.

Blip: Thanks for that laugh.
But I thought Seattle liberals love to defend people's right to harass the public on the streets?
I've only been a daily Metro rider for about six months and have yet to witness any harassment. Like 35 said, maybe that's partly due to my presence - I'm a relatively tall guy and I make a point to keep the phone in my pocket and pay attention to the situation around me (mostly because I stare at a screen all day). As 76 suggested, maybe that's a good first step - just being obviously engaged in the situation may deter potential dicks. That said, if I did see something, I'd make sure the harasser knew he was being watched and let the victim work it out on her/his own until I judged that they wanted help.
Hmmm. I wait at that bus stop to go to my home in Queen Anne. It is by far the grossest, most dysfunctional bus stop I have ever known, and I've known a few. That is because Metro stuck it smack dab in front of McDonalds on 3rd and Pine, aka drug market central. I haven't noticed the drug-addled, down-and-out, dirty, completely fucked-up people at that bus stop bothering Megan, because I've been so aghast at how they are treating each other. I don't feel unsafe at that bus stop, just depressed to see people in such a bad state. I don't see this as a bystander courage issue, but as a mental health, substance abuse, social services and transportation policy issue. However, there are usually some normal types (we're reasonably clean and not raving) standing at the 3rd and Pine bus stop too. So next time you feel unsafe, Megan, make eye contact and come stand by one of us.
P.S. I was just given a come-on by an unappealing and dirty guy while I took a walk in the park on this beautiful afternoon. What was weird about this is that he was so out of it that he obviously thought he just might have a chance. What can you do? He was high, or drunk, or not connected to reality, or all three. I don't think a lecture on feminism and my human rights was going to change this man's behavior.
"It's weird and sad how a woman defending herself is, in a street harasser's eyes, the most unattractive thing a woman can do."

Why do you care if the street harasser suddenly finds you unattractive? Tell him to fuck off and when he calls you a fat bitch, smile, and say "Damn straight asshole."
If someone asks whether they can come home with you, say, "no." Simple. Oops, here I am telling you how to behave.

Honestly though, what would you have me do? If I come to help you, will you mace me? I guess in Seattle, I'd tentatively give you a look of support, and if you passively suggested that you could use some help, I'd stand next to you, with my eyes on him, so he'd know someone was listening. If he was really harassing you, I think he'd stop. If he continued and you just stood there, doe-eyed, I guess I'd tell him it was time to move on, and I'd stand between you, knight-in-shining-armor-like, hazarding your inevitable blog post about how wonderful I was (right? That's what you'd write?).

But I'll only hold doors for men. I think I've got it.

Did I get any of it right, though, through all the snark? (Is snark allowed, or is that mace-worthy?)
She was being ironic durango.
Maybe Slog should have supported the anti-harassment bill Mayor McHobo vetoed? You set the bums wild all over Seattle and then complain when they harass you.
Guys, it's as simple as this: if you don't want to be lumped in with the men who harass women on the street, then you need to start calling those men out on their actions instead of getting mad at women for daring to ask for your help. If you don't want to be lumped in with harassers, DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELVES.
treehugger, I'm sorry, but I don't agree. I don't lump random men in with harassers unless they harass someone, and I don't think men should be responsible for calling out harassers on their actions just because they themselves are men. What's more, as previously stated, I don't want men who happen to be near me "calling out" someone who says something rude to me.

Not that there's any easy solution here, but telling (all) men that they must confront harassers or (all) women will think of them as harassers is not the right answer.
"... then you need to start calling those men out on their actions instead of getting mad at women for daring to ask for your help. If you don't want to be lumped in with harassers, DIFFERENTIATE YOURSELVES."

So I'm supposed to differentiate myself by enduring a fight with some random skidmark at a bus stop (who, for all I know, is ready to pull a weapon) because he made you uncomfortable, and then felt his manhood was challenged when I called him out in front of a woman?

Look, I'm actually not averse to calling people out on this. Seriously. In practice I don't often see serious harassment on the street, but I'd hope I'd do something if and when I did. But I want you to acknowledge that what you're asking for, even if it's the right thing, is not "simple". In fact, it's actually pretty obnoxious for you to dismiss it as such when it involves a nontrivial risk on our part.
@96 Knight in shining armor: The "doe-eyed" was almost mace-worthy, yes. And calling it "snark" is a clever maneuver. If I was a woman, I'm thinking I wouldn't want your help if I knew how things were playing in your head.
@102: Oh baby. Don't read the unregistered if you can help it.

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