Misogynists are a lot like trap-door spiders. You're familiar with trap-door spiders, right? They don't spin big, obvious webs like normal spiders; instead they specialize in sneak attacks on their prey. Which is how misogynists are like trap-door spiders: They may appear unassuming—they iron their clothes! They love their mothers!—but then a woman passes by and "asks for it" by making eye contact and BAM! She's hit with "Nice tits" or "I'd tap that ass" or, worse, a criminal groping.
We colloquially call this street harassment, but it happens everywhere: at work, in the park, at bars, on the bus, at the dentist, in school, even at funerals. No public space is off-limits, and no woman is immune.
As women, it's hard to convey the fear, shame, and inarticulate rage that these interactions provoke. It's hard to explain to men what it feels like to be harassed by a stranger who is invariably larger and stronger than us, and who has just demonstrated his eagerness to play out the beginning of every rape fantasy we've never had—in public. Worse yet, it's almost impossible to come up with a great response (or to dig out your cheese-turned-scrotal-grater) when you've just been sexually harassed. Not that women are encouraged to respond to street harassment—if anything, we're trained to wordlessly swallow abuse or risk escalating a demeaning situation into a dangerous one.
But the idea that a woman's self-respect is the secret ingredient that turns a run-of-the-mill misogynist into a rapist is horseshit. Horseshit piled so high you couldn't scale it all in a day—a Mount Rainier–sized pile of horseshit. Women aren't the problem here. We don't need any more advice on how to avoid or ignore street harassment. If anything, what we deserve are a few good revenge tactics.
Unless you're physically harassed—like let's say a stranger just up and grabs your boobs. That's a crime, and you should call 911 right away. It's no different than if someone walked up to you and slapped you in the face. Call 911 and say, "Some guy has just grabbed my boobs and I feel unsafe."
What men need is a wake-up call: You're the problem. If not you personally, then your best friend, a coworker, or that dude in your fantasy football league is. You're making us feel unsafe every day, in a thousand different ways. To help you better identify your harassing behavior, we've illustrated the most common types of misogynists below—along with the comebacks from us you might not get, given the trap-door spideriness of your attacks, but which you certainly deserve.
Illustrations by Brittany Kusa
Ladies, as much as we all love scathing comebacks, chances are you're not always going to be prepared with the perfect response while being harassed. But here's something you can practice saying in front of a mirror: "Stop harassing me." It's simple, it's straightforward, and it signals everyone within earshot—including your harasser—that you're uncomfortable and you need help. And if the harassment doesn't stop or you feel like you're in any immediate danger, call 911 immediately.
And guys: We don't want to hear any horseshit victim-blaming about women these days not knowing a compliment when it jumps out at them from a dark alley. Here's a good litmus test for compliments: Would you say it to your mother or niece? No? Then don't scream it at the woman who's just trying to catch the number 8 bus. And if you find yourselves justifying any of the behaviors mentioned above, practice saying this in front of a mirror: "I'm a sad, delusional trap-door spider who repulses women with my words and actions." And then knock it the fuck off.