Yesterday I was taking an early morning walk around my neighborhood before work. It was still pretty dark out, and as I shuffled groggily past a gas station a guy got out of his car and whistled at me. “Hey sweetie! Where you going?” he said. I kept my head down and kept walking. “Where you going?!” he asked again, getting noticeably irritated at my unresponsiveness. I picked up my pace a bit, trying to appear aloof and very sure of myself, but inside I felt anything but. Maybe I should have been more assertive, I thought as I turned the corner. And then I started questioning my own instincts: Maybe I was too rude. Maybe I should have at least smiled or waved or something. It’s embarrassing to admit that I was worried about not being polite enough to a strange man who demanded to know where I was going, but it’s true. Getting catcalled or harassed on the street always makes me feel this way: insecure, nervous, unsure of myself and my reactions.
I thought about something my dad told me awhile ago: “When someone violates your boundaries, they forfeit their right to politeness. You get to set the tone.” So as a reminder to myself and every other woman who isn’t sure how to deal with street harassment, here is a list of totally acceptable ways to respond to catcallers. Take your pick: