An Ally Speaks Up!

Photo by IntangibleArts via Flickr

Let it be known that I am the biggest male cheerleader (no pun intended) for this blog, and I fully support its aims. I read it regularly and find it to be empowering not just to women, but for the community at-large. We want to create a culture of community that practices full inclusion and equality, and there’s no better way to actively practice what we preach than by using this blog as a virtual meeting place to share our ideals. That’s why I’m ready to speak up and tell my story as an ally, in the hopes that it encourages more men to do their part in this fight.

This past Thursday night, I joined a group of friends at the Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights, which is our local neighborhood bar. A few of us got hungry and decided to make a trip to the pupusa place next door for a quick bite, but when we got there, we saw that it was closed. Right as we were ready to turn around and head back to the bar, we saw a female about our age come stumbling out of the door. She was visibly drunk, and would have made an easy target for street crime.

Being a staunch male feminist/ally, I knew I needed to approach this woman in a way that didn’t freak her out — I know it’s still uncommon for women to find true feminist ideals in men these days, as sad as that sounds. So, I called out to my friends when she got close, “Hey y’all, it looks like this girl needs some help getting home.” One of my female friends heard this, saw the drunk woman, and immediately was like, “Hey love, do you want us to help get you home?” The bar patron was grateful to our kindness, and so about five of us joined her on her walk home down 11th Street NW.

Then, we saw a homeless man who called himself “Blelvis” and he began to walk beside us. He saw the girl in our group that was stumbling, and started to direct his attention toward her.

“You know what she needs, don’t you,” the man asked of me.

“She needs some of this.” He then proceeded to drop down to his knees and make a lewd movement with his tongue. I snapped back and told the man that he needed to get up off the floor and move along. Unfortunately, me speaking up right then didn’t exactly deter him.

“Blelvis” continued to follow us until we got to the young woman’s home, and as we waited for her to unlock her door safely, he dropped down to his knees again with the lewd tongue gyrations.

That’s when I finally reached my boiling point.

“Dude, what the fuck is wrong with you?” I let him know I was pissed at this point. “You don’t fucking do that in the presence of a woman you don’t even know.”

The man retorted something back and feigned like I had offended him — you know, like he wasn’t taking me very seriously.

“No, fuck that. It’s respect, dude. You need to have some fucking respect for women as people,” I tossed back. I then proceeded to spell out street harassment to him and why what he did was wrong.

Eventually, this guy got the hint and left us alone, but not before calling me out on my masculinity or something. I really didn’t care what he said about me, but I did care that he was continuing the cycle of oppression in the way he had complete disregard for women.

I’ve retold this story to several of my friends throughout the past weekend, and one of them encouraged me to post it to this blog. I wasn’t sure if I should post it here since I’m not a woman and I can’t even begin to relate what it must be like to be a woman enduring this heteronormative patriarchal society, but I want everyone out there to know that there are men like me who are standing up, speaking out, and doing something to holla back.

Submitted by Josef on 10/26/2009

Location: 11th and Lamont Streets NW

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment you would like to submit? Just click here and fill out the online submission form. All submissions are posted anonymously unless you specify.

9 Responses

  1. Obie

    Josef, just…thanks. Thanks for being considerate toward a vulnerable stranger, for understanding the challenges that women face for simply being women, and for standing up for what you believe is right. I’m glad to know there are people like you in our city.

  2. hollabackdc

    Josef, THANK YOU so much for sharing your experience as an ally, for standing up for women, and for your endless support to HBDC. It is our goal to have allies, especially men submit their experiences when witnessing gender-based violence along with their perspectives. Hopefully, your submission inspire other men to do the same.

  3. Golden Silence

    Thank you so much for standing up for a stranger in need, Josef. It’s good to know that there are men out there who don’t condone this nonsense towards women.

  4. Josef

    I sincerely appreciate the comments in response to my submission; though, I think the real thanks should go to both of you and all of the other women who have chosen to stand up and speak out in the face of street harassment and other forms of systemic oppression against women. Holla Back DC is a great vehicle for empowering women to reclaim their feminism, and I personally find it truly inspiring.

    While I’m inspired by all of you, I also hope to inspire other men and allies to join in this fight. It’s going to take all of us to change something so huge, and we can not afford to have anyone sitting on the sidelines.

    Rest assured that I’m doing my part on a daily basis to ensure that my mother, aunts, cousins, friends, coworkers, and other beloved women in my life are able to live in a world free from harassment — especially harassment targeted toward them solely on the basis of their gender.

    An aside to our fellow male allies, I encourage you to read this article to learn more ways about using your socially-ascribed privilege/power to combat the hegemony of living in a society based on domination. (Though the title says it’s for “White Guys”, it’s actually applicable to anyone who wants to make a difference on this issue.)

    Thanks for letting me share, everyone.

  5. Tapthepope

    Glad to see I’m not the only male.

    But, In all honesty next I have to confront harasser I’ll probably start throwing cat calls at him. It’ll be totally confusing and weird and he’ll probably just go away.

    In my mind it seems to be the best way to avoid violence while making him go away at the same time.

  6. Emma Lee

    If there were more men like you in society the world would be a much better place! I absolutely loved this post, and I hope you continue to submit experiences.

  7. Jess


    Evermore, thanks. Keep up the good work.


  8. […] a Comment We know from our work, the experiences we receive, and comments that there are some amazing male allies in DC. Are you one of them? Help us understand how to best reach boys and men to engage […]

  9. no

    DOOD.. you were harassed by a DC panhandling legend!

    Blelvis or “Black Elvis” is famous for “not begging, entertaining” where you say any word, and he will relate it somehow to an Elvis song, then sing it to you for $1.

    Good job on standing up for decency.