Q: What can I do, as a man, to help combat harrassment?

posted in: WMATA | 7
Photo by AlbinoFlea via Flickr

I’m submitting this as a witness, rather than a person at whom harassment was directed, and I’m looking for some input from the Hollaback community. (For context, I am a man.)

I was taking the red line home from work and witnessed a man talking to/hitting on a woman who was clearly uncomfortable not interested. The man stood quite close to her and persisted in talking to her loudly and calling her “baby,” even while she ignored him and put on headphones. She looked uncomfortable, but she didn’t say anything. They guy eventually left her alone when he got a call on his cell phone. They both got off at the NY Avenue stop.

I was standing a few feet from them on the train, and I wasn’t sure whether or not I should say anything. I could tell that the woman was uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to be a patronizing “rescuer” or risk making it worse by getting involved, so I stayed silent.

So my question for you, the Hollaback community, is this: What can I do, as a man, to help combat harrassment?

Submitted by J

Location: Red line toward Glenmont, near NY Ave. Station

Time if harassment: Evening Rush Hour (3:30P-7:30P)

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7 Responses

  1. Curly DC
    | Reply

    You could intervene by asking if the woman would like to trade seats with you. Or you could strike up a conversation with her about the weather.

  2. Ben
    | Reply

    Curly DC’s suggestion is a good one. Also, one of the suggestions Holla Back has made for bystanders is to ask the harasser for directions. This could allow the victim a chance to leave the situation. This is often my preferred choice for stopping the harassment as it is not confrontational. In your situation on the metro train, you could have acted like a tourist an asked what line you are on – how to get to a certain metro station, etc. Knowing what to do in a situation like this is really difficult and I think we need suggestions and models so we know what to do. I think it’s great that you’re asking for advice.

  3. Laura
    | Reply

    First off, thanks for noticing the problem AND wanting to do something. Many situations of both sexual harassment and assault can be prevented thru bystander intervention. Of course, your action in each situation is going to be different. It will depend on the players involved and your level of comfort and safety. This appears to be a low-risk situation (of course I wasn’t there so I don’t exactly know). Therefore, taking the advice above would be a great idea. Or even addressing the male and stating that you notice that she is obviously uncomfortable and not returning the desire to talk and therefore his actions are harassing in nature (of course, do so in your own words). This will let the male know that there are other people watching him and that they won’t stand for such behavior. I can almost guarantee you that the woman would be very appreciative. According to your paragraph, she seemed very uncomfortable but not assertive enough to address the harasser. This is very common.

    It is always great to see men engaged in this sort of topic.

  4. Nellie
    | Reply

    You could ask her if he’s bothering her. Or you could say to the harasser something like “Hey, man, I don’t think she’s interested in talking to you” or “Leave her alone.” If he gets belligerent, there’s always “stop harassing women. Nobody likes it. Show some respect.” Agreed that the Metro sounds like a low-risk situation. Here’s some other possibilities: https://streetharassment.wordpress.com/2011/03/28/this-was-the-first-time-i-felt-in-a-position-where-i-could-do-something/

  5. Mari
    | Reply

    I’m a woman but I guess this method I’ve used when stupid teenage whacking and horseplay seems to devolve into something else. Look straight at the woman, in a confident and calm tone say, “Miss, do you need any assistance?” Do not look at the jerk bothering her.
    However, in the situation presented, she was in ignore mode and only you can determine the safety level of the car to determine your next step. The killing at N Cap and Florida where a young man intervened on behalf of a woman is still too fresh in my memory, so first determine the level of safety.

  6. Tired
    | Reply

    Has it ever worked for you before by acting as the “white knight”? Didn’t think so. Keep your mouth shut and go on about your day. Typical that women would jump the gun to say that you get involved and rescue her. That’s just asking for your ass to get beat on behalf of some woman you don’t even know. Women want equality. Let them fight their own battles.

  7. Kat
    | Reply

    One tactic that you could use is to come up on the other side of her and say something like, “hey could you step towards me? Let’s move away from this guy.” This removes her from the guy, and it’s something that professional security does to clear the scene before dealing with someone.

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