No One Is a Bystander to Street Harassment

Monthly Archives: October 2012

While there’s nothing wrong with ridiculing and critiquing the sexist Halloween costumes on sale (this tumblr has a pretty good collection of them), this is just a reminder that no matter how ridiculous, revealing or even racist* a person’s costume is, costumes do not equal consent. No matter what they’re wearing, it’s still not an invitation to harassment or assault, and they’re still not ‘asking for it.’

Here are 10 quick reasons why someone might be wearing one of these ridiculous sexist costumes:

1.) They really want to dress up as a certain character or person, and this is the only available women’s version for it.

2.) They really want to dress up as a certain character or person, and the men’s version doesn’t fit.

3.) They really want to dress up as a certain character or person, and the men’s version is worse.

the horror... the horror...

Sock Monkey: Men’s Costume

I think it's actually kinda cute

Sock Monkey: Women’s Costume

4.) They don’t have the time, money or skills to make their own costume.

5.) They spilled something on their original Halloween costume, and this is their back up costume.

6.) They really like the way their body looks right now, and this costume shows it off rather well.

7.) They lost a bet.

8.) Someone dared them to wear it.

9.) The costume isn’t actually that revealing, it’s just the way it hangs off their body.

10.) Because they want to!

And honestly, the last reason should be good enough.

Have a good Halloween, y’all.

Cat Calls Called Out – The Facebook – The Twitter

*If they are wearing a racist costume, though, you should tell ’em that their costume is racist.


Since October is National Mental Health Month (at least, I know it is in NSW and the USA), I would like to take a minute to talk about feelings. (I know, gross.)

Before I start this, I just want it to be clear that I’m in no way qualified to talk about your mental health, particularly if it’s related to sexual harassment or assault. Here are some relevant numbers and websites you should visit (all mostly relevant to Australia and NSW in particular):

List of International Hotlines

Online Mental Health Help

Domestic Violence Info and Resources (NSW)

Sexual Assault and Abuse Contacts (NSW)

Everything I’m about to talk about is experiential, so while you can feel free to talk to me about your experiences with street harassment and/or sexual harassment, there are other channels that are far more qualified than I am. I only want the best for y’all.

Now, often, when I experience street harassment. I tend to have this moment of, “you know, it wasn’t really that bad.” That’s completely fine- that is, as long as that’s how you actually feel. If you’re brushing it off just because you don’t think you should be upset about it- well, the only thing that’s doing is hurting you.

The first time I got catcalled here in Sydney, I remember brushing it off to my friends and family off and online- and then later huddling in a corner and sobbing to myself in my room. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t the first time I’d been harassed on the street, and it wasn’t that in that particular instance I had felt unsafe, but it did make me feel horrible and worthless. The fact that it affected me so intensely made the whole experience much worse.

I don’t want any of y’all to feel that way. Street harassment is terrible not just because it demeans and objectifies a person, but because it’s an accepted part of our culture. It’s not something that should be accepted, and no one should have to put on a brave face just because it is. Even things that would be considered micro-aggressions (i.e. men telling women on the street to smile) matter because they’re indicative of the culture we live in- and just how messed up our culture is.

It doesn’t matter how often or how seemingly innocuous the street harassment you experience may be, it’s still awful. You have a right to feel awful, and no one, not even I, should have to give you that right. Anyone who tells you that it’s not that bad, or that you’re over-reacting, or that you are, for whatever reason, just not allowed to feel what you feel- well, those guys are not being supportive. They’re being assholes.

If street harassment is getting you down, come talk to me. Or rant at me. Or cry at me. Or don’t! Whatever you choose, it’s your choice, and I wanna support y’all in whatever way I can. Take care of yourselves.

Cat Calls Called Out – The Facebook – The Twitter

With all the recent news about the unfortunate suicide of Amanda Todd and the recent Predditors tumblr calling out all the online CreepShot dudes, I wanted to take a moment to talk to y’all about online sexual harassment.

(I realize that I am poking the trolls here. Of course, I am also female and a feminist online, so poking the trolls is something I do just by existing.)

Firstly, I personally think attaching “cyber” as a prefix is misleading. It perpetuates the idea that things that happen on the Internet are completely separate from what happens IRL. This is absolutely not true.

You aren’t a different person online. You might emphasize different aspects of yourself online, but you’re still the same person. To say you aren’t is like saying that a your public persona is completely different from your at-home persona. So when someone excuses their sexist online behaviour as, ‘just trolling,’ it doesn’t mean that they’re only obnoxious online; it just means they are obnoxious.

The bigger problem with this idea, however, is that it automatically lessens the perceived effect of things like sexual harassment over the Internet. The truth is that sexual harassment over the Internet does the same thing street harassment does: it objectifies women and makes them feel that harassment is the price you pay for being female and playing online video games.

Or being female and on Reddit.

Or being female and on Youtube.

Or just being female online.

This is not true. This isn’t true if you enter male-dominated websites, or if you take nude pictures of yourself, or if you have a very loud opinion. If you can access the Internet, you are allowed to be on the Internet without being harassed.

Now, of course, some people are able to take Internet hate and harassment, and it doesn’t bother them. That’s great! Some people are also able to take IRL bullying and street harassment in their stride as well. The only different between the two is their medium.

I like the Predditors tumblr because it doesn’t brush off the creepy behaviour of these dudes as something you can ignore because it’s just the Internet.  When a convicted sexual predator moves into a neighbourhood, you and everyone else in the neighbourhood have to a right to know who he is. If someone is taking creepy, non-consensual pictures of you or people in your area, you have a right to know who he is because an online sexual predator is the same as an offline sexual predator.

I like being on the Internet. I would like to know that I don’t have to hide that I’m female just to avoid some dickhead telling me “tits or gtfo.” This is only going to happen if we stop letting this nonsense slide.

And just because you deserve to know, just because the official Creepshots subreddit has been taken down, doesn’t mean there aren’t still places where people are posting creep shots: 1, and 2.

Cat Calls Called Out – The Facebook – The Twitter

It is entirely possible to have nice, respectful interactions with people on the street. I’ve actually had quite a few nice interactions with strangers- at least, up until they ask me, “no, where are you really from?”


I think the problem a lot of (usually white) people have with interacting with POC (people of colour i.e. non-white people) is that there are certain seemingly innocuous things lots of people ask that bug the hell outta us.

It gets much worse when these people try to flirt with us.

To make your life easier, and more importantly, to make the lives of the POC you will later interact with easier, here is a list of things to avoid when conversing with strangers of different races.*

1.) Don’t compare them to celebrities

Being compared to celebrities can sometimes be really flattering, but it’s really easy for people to tell when you only know about three non-white celebrities.

If you compare an Indian girl (or worse, a non-Indian South Asian girl) to “that chick from Slumdog millionaire,” even if you genuinely think she looks like Freida Pinto, her first thought is not going to be, “wow, they must think I’m really pretty”; it’s going to be, “wow, you don’t know many Indian people.”

On that note, try to also avoid Disney characters. As Roxi Grace said on our fb page:

Have you liked our fb page yet? Check the link below!

2.) Don’t ask them to cook for you.

I won’t ask you to throw me a shrimp on the barbie or whatever, you don’t ask me to cook you chicken adobo.

And yeah, the cute Chinese girl you’re talking to probably does know where all the best Chinese restaurants are. So does the Internet. Ask them.

3.) “No, where are you really from?”

Our ethnicity is not a guessing game. If a person says they’re from Australia, this might mean they were born here. This might mean that they’ve lived most of their life here. What it always means is, “I am from Australia, please don’t ask further questions.” If they want you to know their whole ethnic background, they’ll tell you.

4.) If your compliment is specific to a race, stop using it.

“Spicy” and “fiery” describe dishes, not Latina women. “Exotic” describes tropical birds, not Asians. Yellow fever is a disease, and jungle fever should just not be used, period.

And I don’t care when you watched Full Metal Jacket, “me so horny, me love you long time,” is still such a tired reference. Stop.

5.) Unless we ask, we don’t want to know what you did during your gap year.

I think it’s great that you worked with a charity overseas, but when you talk about these people, please talk about them as people, not charity cases.

If a person tells you they’re Khmer, and you start spouting off about your time in Cambodia, and how “strong” and “persevering” they all were despite their poverty or whatever, that Khmer person is allowed to hit you.

6.) We’re not impressed that you’ve learned something about our culture.

I love it when people are excited about learning about other cultures. I like it less when you mention is just to look worldly and cultured. I like it a lot less when you try to simplify that culture to one specific aspect (see: every Korean person and Gangnam style).

And don’t try to teach me about my own culture.

7.) Just talk to us like you would anyone else.

That’s it. Doesn’t need explaining.

Of course, a lot of these points are guide lines. For instance, it makes sense for you to break point #2 if you’re both passionate about food and cooking. Just use your common sense, and be respectful. I know y’all can do it.

A lot of my experience comes from being an Asian woman. If you’ve think I’ve missed something, tell me in the comments, and I’ll add ’em in another blog post. 🙂

Cat Calls Called Out – The Facebook – The Twitter

*And if you are a POC, this doesn’t mean you’re off the hook! I’ve heard black dudes say that all Asians look the same; I’ve heard Asians say that all black people look the same. None of us are exempt, y’all.

Haven’t done one of these in a while, so for this weekend, let’s go back in time to 1993 with Salt-n-Pepa’s None of Your Business.

I chose this song for this weekend because it astonishes me just how relevant this song still is.

Sometimes strangers think they have a right to comment on your body and your choices. They forget that you’re an adult capable of making your own decisions. They disapprove of your tattoos, your weight, the length of your skirt, the number of times you go out, the number of people you have sex with- and for some reason, they think that means that you no longer deserve privacy or respect.

Obviously, this is nonsense. Respect isn’t just for people you deem ‘respectable.’

So this weekend? Go wild. Drink, party, have one night stands or stay at home and have a Lord of the Rings marathon. Some people may not approve of your choices, but forget ’em. It’s none of their business.

Cat Calls Called Out – The Facebook – The Twitter

When street harassment is discussed, inevitably, the perpetrators or potential perpetrators of street harassment are men. This is because the majority of street harassment is perpetrated by men, just as the majority of people who experience street harassment are women.

The vast majority of any kind of sexual harassment or assault is perpetrated by men. Unsurprisingly, this can make women, particularly women who have experienced sexual harassment or assault, be wary of, or angry at men.

If you’ve read this far, you may find the tone of this post sounds very condescending, possibly to the point of rudeness. That is the same tone that women hear whenever someone has to add “you know, not all men are like that.”

“You know, not all men are creeps.”
“You know, some men know how to treat women.”
“You know, it’s not fair to blame street harassment on all men.”

Dear men in our lives: we know that the majority of you are decent, well-meaning and kind individuals. We know that there are many men who are basically decent people. We know. Men occupy half the planet. It would be incredibly difficult to walk through life only ever meeting women and male street harassers. There are quite a lot of you.

Before you add a comment like, “you shouldn’t blame all men,” please think about what you hope to accomplish. It is not helpful, it is not news, it doesn’t reaffirm a person’s faith in the male gender. All it does is detract from the person’s experience to make it about men.

There are no anti-street harassment movements that are focussed on blaming men because the focus is never on men. The focus is on people who experience street harassment.

When you add these comments, you tell us that your ego is more important than our experiences. You tell us that your discomfort at knowing you have the potential to harass someone is worse than the actual experience of being harassed.

Don’t beat yourself up, don’t think that you can never talk about street harassment again, just remember what Craig Ferguson says:

1.) Does this need to be said?
2.) Does this need to be said by me?
3.) Does this need to be said by me now?

We need to support each other if we want to combat street harassment, and more importantly, we need to support each other well.

Cat Calls Called Out – The Facebook – The Twitter