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You Thought You Heard It All About Catcalling. For Good Measure, Let's Hear From A Man, Too.

Women have been trying every way from Sunday to tell the world that a great deal of us find unwanted attention ... well, unwanted. I mean, that should be enough, but because in the world we live in it probably isn't, let's try filtering it through a man who gets it. The following piece is "A Gentleman's Guide to Street Harassment" by Zaron Burnett III from "Human Parts," a collection of writing about the human condition on Medium.

You Thought You Heard It All About Catcalling. For Good Measure, Let's Hear From A Man, Too.

"A Gentleman's Guide to Street Harassment" by Zaron Burnett III


Guys, I’d like you to imagine a single drop of water, clinging to the lip of a faucet. It falls. Plink. It’s just a second in time, a natural moment playing out. Now imagine tying someone to a chair, positioning them under that same faucet, and watching as an endless stream of drops fall against their forehead—some would call that repetition torture. Something as simple as a drop of water can be cruel. Keep that in mind as you consider what it must be like to be harassed on the street.


Like tens of millions of other people, I watched the recent viral video, Ten Hours of Walking In New York City. Created by the Hollaback Project, the video was a demonstration of what it’s like to be a woman in Manhattan who chooses to enter the public space of the sidewalk. In a ten-hour stretch, a young woman by the name of Shoshana Roberts is harassed over 100 times. And that’s just one day of her life in New York. Imagine five days, two weeks, a month of days like that … the constant harassment could drive a woman mad. If not mad, it would certainly change how she interacted with dudes and her environment. How could it not?

This is what a lot of men don’t understand about street harassment. It’s not rare. It’s not harmless. It’s a willful use of social power that reduces women to a form of amusement or objects of sexual gratification. It’s predicated upon the presumption that this is a man’s world. May James Brown forgive me, but that’s just not true. It’s our world. Yours, mine, hers, theirs … it’s everybody’s world. That’s why street harassment is indefensible. It limits one’s freedom. As dudes, we generally dislike it when anyone tells us what to do — imagine if strange men were telling you what they wanted to do to you. Everyday.

If we’re speaking honestly, I saw why the men in that video wanted to say something to Shoshana Roberts. She’s an attractive woman, and I understand the instinct to want to talk to her. But that’s where the thought for me stops, just as it would if she’d walked past me in real life. At no point would I think, “You know what I should do? I should holler at her and let her know I find her aesthetically pleasing. Yeah! She would probably like if I shouted some derogatory shit at her to let her know the sight of her has made my day more pleasant.” No. Nuh-unh. Nyet. Why not?

Because that would make the moment about me. I would be using her to gratify me. I’d be stealing her dignity while disrespecting her mental space. I recognize that Shoshana Roberts is not walking the sidewalk for my pleasure (except maybe in the instance where she’s the subject of a video such as this one, which is a meta question only filmmakers and philosophers should be worried about). The reason she’s on the sidewalk is that, like me, she’s going somewhere. She’s busy. To interrupt her is to say none of that matters — that she is less important than my desire.

Even when women who are harassed on the street adopt protective measures—avoiding eye contact, listening to headphones, sticking to known routes, walking with purpose, and avoiding construction sites like joggers avoid dog shit—many straight men refuse to read their signals. Maybe they’re unaware, or in denial, that these signals exist, because society doesn’t mandate that men be hyper-conscious of their surroundings.

As a black man, I can say that we learn early on in life to be conscious of threatening signals we may send. This is mostly in regards to police. But we don’t extend the same awareness to how we may be threatening to women. That is a common oversight for straight men, regardless of ethnicity. We don’t experience limits on our freedom to move through the world the way women do, and thus, it’s difficult for us to imagine. But when women (thousands, in fact) tell us the measures they have to take to walk outside in attempted peace, the least we can do is believe them.

In reaction to the video, a lot of men have offered apologist rationales for why some of the behavior depicted is evidence of a double standard. Many men have maintained that a number of the one-sided exchanges in the video were not harassment, but simply greetings, pleasantries, a friendly hello. Doubling down, men like Rush Limbaugh blamed feminism for failing to end street harassment, and suggested that, now, radical feminists have upped the ante and are arguing that a man saying hello is street harassment. As usual, the point was missed.

Saying hello is like a single drop of water. It’s harmless, it’s natural, it’s inconsequential, and yet it can also be an implement of torture. And certainly, if a man says hello to a woman he fancies even though she’s given no sign of interest, that is a selfish act. It’s an attempt to mask his desire for her attention behind a veil of courtesy. But unless that guy says hello to everyone all the time, like a Midwesterner, it’s not about being friendly.

Another double standard I heard men quick to apply to the Ten Hours video was the Creepy Guy problem. If an attractive man said “hello” to Shoshana Roberts, she would’ve welcomed his attention because he was hot. It was only street harassment because those guys were unattractive and/or creepy. Of course, this also misses the point. The Creepy Guy argument is an oversimplification of women. It assumes all women want male attention. They don’t. First off, lesbian women probably don’t give a shit if a dude looks like Zac Efron, Brad Pitt, or Lil B the Based God. And sexual orientation is only one of a million reasons why a woman might not crave attention from a conventionally attractive man while walking down the street.

As much as men like to pretend otherwise, women are not that simple, or that similar. Women are mind-bogglingly complex and multivalent. And so, individual women will find all sorts of different men attractive—the same way men find different women attractive. (Huh, go figure.) To say “if he was a hot guy, it wouldn’t be street harassment” fails as an argument because it assumes all women are attracted to the same thing, and it conveniently overlooks the nature of harassment. “If it was a hot guy” forgets that women are human beings with shit to do—they aren’t moving through the world with the sole purpose of acquiring random male attention from you or any other dude. In fact, they’re trying to dodge it. And it’s not hard to understand why.

A key point made time and time again by women I spoke with is how they were afraid of angering a man who was harassing them. This is a sort of double imprisonment. First, she gets harassed and demeaned or whathaveyou, and then, she has to manage her harassment so that the man doesn’t get angry and kill her for rejecting him. What? Do you think I exaggerate?

They go under-reported, yet there are countless stories in the news about women being beaten, set on fire, and murdered by men who either catcalled them or wanted to exert their power over a stranger. Pause. Think about that. In an attempt to free herself from the unwanted attention of a stranger, a woman loses her life because she misjudges the stranger. Yet, you expect her to be flattered by your attention, to welcome you with open arms? Ha! Don’t be ignorant.

Street harassment is so much more than just hollerin’ at a girl, or being nice, or saying hello, or letting a woman know she looks good. It could also be the first words of a death sentence.

You may have expected that I’d guilt you into taking street harassment seriously with that momentarily effective, classic line:

Imagine if she was your daughter, or your sister, your girlfriend, or wife, or mother…

The reason I’d never say that to you: that line of thinking is fucked up. No, it is. Why? Because it doesn’t matter what a woman’s relationship is to you. She deserves respect for being her.

A woman’s value does not rest on the fact she means something to you.

Guys, instead of appealing to your emotions, I’d rather equip you with ways to quit perpetuating street harassment.

1. Don’t dismiss the fears of women

To anyone who thinks it’s ridiculous to tell men to leave women alone in public, and specifically to not start conversations with women, it’s quite simple: that’s not your call to make. Women are speaking up. They’re saying they often feel threatened or intimidated in public spaces. The only way to counter this reasonable fear is to listen to them explain why they feel that way. Why dismiss the fear? Why minimize their experiences and opinions and tell them why they shouldn’t be afraid? And please, we certainly shouldn’t accuse women of being over-dramatic. Imagine if you had Deebo pushing up on you asking how he could get in them jeans. Fear, like pain, is relative.

2. Respect women as individuals (and not as someone who services men)

You can’t tell someone else they shouldn’t hurt that much. You can’t tell someone they should feel safer. Those kind of “shoulds” help no one. Rather than qualify the fear women often feel in the streets, let’s listen to what they’re saying. Then we can engineer new ways to interact so that women don’t have to live in fear of strange men. Every woman has the right to be left alone. She should not expect to be harassed just because she leaves her home. The same is true for every man. Street harassment isn’t about gender. It’s about power.

3. Recognize that all women are different

They will react differently, hold vastly different opinions, and be contradictory of other women, sometimes even themselves. If a woman smiles at a man on the street, it could be construed as an invitation for the man to engage her in conversation, or to flirt. Yet, for another woman, a smile is a social deflection, a way of smoothing the awkwardness of being strangers—in which case, it’s not an invitation to talk to them. How do you know which is which? You can’t know. That’s why it’s best for you to smile and move on. Of course, you’ll wanna avoid any ogling. No long stares. No lecherous grins.

4. Confront the subtle effects of toxic masculinity

One aspect we should consider is how our culture of toxic masculinity leaves men unable to emotionally support one another, to be there for each other, to listen to one another. Consequently, (straight) men typically turn to women for intimacy. Unfortunately, we wrongly presume women should deal with our emotional needs just because they’re women. This imposition and cultural bias motivates some men to speak to women in public. Sexual or not, to ask a stranger to succor you emotionally just because she’s a woman is a selfish act and based on the idea women should happily service men.

5. Don’t initiate conversations with women on the street

For guys who want to argue they should be able to say hello to a woman without being labeled a street harasser, the writer Elon James White invented a new game just for you. It starts with the same rule we’ve already established: when you’re in public, leave women alone.

But he adds an option for those of you who are dying to talk: If you still want to say hello to people, well, greet dudes.

White suggested that men can give their social niceties to other men. Just leave women out of it. Check #dudesgreetingdudes to see a few funny examples.

6. Don’t excuse yourself because you’re white

Returning to the Ten Hours video, the fact that filmmakers edited out the majority of white men who were on camera would suggest that street harassment is a cultural behavior, mainly attributable to men of color. As women have been quick to point out: that’s not true. All men are equal offenders. In fact, women of color report that white men often harass and exoticize them, which adds an extra load of abuse.

If all this leaves you utterly confused about when and how to speak to a woman in public, use this simple guideline:

7. Don’t speak to a woman in public … unless she speaks to you

Otherwise, if you misread her body language, say, misinterpreting a smile for an invitation to speak to her, you run the chance of harassing her by mistake. Even a hello—whether it’s partnered with a sleazy, creepy smile or not — can ruin a woman’s enjoyment of public space and constrain her freedom of movement. And, guys, if you see street harassment, step in and do what you can — this doesn’t mean you need to be violent or threatening, but do something.

We need to update the social code for guys. We’ve outgrown chivalry. We’ve evolved past political correctness. We need to establish a new code of common dignity and gender equality. Remember, it’s not a man’s world. It’s everyone’s. Walking a sidewalk shouldn’t be torturous for anyone, since they’re everyone’s streets. Plus, as it is now, women live longer than men. That means over their lifetime, women will pay more in taxes to maintain those streets. Financially speaking, the streets belong more to women than men. Least we could do is be respectful.





Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Cipolla's graph with the benefits and losses that an individual causes to him or herself and causes to others.

Have you ever known someone who was educated, well-spoken and curious, but had a real knack for making terrible decisions and bringing others down with them? These people are perplexing because we're trained to see them as intelligent, but their lives are a total mess.

On the other hand, have you ever met someone who may not have a formal education or be the best with words, but they live wisely and their actions uplift themselves and others?

In 1976, Italian economist Carlo Cipolla wrote a tongue-in-cheek essay called "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity" that provides a great framework for judging someone's real intelligence. Now, the term "stupid" isn't the most artful way of describing someone who lives unwisely, but in his essay Cipolla uses it in a lighthearted way.

Cipolla explains his theory of intelligence through five basic laws and a matrix that he believes applies to everyone.

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

The Schmidt family's Halloween photoshoot has become an annual tradition.

Two of Patti Schmidt's three sons were already well into adulthood when her daughter Avery was born, and the third wasn't far behind them. Avery, now 5, has never had the pleasure of close-in-age sibling squabbles or gigglefests, since Larry, Patrick, and Gavin are 28, 26, and 22, respectively—but that doesn't mean they don't bond as a family.

According to People.com, Patti calls her sons home to Point Pleasant, New Jersey, every fall for a special Halloween photoshoot with Avery. And the results are nothing short of epic.

The Schmidt family started the tradition in 2017 with the boys dressing as the tinman, the scarecrow, and the cowardly lion from "The Wizard of Oz." Avery, just a toddler at the time, was dressed as Dorothy, complete with adorable little ruby slippers.

The following year, the boys were Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca, and Avery was (of course) Princess Leia.

In 2019, they did a "Game of Thrones" theme. ("My husband and I were binge-watching (Game of Thrones), and I thought the boys as dragons would be so funny," Schmidt told TODAY.)

In 2020, they went as Princess Buttercup, Westley, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik from "The Princess Bride."

Patti shared a video montage of each year's costume shoot—with accompanying soundtracks—on Instagram and TikTok. Watch:

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Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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