How do I deal with this potential street harasser (if at all)?
April 16, 2014 7:20 AM   Subscribe

How do I deal with this potential street harasser (if at all)? Details within.

How do I deal with this potential street harasser (if at all)?

Every morning on my way to work I walk by a warehouse and without fail, there is one guy (who presumably works there) standing outside, occasionally with one or two other male coworkers. As I’m walking towards him he stares and smiles at me. Out of my peripheral vision, I can see that his head turns the moment I walk by him. He hasn’t said anything yet or nothing that I’ve heard, I have headphones in all the time for this exact type of situation. He just creepily smiles and stares at me every. goddamn. day. I should also note that he’s eyeing my body up and down—not just making eye contact with me. The weather is getting warmer and I feel like this is only going to get worse. Should I say something to him?

Things I have considered:
- Politely but icily saying good morning
- Stare him down (have already tried this and it didn’t seem to discourage him – also it’s exhausting to keep up confrontational eye contact – I haven’t even had coffee yet!)
- Take another route (really inconvenient)
- Tell him to stop staring at me in a polite manner and risk possible backlash
- Tell him to stop staring at me in a fuckyou kind of way and then take a different route
- Ignore and avoid eye contact (which is what I’m currently doing but is quietly killing my soul)

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. As you can probably guess I am a mid-twenties woman living in a major city so this isn’t exactly new territory but the fact that this is happening on a daily basis on a street I have to cross is really grating on my nerves.
posted by joeyjoejoejr to Human Relations (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I can think of two things that *might* help.

(1) Get a male friend to walk with you a few times. Some (but definitely not all) creeps live by a twisted code that it's only ok to harass women if they're single.

(2) Call the manager of the warehouse and complain about their employees' behavior.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 7:28 AM on April 16, 2014 [8 favorites]

Is there a business name or whatnot on the warehouse? Call the business and tell them that their workers are leering at pedestrians. That sort of thing when reported is a huge deal.
posted by cakebatter at 7:29 AM on April 16, 2014 [30 favorites]

This has happened to me before too - in my case it was a worker at a grocery store I would pass on my way to work. Honestly, I think the best thing is to just continue to ignore him. He probably wants a response from don't give him one.
posted by barnoley at 7:30 AM on April 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

Okay, he's definitely a creepy jerk. You say he's always standing outside a warehouse --- as in, it's pretty obvious he's an employee? Try taking a picture of him, find out who is the person in charge of the place and send it to them. Let the warehouse boss know that if this is their employee, he is presenting an extremely unprofessional impression of the company; if this is not an employee, then they're really got to do something about the scuzzy people loitering around their business.

Side note: you shouldn't wear headphones that block out all sound in this kind of situation; you need to be able to hear (and pay attention to) what's happening around you. Of course, if you really can hear this jerk and are just using the headphones to pretend you can't, then carry on!
posted by easily confused at 7:30 AM on April 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

Instead of avoiding eye contact I would just give him the nod. Firm nod down (not up) without smiling, stop eye contact and keep walking. When I discovered this nod when I was a young woman it really seemed to help with these interactions. It seemed to convey that I saw the person, acknowledged, but wasn't flirting or inviting. Ifelt like I took control of the interaction and "closed" it somehow.
It doesn't seem too harassing. If it bothers you take a different way to work.
posted by beccaj at 7:30 AM on April 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

1. "Please stop staring at me like that. You're making me feel really uncomfortable."

If that doesn't work:

2. Report him to his workplace.
posted by hellomiss at 7:30 AM on April 16, 2014

And of you fear retaliation, I think the most likely outcome would be that they send the guy home for the day and then move the smoking area or break area out of view. Sounds like he is waiting a ton of time just standing around anyway, so they might know he is a problem employee already and just wasting for something like this to justify getting rid of him!
posted by cakebatter at 7:31 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do not engage with this guy. Do not react. Eventually, he'll get tired or bored or whatever.

Just like online: do not feed the trolls.

Ignore him. Walk on the other side of the street, if it helps you ignore him better.
posted by gsh at 7:39 AM on April 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Instead of avoiding eye contact I would just give him the nod. Firm nod down (not up) without smiling, stop eye contact and keep walking. When I discovered this nod when I was a young woman it really seemed to help with these interactions. It seemed to convey that I saw the person, acknowledged, but wasn't flirting or inviting.

THIS. I am a big fan of the nod.

I'm pretty reactionary/aggressive with street harassers, but this is one of those edge cases. You feel uncomfortable, dude is making you feel uncomfortable, but he also hasn't really done anything you can respond to with words.

So, the nod. Make eye contact, don't smile, don't slow down, nod, break eye contact, and continue on your way. You should do this with headphones off. What you're going for here is some sort of very, very baseline engagement with him. Not in the "here is some attention from me!" sense, but in the "I am watching you. I know what you're doing. I am a person. Check yourself."

There are two situations that can result from this. Either he backs off (a bit, I mean, this isn't going to produce miracles) or he ups it by trying to say something to you next time. When he says something to you, then hey, congrats, you can respond verbally. Your response can be along the lines of "fuck off" if you feel the situation calls for it.
posted by phunniemee at 7:40 AM on April 16, 2014 [15 favorites]

It's not clear from your post what your red flags are telling you - is this guy just socially awkward and maybe thinks you're cute, or is he bonafide creepy and you are genuinely scared when you walk by there?

If he's just awkward, I don't really see the need to be confrontational (and, to be clear, I almost always fall in the "fuck off" camp, but that's for one-offs; this is someone you will see every day). Perhaps a stern "morning, gentlemen" would be more in order.

If he's super creepy, I might place a call to the office "I came by the other day but there were scary looking guys hanging out in front and I don't want to patronize your business if guys like that are there".

I just don't think it's in your best interest to make an enemy of someone you have to see every day if you can find a different way to handle it.
posted by vignettist at 7:47 AM on April 16, 2014

Do. Not. Engage. If your instincts are firing just walking by this guy, don't give him anything. Not a nod, not a smile, not a stare. All any of that does in encourage further interaction. If it were me, and I know this may sound extreme, I would change up my traffic patterns from day to day as to not let creepy guy know where I was walking from/walking to. YMMV, but I take creepers pretty seriously, especially if it's a path directly from/to my home and I am walking alone.
posted by picklesthezombie at 7:52 AM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do not engage. It only makes it worse. I would consider walking with a male friend, or simply reporting the guy to the company. If it makes it easier, claim to simply be a witness.
posted by corb at 7:55 AM on April 16, 2014

I agree with calling up his workplace and reporting him, preferably to someone as high up on the ladder as you can find (a manager/foreman or direct supervisor might just blow it off if the two are buddies). Since this is a regular route for you, I wouldn't directly confront him, but I would definitely report this.

By the way, are you pretty sure the guy is just a creep and not mentally disabled in some way so that he innocently behaves in socially inappropriate ways? Unlikely I suppose, but I guess that's another reason not to engage directly but to report this to his company -- they would be aware of any special circumstances affecting his behavior and take appropriate action on their end.
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 8:03 AM on April 16, 2014

I had a similar situation like this in college and I absolutely dreaded it to the point where I did change my route. I'm 37 now and I probably would still do the same thing today.

I do think it's worth a phone call to the employer, though. I would ask to speak to the HR person. If anyone's going to take it seriously, it's HR.
posted by something something at 8:10 AM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I agree with reporting the guy, and definitely say leering at women that pass by. But I wouldn't rule out tactics women suggest, if they say they work.

are you pretty sure the guy is just a creep and not mentally disabled in some way

I know you mean well. And that it was just another reason to suggest reporting to the workplace. This sort of thing is so common though, the percentages just have to be wildly in favor of creep.

I'm often in a car with tinted windows, and construction guys leer at me (staring until they can see), and I'm a guy. And it makes me uncomfortable because it happens every other day, at different sites. I think these guys just think they have some license to leer at everybody that walks or passes by them, and until they can see who you are, you might be some woman they are trying to leer at. It's ridiculous. Some cities have entire campaigns against this sort of thing.

So I say that to say OP, report this person and feel like you have the force of the community behind you. Women shouldn't have to deal with this, and as a guy, I wholeheartedly support you stopping this guy.
posted by cashman at 8:10 AM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

The guy is an asshole who almost certainly does this to every woman who walks by. I would probably just cross and walk on the other side of the street.

At the most I'd call the business and let them know that their employees are standing out front leering at women who walk by, they will reprimand them.
posted by amaire at 8:26 AM on April 16, 2014

Yeah, call the business. Tell them there's this guy who stands out front and stares at you, looking you up and down and grinning, every single day. Describe his appearance as best you can, and the time when it happened.

That said, you should probably have a backup plan (I personally would go with ignoring him but that's me) in case they don't do anything. It sucks but it's a possibility. If the person who fields your complaint is a man, there's maybe a 50/50 chance that he won't see what the problem is since the guy hasn't done anything yet.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:30 AM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would start with the firm nod, looking busy and unimpressed. This dude is a creep who gets off on thinking that he's 'something' to you. Imagine that you are CEO and you are giving a nod to a gutter troll. It's technically polite but really there is nothing a guy in this position can do for you, since you have a wealth of power & influence behind you. Imagine you are the Queen giving a brief prim courteous nod to someone you will promptly forget. YOU are on top here.

I've found this kills the dynamic since it puts YOU in the power seat.

If its still icky then escalate by calling the company.

But just remember this guy is Nothing to you. I'm sure he creeps on every girl, not just you. You're not a specific target even though it feels that way.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:38 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Leering IS sexual harassment. "Just ignore it and cross the street" won't stop it.

Roar at him to stop staring at you.
Take his picture and send it to Hollaback.
Call the business and report it.
posted by brujita at 8:42 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

How many people walk by in the morning? If you did report him, would he know it's you who reported him? Also, his supervisor might be just as bad as he....

One approach to improving the situation might be to stop one day and say "Is your name Charlie, did u go to XYZ school?" or "Do you work play softball over on 11th Street Park?", or did I see you at "abc gym?". Something where you a) acknowlege that he exists, and b) you two may be in the same social circles somehow. That might serve to humanize you in his eyes. This is admittedly a somewhat risky approach because you don't want to come off as flirting with him.

What else you do notice about him? Does he display any team insignias? If you're both fans, your morning might become " '$ team' won a good one, last night, eh?".

Also, the headphones, if he/they know you can't hear them, that makes it like your less a person, just an image on their TV screen - they can be as bold as they like, staring and talking.

What kind of business is it? Is it one you might become a customer of? That'd change the dynamics if he saw you coming out of his building. Maybe even if you just went in the front door and got a brochure?

You might consider videoing the sitch; both as you approach, and as you walk away. I wouldn't recommend it because it seems to just escalate the situation, but it is a tool you have. Also, look around to see if you see any surveillance cameras.

Is there any chance he knows where you live? work? Mind impact how you choose to respond to the sitch.

And this might give you some ideas (it's humorous; I don't mean to make light of your situation, which I realize could be very dangerous, even deadly):
posted by at at 8:43 AM on April 16, 2014

Something to try: Buy a stupid-cheap gold-tone wedding band, wear it during your walk to work, and at the right time fiddle with your headphones/purse or bag strap/collar so he sees it.
posted by Iris Gambol at 8:50 AM on April 16, 2014

Coming back to add something re: telling the dude off..... On the one hand, it sounds empowering for you; you've Done Something About The Situation. On the other hand, it's giving the jerk what he wants, which is a reaction (any reaction!) from you.

I would only say something directly to him if, and only if, he is alone: if any of his buddies are standing out there with him, even though they're not involved with the creepy behavior, this guy will act up even more. He won't want to have any of his buddies/coworkers think he's less than macho to the max, and he'll think it makes him 'pussy-whipped' if he lets 'some little bimbo' get away with telling him off.... an audience, in other words, will just make him behave even worse, both when you speak to him and every time he sees you in the future.

So. If you do talk to him, do it A) in daytime, and B) when he is without an audience. I would also suggest that you do not say something like "Please don't talk to me like that" --- don't make it a request, make it a demand: snarl at him, swear at him, shout in an angry tone, and leave off all politenesses like 'please': "Hey jerkface, shut the fuck up!" With guys like this, politeness is taken as weakness, and you need to look and act strong.
posted by easily confused at 9:59 AM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would be inclined to report him to someone at the top level of the company or possibly look up the company online and see if there are any women in HR and report him to a woman in HR.

If I received a poor response from the company, I would post a scathing review on Yelp or other site.
posted by parakeetdog at 2:18 PM on April 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Instead of avoiding eye contact I would just give him the nod. Firm nod down (not up) without smiling, stop eye contact and keep walking. When I discovered this nod when I was a young woman it really seemed to help with these interactions. It seemed to convey that I saw the person, acknowledged, but wasn't flirting or inviting. I felt like I took control of the interaction and "closed" it somehow.

Yes, this. I have developed a strategy of pretending-to-be-my-dad when I walk around overly leery men (which is basically every day, because of where I live and because I walk a lot). It helps me to imagine myself as him because it allows me to produce a greeting that is friendly without being inviting, and definitely the opposite of flirtatious. If your dad isn't ideal for these purposes, and you want to borrow mine, just picture yourself being about 6'4, with grey hair and an unruly beard, wearing very old overalls and walking with a slight shuffle. If you're really getting into character you can add a rumbly greeting of "mornin'" or "afternoon" to the nod, but the nod is all you need. It says: I see you, and I am acknowledging you in a way that expects you to be friendly but that does not even entertain the possibility that you would be having sexual thoughts about me. In my experience, most people will respond to that expectation pretty well. It defuses.
posted by dizziest at 2:21 PM on April 16, 2014

Oh, there was a homeless guy I had this going on with. I had the headphones in but unfortunately could figure out that he was saying things. He eventually decided to up and GRAB ME in public because he wanted me to PAY ATTENTION TO HIM, DAMMIT. Because how dare the bitch ignore him. You know how it goes.

I say, change your route, no matter how super inconvenient it is. Creepy dudes always have the potential to escalate if you're anywhere in their vicinity. I wouldn't confront him because he wants your attention.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:47 PM on April 16, 2014

It's OP's right to go wherever she pleases without being hassled. I don't think she'll be able to confront him away from his coworkers.

I stand by my original comments. If he threatens to rape or otherwise hurt you after you confront him, call the police.
posted by brujita at 3:56 PM on April 16, 2014

THE NOD. Genius!!!

It's so simple I can't believe I didn't consider this earlier. It's perfect because I felt like a verbal confrontation was too out of proportion to what was actually happening.

I will attempt The Nod and report back.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 6:57 PM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

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