Handling Street Harassment Like Thelma and Louise

Women on Film: Thelma and Louise helped us fully visualize the best way to deter street harassment.

Having someone leer at you on the street is like mixing a martini with olives and forgetting to put in the gin. It’s taking your sexuality and mucking it up with a sad, heavy aftertaste. Because isn’t getting leered at on the street really just a fundamental move of disrespect that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth?

Street catcalls usually arrive as a whistle or a shout or a kissing sound flung at you across the street. If you react, you risk more harassment. If you ignore it, you feel like you’re condoning the behavior. If you get upset, then you’re an uptight prude who doesn’t understand that it’s really just a compliment. Because romance is all about a sucking, shrill kissy noise thrown at you by a teenager leering at you from a car before speeding off into oblivion. Right? Don’t overthink it.

And to the leerers of the world, we ask the truth. In your experiences of throwing aforementioned kissy sounds, has a woman ever turned on her heel and rushed into your arms? When you’ve asked a woman to fellate your genitals while speeding down Sunset Boulevard, has she ever lept after your car? When you startle a woman off her iPod with shouts about her derriere, have you ever gotten more than a middle finger thrust in your direction?

Street harassers of the world, please imprint this on your brains. If we’re decked out in short skirts and platform shoes, that doesn’t mean we have a flashing sign over our heads pointing that our breasts are open for comment.

Or maybe you should just know that this is how some of us would like to respond to your endless collective windpipe of harassment.

In 1991, “Thelma and Louise” showed us perhaps the best way to lean hard into street harassment. We salute you, Sassy Thelma and Dame Louise. We salute you.

Image: “An American Girl in Italy” c. 1952. Photo by Ruth Orkin

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