A comic (but not funny) guide to intervening in harassment
September 23, 2016 12:59 PM   Subscribe

 
Very good!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:07 PM on September 23, 2016


*crunches patiently*
posted by Fizz at 1:19 PM on September 23, 2016 [13 favorites]


Vote?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:26 PM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Vote?

Ah yes. Shit's going down on transit? Someone is potentially in danger? Time for me to pull on my headphones, open facebook, and smugly share the "I'm registered to vote!" status emoji. Better make it public so she can see it when she gets home and searches hashtags.
posted by phunniemee at 1:33 PM on September 23, 2016 [28 favorites]


In Hamilton, we just punch racists in the face. That works.
posted by Capt. Renault at 1:45 PM on September 23, 2016 [29 favorites]


I also makes sure I donate to the political cause most likely to infuriate the asshole afterwards.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 1:51 PM on September 23, 2016


In Hamilton, we just punch racists in the face. That works.

King and James represent!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:53 PM on September 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


This advice assumes the person being harassed is already ignoring the harasser, right? Or should one just interrupt the exchange?
posted by czytm at 1:59 PM on September 23, 2016


awesome, this is good to know!
posted by Baethan at 2:09 PM on September 23, 2016


That video from Hamilton is awesome. While I certainly don't think violence is an optimal solution to public racism, I'm kind of proud to think of my country as the sort of place where racists just might get beaten up by gangs of bros.

"It's a social experiment! It's a social experiment!" As though that was a reason not to punch him in the face.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:26 PM on September 23, 2016 [19 favorites]


Or should one just interrupt the exchange

I do this a lot at bars. I will start up a conversation with the person being harassed, or interject myself into the conversation. If the person/harasser doesn't get the hint and go away I will directly engage them in conversation in some way giving the other person enough time to just slink away.

There's been a few times I've misread a situation but I'd rather occasionally come off as awkward than let people be assess to other people.
posted by mayonnaises at 2:31 PM on September 23, 2016 [10 favorites]


In Hamilton, we just punch racists in the face. That works.

As a Torontonian, let me point out to outsiders that this is Hamilton's answer to everything.

In Toronto we are much more potato chip guy.
posted by GuyZero at 2:32 PM on September 23, 2016 [19 favorites]


Eh, I'm not so sure as a woman that I wouldn't be included in the harassment if it were a big male being a jerk. I can see a certain type escalating the aggression under those circumstances. Wondering if engaging the attacker by asking for directions or other help wouldn't be a better bet, especially if it would be possible to position oneself in a manner that draws the aggressor away from his victim. I'd hate to feel like I was condoning the behavior by not speaking out, but at least it would interrupt the exchange. And I'd roll my eyes SO HARD behind his back so others could see.
posted by BlueHorse at 2:39 PM on September 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


In Hamilton, we just punch racists in the face. That works.

As a Torontonian, let me point out to outsiders that this is Hamilton's answer to everything.


Come over here and say that.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:48 PM on September 23, 2016 [52 favorites]


I can see a certain type escalating the aggression under those circumstances.

I think you're right that this will happen in some cases (assholes gonna asshole), but I also think it's considerably more likely that if he's being screened out by someone less acceptable to harass, he'll get frustrated.

Also, there's really nothing to stop a dude who's just given you directions from turning back to his harassment. Indeed, he may feel more socially supported after the validation that the people around him aren't thinking he's an asshole.
posted by praemunire at 2:50 PM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


This advice assumes the person being harassed is already ignoring the harasser, right? Or should one just interrupt the exchange?

I think the comic oversimplifies the whole "consent" portion a little. It makes sense to be mindful anytime you're trying to initiate a conversation with a stranger (even if you mean well). So I feel like there should be a step 0.5 (or 1.5) where you evaluate whether the harassee might actually need and/or welcome your intervention.

In a case where the harasee is actively engaged in "conversation" with the harasser, I wouldn't step in unless the harassee was trying to end the conversation. Either way, if you try to strike up the conversation and the harassee doesn't engage with you, it helps to be savvy enough to notice that your help isn't necessary and back off.
posted by sparklemotion at 3:14 PM on September 23, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'd feel weird about being a second person to also aggressively invade someone's space, even if the intention is moral. Just leave people alone, or tell aggressors to leave people alone.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:19 PM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sure it's simplified and imperfect but I think there's a sound principle here: The victim is no longer isolated. Just like in the Hamilton video, where the best, shortest thing one of the defenders said was "he's with me". This is something you learn on a school playground, and keep learning as an adult if you go around much by yourself. People by themselves are easier prey.

The talking also helps, because then they're occupied with something (else). This is another tenet of streetsmarts: act or walk like you're on a mission, and you'll get less flak. If you're busy with something, you're less open.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 3:36 PM on September 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


It's great that so many of you are empathizing with the comic, yet it's also clear that a big specificity is being overlooked (still, don't stop the empathizing! please take the extra input as another factor to account for): the person being harassed is a woman, and the person stepping in is a woman, while the harasser is a man. A woman coming up to another woman with a smile is practically never seen as "aggressively invading", especially not if followed up with friendly questions.

If you're a man and a woman is being harassed, yes, absolutely, there is another layer of potential space invasion to account for where respecting her cues is vitally important. In that case, yes, it probably would be possible to talk to the dude as well. But another woman confronting a dude? Eeeeep. I'm a big woman who's stared down men bigger than me, but it was with the full awareness that I could have been setting myself up for a walloping. Not to mention the risk of the dude following me after getting out of the public transportation. So yeah. Woman confronting an asshole dude: generally not a good idea. Man confronting an asshole dude: listen to your gut and experiences; if done right, I've seen it go well. Where "done right" is being firm and talking about it in terms of respect as a sort of bargain; "we all know we should respect each other, right?"

The really terribly sad thing is that it usually is white dudes harassing Muslim women (or women they assume are Muslim). White dudes know better than to overtly harass other dudes in general. So they pick on someone they think won't get the benefit of the doubt from anyone – woman fits the bill.

Bonus points for people recognizing that treating women as having agency in general would help the overall problem. This comic is quite good and I'm glad for it, as I know it would have a good chance of working given social norms on public transportation here (Paris). Another good one is deflecting, indeed, especially if the person being harassed looks like they want nothing of any of it. Shitty days compounded on by a shitty dude being shitty can tend to do that.
posted by fraula at 3:44 PM on September 23, 2016 [20 favorites]


Yes, praemunire, it's hard to tell exactly what would ensue, but I would imagine I'd be willing to act like a clueless twit and keep interrupting until the fella was more interested in getting away from the annoying old lady than continuing the harassment.

As many have pointed out above, it's hard to know what to do. How do you insure that everyone stays safe and is comfortable with your actions.

Kudos to those who can assess the situation and influence a positive (nonviolent) outcome.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:46 PM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'd feel weird about being a second person to also aggressively invade someone's space, even if the intention is moral. Just leave people alone, or tell aggressors to leave people alone.

I think this is allowing notions of how the world should work take precedence over how the world actually works. Yes, consent about being in people's space is important, but so is the risk of escalating a conflict that they're already at risk from. It would be nice if the simple moral rule (just engage the aggressor) were always effective, but I've seen it backfire enough times to think another tactic is useful.

Also, have we really reached a point as a society where talking to someone in a friendly way is necessarily an "aggressive invasion of space". Because if we have we're completely fucked.
posted by howfar at 3:46 PM on September 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


howfar: fraula nails this. "Aggressive invasion of space" is maybe a stronger statement than I would make, but whenever I (straight white guy, and not exactly a small one, either) contemplate interacting with anyone, but especially women, I think very hard about whether it would be creepy, threatening, or generally unwelcome, and very often the answer is "maybe, and the chances are high enough that I probably shouldn't risk it."

This is less than ideal (I've missed out on years of what turned out to be very good friendships, just because I wasn't willing to go up and talk to somebody early on), and tuning my "would-this-be-creepy" instincts and my ability to read people is an ongoing process, but at least I don't think I'm part of the problem.

(Now the really good question is how to be helpful when you're not confident in your ability to read cues, verbal or nonverbal.)
posted by golwengaud at 4:02 PM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


In the instance pictured in that comic, pulling the emergency train stop would also work wonders.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:07 PM on September 23, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'd be a lot more comfortable as Potato Chips man. I can put myself in the middle and pretend that nothing is happening pretty easily. I'd be a nervous wreck trying to figure out if I was acting appropriately by trying to read nonverbal cues.
posted by Scattercat at 4:12 PM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


praemunire: "I can see a certain type escalating the aggression under those circumstances.

I think you're right that this will happen in some cases (assholes gonna asshole), but I also think it's considerably more likely that if he's being screened out by someone less acceptable to harass, he'll get frustrated.

Also, there's really nothing to stop a dude who's just given you directions from turning back to his harassment. Indeed, he may feel more socially supported after the validation that the people around him aren't thinking he's an asshole.
"

As an ex-bartender/bouncer there is one thing I can't help but consider. If the aggressive party is drunk, all logic no longer applies.
posted by Splunge at 4:15 PM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


I thought the islamophobe in the fifth panel skulking away was labeled "EZRA LEVANT" which seemed oddly specific, albeit appropriate for the Breitbart of the North.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:24 PM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


In Hamilton, we just punch racists in the face.

Maybe, but I don't think Canadians can afford to be self-congratulatory (ish). This attack [by a woman] happened in a grocery store in London, Ontario, in July. (Sub: "This is the fourth reported event against visible minorities in the city in the past eight months".)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:39 PM on September 23, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think all this concern about possibly invading someone else's space because you might get called on it is overblown. I'm a woman of color, and if someone is harassing me, damn right I'd like other people to call him on it. I don't really care about invasions of space in situations like that. My space is already being invaded in a less friendly way.
posted by peacheater at 4:41 PM on September 23, 2016 [19 favorites]


Quebec City [linked from above].

Now sounding like a horrible, racist version of that David Lee Roth song.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:42 PM on September 23, 2016


OSKEE WEE WEEEEE!

(prepares to punch)
posted by Dressed to Kill at 5:48 PM on September 23, 2016


In the instance pictured in that comic, pulling the emergency train stop would also work wonders.

I disagree. I've been a small brown woman on trains in places where I don't speak the language very well. Pulling the emergency train stop is out of bounds for me. Will I piss off everyone else on the train? Will I get asked why I did it, will I have to explain myself? Will I have to interact with the police or other scary people? I don't want any trouble. What will I say? If I could be invisible I'd very much rather be. Maybe in the case pictured here I would suffer silently, because that's what you do sometimes. Then cry at home later.
posted by papalotl at 6:02 PM on September 23, 2016 [14 favorites]


I thought the islamophobe in the fifth panel skulking away was labeled "EZRA LEVANT"

I thought IGNO RED was also cool.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:32 PM on September 23, 2016


I thought the islamophobe in the fifth panel skulking away was labeled "EZRA LEVANT" which seemed oddly specific, albeit appropriate for the Breitbart of the North.

Ezra Levant & irrelevant tend to flow together.
posted by ovvl at 6:39 PM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also, have we really reached a point as a society where talking to someone in a friendly way is necessarily an "aggressive invasion of space". Because if we have we're completely fucked.

We're completely fucked then. As a big scary looking dude I just put on my shades and earphones and look out the window. I have people rather stand in the aisle than sit next to me. People will talk to me if I'm with my girlfriend though.
posted by adept256 at 6:48 PM on September 23, 2016


I once told a guy on a bus who was saying obscene things to the woman sitting across the aisle from him and whom everyone else was ignoring (especially her) to "shut the fuck up, and quit bothering that woman", which he did and then got off the bus at the next stop.

But the entire bus fell silent after I did that, and then I got to watch as a red flush crept up the back of her neck, and everyone who had been sitting within a couple of seats of me got up and moved as close to the driver as they could get.

I was clear I had violated a far more significant boundary than he had, but I knew that before I did it, really.
posted by jamjam at 7:23 PM on September 23, 2016 [15 favorites]


I'm very sorry if what I'm about to say sounds glib or dismissive. But after further thought, I just have to say. The comic is way too full of itself. Any situation like the one described has way too many variables to be helpful. It's very much like a cartoon that says, "This is the way to fix your relationship. Follow these three simple rules and your life will be wonderful."

The problem is that, younger people may think just that. Oh wow, this is how to do it! Now I know exactly what I shall do in this situation.

I'm sorry. The message is right. The form of the message is way off.

I lived in NYC for most of my life. I have lived these scenes. On a subway. In a fast food restaurant. In a club Always in a club.

The message is pure. But the message is bad.

And I know. If you are going to tear it down, then what is your solution?

My solution was always situational awareness. Deciding if my need to put myself into a thing was the best way to fix a thing. Or if I inserted myslef into a thing might make that thing much worse.

And of course there is a shitload of big white male bouncer stuff as well. At this point I can sincerely say that I would be wracked with indecision.

When I was younger I would jump in. For the wrong reasons. I honestly am torn by my thoughts about this. I'm going to bed. And maybe under it as well.
posted by Splunge at 8:26 PM on September 23, 2016 [5 favorites]


BlueHorse: "Eh, I'm not so sure as a woman that I wouldn't be included in the harassment if it were a big male being a jerk. I can see a certain type escalating the aggression under those circumstances."

That was precisely my experience as a smaller AMAB person, even back when I was unambiguously presenting as male. The few times I actually tried anything along these lines it produced an immediate massive escalation by the big threatening guy - the last time I tried it the guy jumped immediately from creepy sexual innuendo directed at the woman next to me to violently hurling himself around the bus, thumping the back of my seat and threatening to kill me (and anyone else who looked at him the wrong way) for the rest of the trip. No-one intervened to help me, of course. These days, now that I present in a fairly feminine way I absolutely will not do this because I've learned to expect violent escalation if I approach. Maybe other people have had more luck with this than I have?
posted by langtonsant at 8:31 PM on September 23, 2016 [1 favorite]



In the instance pictured in that comic, pulling the emergency train stop would also work wonders.


What? No. Then you're all trapped in the car with the harasser and everyone will hate you for not using it correctly. That's not what it's for.
posted by AFABulous at 8:52 PM on September 23, 2016 [18 favorites]


I like the comic. And there are a lot of good points up above about considerations if you are a . . .

As someone who was a trainer in non-violent crisis intervention in this type of situation for 18 years, my thoughts building on the comic are:

1. Have a plan for what you are going to do if the aggressor becomes verbally abusive towards you. Go Zen and ignore is my advice.

2. Sit or stand in a way that you can physically protect yourself if the aggressor becomes physically agressive towards you or the other person.

3. It's OK to be afraid, but act if you are ready to.
posted by ITravelMontana at 8:54 PM on September 23, 2016 [6 favorites]


So I have a ton of cis-het white dude privilege, but the times I’ve been in a OMFG someone has to do something about this situation, this is what I do:

1) physically insert myself between the harasser and the victim, non-confrontationally. On the metro I pretend to be paying attention to my phone or at a concert I pretend to be drunk and dancing to the music. I am a big dopey white guy, I make a pretty good wall that most people will usually give up and quit yelling at a stranger with me in the way.

2) make some space. If the drama is ongoing, I gently hip check or booty bump the aggressor away from the victim. This is breaking all the rules because physically engaging is the last thing you want to do, I make sure it is totally passive-aggressive and non-confrontational, ignoring the harasser who is doing their best to ignore me. I don’t make eye contact or acknowledge either of them at all, I just own the space I’m holding between them.

3) make it personal. This is where I cash in my white dude privilege. “Why are you yelling in my ear?” “Why are you making such a scene?” “Why are you so upset about nothing?” I’m not playing the white knight, it’s not about rescuing the victim but enforcing the social norms. Deflecting attention away from the victim; let them pick a fight with me, because everybody else who is paying attention knows I am right and they are wrong.

This works for me because I am a big middle-aged white dude unafraid of confrontation.

Last time this happened was at the grocery store, there was a woman having some issues with her ebt or wic or whatever and some aggrieved white woman took it upon herself to publicly shame all the poors and immigrants and brown people and made a real ugly scene. It was a real challenge for me to abandon my groceries and then cut in line to make a wall between the crazy racist harasser and just some woman who was just trying to buy groceries. But I stepped in and made her back off, and the grocery store employees thanked me for giving a fuck after the show was over.
posted by peeedro at 1:02 AM on September 24, 2016 [26 favorites]


I've either been oblivious, or lucky, as I haven't witnessed this happening.... but if it does, I'll use Peedro's strategy as I'm an old large white guy.
posted by MikeWarot at 6:22 AM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Forgive me, the emergency stop wasn't so much a serious suggestion as a cartoon physics solution. While I enjoyed the appealing visual it produced, there is much more nuance and judgment needed.
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:22 AM on September 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe 19th amendment people can do something about that.

no, I don't recommend it. But if non-white citizens started making use of the right to bear arms, it would change a lot of attitudes, so it's verrrry tempting.
posted by theora55 at 12:36 PM on September 24, 2016


I've been the harassed one too damn many times. I sarted carrying a box - cutter. 9/11 changed that for me.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:04 PM on September 24, 2016


Seriously, it's tiresome being harassed all the time and I have yet to have seen an effective intervention.
I was once harassed really badly in Seattle. No one stepped in. I had my two then very little kids with me and I was terrified. I just stood there with the harasser brow-beating me.
So after the harasser left me I chewed Hell out of the useless chicken-shit by-standers.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:10 PM on September 24, 2016 [9 favorites]


I don't think Canadians can afford to be self-congratulatory

Indeed we cannot. Canada is in its own way an extremely racist country, particularly against aboriginal people (example). So, when I see pushback against racists I feel like I have reason to celebrate, not because my country is good but because it might be getting better.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:15 AM on September 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Seriously do not pull the emergency stop.

At least in New York there's a list on the wall of things you can and cannot pull the brake for. It is the only rule I will ever tell someone to follow. Seriously

I think people may be underestimating the impact of just standing with a person, or sitting, as the case may be. The one time I've been in a situation of harassment, I was working as a waitress, and one customer was yelling at another (for talking on the phone in Spanish). I didn't know what I was allowed to do. My manager was allowed to cross certain lines, and decide she was no longer a customer that had to be served, but not me. All I could think to do was stand between them. It didn't stop her, but it meant the Hispanic couple didn't have to look this woman in the face and take it full blast, and that's more than nothing.

With kids you have to have an even lighter touch, to get them to hear you.

Point is, if you can't make them stop yelling, just sitting with the target and making them not alone still accomplishes a great deal.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 6:11 AM on September 25, 2016 [2 favorites]



Don't worry. The cops are on the way and I witnessed him/her verbally assaulting you.
posted by notreally at 6:26 PM on September 25, 2016


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