If anyone knows if there’s a transcript of this, let me know and I’ll link to it.
I only have one memory of being skeeved out after being nice to someone. Lots of people in south Texas smile at each other or say hi. Even when I lived in New York, smiling at people was just instinctual. It often still is.
When I had just turned 16, I remember going to a car wash to clean and vacuum my car. It was hot, and I was wearing shorts. I was the only one at the car wash. After washing my car, I parked near the vacuums. I was on my knees on the seat, bent over to pick up trash and stuff. When I turned around to throw it away, I looked up and saw an old man who had parked nearby, just staring at me from behind. I smiled innocently at him, then turned back around to finish cleaning. When I turned around again he was still there staring. Only then did it click that he’d been staring at my ass the entire time doing who knows what in that car. My good mood evaporated immediately, and I quickly left in disgust.
But every other time I’ve returned the greetings of random men, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that they’ve just smiled back and walked on, or complimented me and moved on, or said a little innocent chit chat and moved on. Luckily, there was nothing creepy about those encounters.
That’s not to say I’ve never been harassed on the streets, because that’s happened plenty of times, regardless of whether I was covered from head to toe during winter, wearing a cute dress in summer, or halfheartedly jogging around an outdoor track while sweating and looking miserable. My reactions have been different, too, depending on the situation–I’ve ignored men and walked on by, I’ve turned around and cussed them out, and there have also been a few scary situations where I’ve hurried away quickly, with “please don’t hurt me” running repeatedly through my mind.
It’s important to speak up, even if it’s just to your male friends. A couple of years ago I was with a group of guys, and a few of them whistled at a woman walking by. I angrily let them know in no uncertain terms that that felt dehumanizing, and that it was obnoxious at best, and really fucking scary at worst. Recently I was with this same group again, when we all happened to hear men yelling things to a woman from their car. Many of the same group of guys–who had themselves acted similarly just a couple of years before–shook their heads and muttered things to the effect of “jackass” when they heard what was happening.
Hollaback. Progress is being made.