This Just Breaks My Heart


I pretty much follow only women on Twitter. And WOC mostly at that. It is very purposeful, and I think I can count on one hand the males I follow, and I believe they are nearly all contacts I made via This Week in Blackness (TWiB). Fellow Twibbies. Stand up guys.

What breaks my heart is that nearly every day – certainly 4 to 5 times a week, I see women’s experiences flow down my TL. Women tweeting about The Gauntlet.

What is that, you ask?

Well, The Gauntlet is what they have to endure each and every day as they go about their daily lives. I’ve had my own share of experiencing The Gauntlet too, though as often as I’ve become more of a recluse and when I do go out, I drive everywhere.

But at some point, I have to walk across a parking lot, walk around within a grocery store, stand in line somewhere etc.

Things get worse when you have to take public transportation like a subway, a bus or walk for any length of time to get to work, school, pick up your kids, a job interview, to the store, running errands – you know, everyday stuff.

The Gauntlet is what we have to endure while attempting to do that everyday stuff.

The street harassment that never stays just out in the street. From the moment you step foot out of your front door you are at risk for the abuse, the stares, the grabs, the yelling, the catcalls… the Everything.


What breaks my heart is seeing how pervasive this is. How it is dismissed so easily. How it is misconstrued as being no big deal.

It is a huge deal.

You want to talk about the war on women?

The Gauntlet is the warzone you have to traverse just to get to your job, your classes, the store, that doctors appointment.

This is not harmless.

This isn’t rare.

This is active harm being perpetrated on your Mother, your Aunt, your Sister, your Niece, your Wife, your Girlfriend…

Every single day. All the damn time.


I know intellectually what street harassment is all about. Just another horrific facet of the Rape Culture we live in. How it is the male exercising power and dominance over the female. The female is not a human being, just an object, or a body part or parts.

But really, what I’d love to know is what is actually going on in the mind of that man who does that hissing thing at me like I’m a dog, or insists that I smile, or who tells me I’m so fine and then when I don’t respond I’m all kinds of bitches. Existing solely for the ownership, use and abuse for any and all males in question.

Is it some sort of autopilot that kicks in? Did they learn it at their father’s knee? What is the end desired result?

50 years later we’re telling our grandkids how we met: Oh yeah I was just swept away when your grampaw hissed and hollered at me, blocked my path and demanded my attention, and told me something about my titties. It was love at first sight! We’ve never been apart since.

Yeah, NO.

So what exactly is the end game? Is there even one? You see a woman walking down the street and the first thing you think of doing is behaving like some sort of brainless animal in heat?

What the hell??


I could post link after link, story after story. But I know from my admin page that most readers don’t click on links. But here is one that I encourage you to click.

Three Decades of Street Harassment.

I’m 11 years old and walking up the street, heading home after school. A man’s voice calls out: “Pssst. Hey baby, hey girl.” I just keep walking, and now he’s walking too, gaining speed behind me.

“Oh, you’re just a young thing. But you got a big girl’s body. Where’s your daddy? I’ll be your daddy…”

I keep walking until I’m almost running and I’m afraid in a strange way because he’s not exactly chasing me, but he’s following me and still talking at me. I walk fast and never look back until I am home.


“Hey baby yo baby hey ma why you walkin’ so fast smile baby come here come back hey I just wanna talk to you pretty girl fine fuck you then bitch you think you’re so special huh you stuck up ho get back here I’ll show you bitch…”


Last year I was walking near Times Square one afternoon when a man approached me from the other direction and said “Oh my God you’re so pretty” as he grabbed me by both my shoulders. People near me scattered, and two grown able-bodied men ran into a nearby store and watched from behind the door.

I subscribe to no gender-based damsel in distress narrative, so I certainly didn’t expect them to swoop in and save me. Besides, I knew I could take this guy in a fight if he hit me and so — record scratch — WAIT — what the fuck world are we in where I can go from walking down the street to preparing to engage a stranger in hand-to-hand combat on a crowded sidewalk in broad daylight “if it comes to that”?


True victory would be a world where I can walk outdoors from point A to point B without feeling like I’m under attack.


There are so many more examples in that article and again, I encourage you to read it if you haven’t already. Especially if you are male. Most women won’t have to read it, because they already know all too well that one woman’s 30 year experience.

This isn’t flattering attention. This is predatory. Feeling hunted and attacked and fearing harm isn’t fun or flattering. This isn’t an occasional thing that happens to just a few women, now and then. This is pervasive, chronic. It is abuse and harassment pure and simple.

What breaks my heart again, is that, like my experience, and countless others – the bystander syndrome that occurs.

Grown men who don’t behave this way need to call out and put a stop to the men who do.

Fathers need to teach their sons not only how to behave, but how NOT to behave. When your loved one tells you about her Gauntlet: don’t be dismissive.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read about significant others responding with: “Oh, trying to make me jealous, bragging about all the attention you get?” or “Enjoy the attention, you’ll miss it when you get older” or the victim blaming response: “What were you wearing? What were you doing? Where were you?”.

And this is from the “decent” guys, the ones who’d never dream of being a perpetrator in a Gauntlet. However, if you are not part of the solution, you are for sure part of the problem.

If you remain neutral, cloaked in your decency and do nothing…

The millions of us in this country, the millions of us around the world will have to live our whole lives – 3 decades already for the woman who wrote that article – enduring The Gauntlet.


Do you care?

It takes so little to stand up and say STOP when you see someone needing help.

Why do I keep calling men out to stand up? Because it is way past time for them to put their brethren in check. Instead of scattering away – step up. Instead of the cowardly comment of supposed support as you exit the scene – stick around and have your say and put and end to it.

If we could stop street harassment, abuse and The Gauntlet on our own, it would have been stopped. We can’t do it alone, and we need fathers, brothers, uncles and sons to step up and come correct.

This is a male problem and males need to fix it. Time to join your sisters on the front lines and fight with us side by side.

If you – male or female – have not heard of this, nor have experienced it: That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. Count your lucky stars and go find out what you can do to help out.


As a freshman in college I went out on Halloween to participate in the annual celebration that doubled and sometimes tripled the student population. It was UCSB’s version of Spring Break. Me and my gal pals had a blast. I found out later in the new year that annually there are just tons of rapes, sexual harassment, assaults etc that go on during that “fun” yearly festival of parties.

My dorm mates and I had experienced nothing of the kind, and saw nothing of the kind going on that night. But I joined up at the student-police liaison corps when I found out how horrible that night is for so many women. Up to that point I had been clueless about that problem on campus. BUT: I didn’t dismiss it because I hadn’t experienced it.

I participated in, and joined campus groups that worked with university officials on raising awareness of rape, sexual assault and harassment. I wanted to be able to do my part to help with campus safety and be on patrol for next year’s festival. I stepped up.


Trust & Believe this has happened to your mother. Trust & Believe this has happened to your sister. Trust & Believe this is happening to your little 11 year old niece.

The two-fold approach is needed. While teaching those male children coming up, how to conduct themselves, you can be stepping up everyday and shutting down this madness.


Hollaback! Stories & Click your Support.

Violence Against women: It’s a Male Issue.

No Country For Real Men.

Men Can Stop Rape.


How does it feel knowing so many women and girls alter their lives trying to avoid The Gauntlet? How they dress, where they go and when, body language, changing cities, spending money on private transportation etc etc with no end in sight?
How is this ok?? How can we live with ourselves knowing this is happening on such a huge and wide-spread scale? When will you step up and put a stop to this?
Like the author of that article, my first experience started when I was a girl, barely 10 years old, continued on through my teens, in college, early twenties and into my thirties – and just the other day I had an incident, and I’m going to be turning 45 this month.
Our experiences are not unusual. Not outlier. They are the NORM.
If you do not stand up, you will be passing this legacy on to your sons and daughters. The Gauntlet needs to be Ended. Dismantle rape culture.

About Awake BW

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7 Responses to This Just Breaks My Heart

  1. revmatthews says:

    “…The two-fold approach is needed. While teaching those male children coming up, how to conduct themselves, you can be stepping up everyday and shutting down this madness…”

    I need to read a couple of your earlier posts before I tell you a story that may help bring a bit of perspective to your readers. Give me a day or so to catch up, if you please.

    • Awake BW says:

      Understand if you are preparing to talk about anything other than stepping up and how you can help other men and boys to treat women and girls like the human beings they are, I’m not going to allow your comment through.

      I let you carry on all misogynistic and ignorant on a few of my other posts on this subject about equality for all human beings, and ending violence and suffering of women at the hands of men – but I won’t do it again. I let Desi there, have his say because this is the first time he’s come incorrect, and what he said was mild in comparison to what you did. But Imma shut his shit down too if he continues – like you did – to be froggy without a care for how you are hurting others.

      I’m not in the mood, today is not the day, and I won’t endanger this Safe Space because you want to pontificate on how it is just fine and dandy for me and millions of other women and girls to be treated the way we are treated by males like you.

  2. bernasvibe says:

    Yes! The 2 fold approach IS needed..My unsolicited advice to ALL mothers of young boys & future MEN? As a mother of 3 young men(who co-raised them with my exhusband..) raise the SAME type of men you’d be proud to MARRY..That is the simple solution..Teach sons that chilvary is NOT dead..Men first learn to respect WOMEN from the one who brought them into the world..I believe that will all of my heart & being..Sons hold their mother to a very high standard..And it is when WE mothers fail to realize that; that we fail our sons..None of us are perfect; but we’ve got to realize the impact WE have on our sons..Period..I could go down a long list of don’t do’s..but I won’t..Instead I’ll simply say…The first woman a man should learn how to open doors for is his own mother..Simply showing/demanding respect…IF a man doesn’t respect his mother; he won’t/can’t respect any other woman in his life. Period..And quite simply a young son/boy NEEDS a male role model/mentor to teach him all of the above also..That is missing from so many lives of our Black children! And yet? It still takes TWO to make them & bring them into the world..There are no fatherless children; only fathers that don’t father children…We must do better or the type of behavior you’ve described in your post; will continue & get worse. It has already gotten worse..The solution starts where so many other things start. From the beginning; at home

  3. DesiBjorn says:

    Okay…so I really want in on this discussion but I started responding to this post and it started to get so long I felt like it was a blog post of its own…would you prefer I include my exceptionally long comment here or that I create a response post that links back to this post?

    • Awake BW says:

      You choose! I think these comment areas have word count limits, so maybe tossing in a link to your response would work best. Whichever works best for you, tho I appreciate the ask.

      Either way is fine :)

  4. DesiBjorn says:

    Okay…so…I want to first say that as a man I am ignorant to the emotional part of what this must be like for women. I also want to state that I prior to this post, I think I was ignorant to how deeply offensive women can feel about the Gauntlet. Which leads me to my comment…

    I definitely think that teaching our boys “how to conduct themselves” is a good thing; however, I think it is probably the least effective way to combat this issue. I think this for 2 reasons: 1. Because a lot of times the parents of male children either do not recognize or see this as unacceptable behavior and 2. The things that motivate this kind of behavior from men have little to do with proper upbringing.

    What I have heard from a large number of my Black female friends and associates is that they are turned off by “emotional” guys or guys that “act like little girls.” These kinds of comments are misleading to men. The trend that has begun happening is that as Black women assert themselves to the extreme of emasculating and/or eliminating the need for men. As a result men have become less dominant and, therefore, in my opinion, less respected in terms of the romantic relationships and the family dynamic. The opposition to this is a growing desire in women to see men return to traditional strong/dominant male behaviors. To meet that need some men have taken/continue hypermasculine actions (i.e. the Gauntlet) and refuse to be put away. So we, men, begin to think that, although women complain about certain male behaviors, they would think less of us as men if we were to alter those behaviors.

    As a younger man I have been guilty of the kind of behavior you are speaking of (although not to the extreme of calling a woman names because she didn’t respond to my catcalls and overt advances). But still I can remember the mind-frame that I had at the time and what motivated me to do those things and think that they were acceptable. I didn’t pattern my teenage and young male behavior after anything that my mother taught me (she was very strict regarding manners, slang, and behavior) this behavior was learned and patterned after the older guys in my neighborhood (3 of them were my godbrothers) these men served as models for me and it was the kind of behavior they displayed AND females responded positively to it. At worst, they got a dirty look from a girl that was “stuck up” (the “stuck up” girls weren’t berated or disrespected, but were seen as different from the ones that responded). The point, though, is that there was a lot of positive reinforcement from females for this behavior.

    I have always believed that the quickest way to change male behavior (especially Black male behavior) is through a collective Black female response. For instance, after so many years of Black men being vilified for abandoning their kids and refusing to support their children financially or emotionally, we now see more men than ever taking pride in taking care of and spending time with their children (whether they still have a romantic relationship with the mother or not). In the last ten years I have seen more single Black fathers or Black fathers that are more involved with their children than ever before. I truly believe this happened because Black women began to collectively denounce this behavior to the point that women wouldn’t even want to date a man who had kids that he did not see or take care of. So I think the first thing getting the majority of women to agree that these behaviors unacceptable and the men will respond. As long as there is a large portion of women who respond to these behaviors they will persist. These guys aren’t continuing this behavior because it doesn’t get them what they want.

    • Awake BW says:

      I appreciate you giving your thoughts and your perspective on this. However yet again, the onus is being put on the women and girls to be the ones to change the behavior of the men and boys. Sorry no, you guys need to figure it out and just stop doing it. It is unacceptable, and there are no excuses, and you can’t put it off on US as to why you cannot act like a decent human being and treat women and girls like decent human beings either. You are shifting responsibility.

      “I want to first say that as a man I am ignorant to the emotional part of what this must be like for women. I also want to state that I prior to this post, I think I was ignorant to how deeply offensive women can feel about the Gauntlet.”

      Dude, look at the language you use. “emotional part of what this must be like for women”. You DO realize that the author of that article – which is seems like you did not read – had to pack up and leave – uproot herself from her life in NY and move to another state entirely – due to what happens to her every day in the street? People don’t move from jobs, family and community over “emotional”. This is Real Life shit, ok? Maybe you don’t understand, because again with the language you chose:

      “how deeply offensive women can feel about the Gauntlet” The Gauntlet IS deeply offensive. It is not a benign thing that exists, and women “feel offended” by it. It is men and males abusing, harassing and oppressing women and girls each and every day. That is offensive. Language is important. It shows others how you think.

      And anyway you have heard about and understand what internalized racism is right? It is so pervasive and a part of this country and society that you have to be a very strong person to be able to avoid picking it up, having it rub off on you, have it sink into your psyche, your very BEING. The same exact thing happens with the sexism, the misogyny, the patriarchal, male supremacy that is so pervasive and a part of this country that you have to be a very strong person to be able to avoid picking it up, having it rub off on you, have it sink into your psyche, your very BEING.

      I’ve fought against BOTH my whole life. I’ve shaken loose the shackles of BOTH. Have you? Set aside that you mansplained and victim blamed, pause and take a look at why that was your response. Instead of trying to hear me and the yes millions of women who are simply asking for it to stop. How’s that for collective Black female response? I’ve read the statistics, I’ve listened to the stories, I’ve heard the pleas – have you? We BEEN asking you TO STOP. FOR DECADES.

      Will your life be ruined if you stopped catcalling women and girls? Will you be forced to relocate to another city or a state? Will it significantly alter your life and how you live it if you make the choice to go about your day without bothering anyone else going about their day? Do you risk bodily harm if you stop bothering strangers in the street? Will it hurt your soul if you encourage and work hard to make sure your brethren do the same? I’m asking this in all seriousness.

      And anyway, maybe YOU can tell me what the end result of the catcall is for you?WHAT IS THE FUCKING END GAME??? I really want to freaking KNOW. What is so important that you would disregard the humanity of another person just so you can… what exactly? Please do tell. You are violating our civil rights and want to turn around and blame us for it? What is it that you hope to get or see happen when you catcall, yell at, follow, hollar at, block the way of women and girls? I WANT TO KNOW.

      You got upset because so many people backed Zimmerman because he represented the fact that a young Black male doesn’t have the right to walk down the street un-accosted. Yet you cannot see that males are Zimmermanning women and girls all the time, every day, in every city and in damn near every country on this planet?

      And if you think things don’t get lethal – they DO. Girls and women have been shot, beaten, and ended up in the hospital and the morgue for little things like not giving their phone number, or walking or running away from the harasser, or simply ignoring them, just trying to get from point A to point B.

      You think Stop & Frisk is bad? Imagine if every other person on the same street as you, on the same bus as you, riding the same subway car as you was a cop just itching to stop you and get his hands on you. That is OUR EXISTENCE EVERY DAY.

      Just stop doing it. Just stop your friends doing it. Just let women and girls walk down the street without being bothered. Can you guys do that? Can you just do that one thing?

      If you want to fish for a fuckbuddy or a girlfriend or a wife, or whatever it is you are after when you street harass us, there are appropriate venues and activities you can attend. Where the women who are there are there willingly and are maybe looking for the same things you are. Go to a singles event, go to a bar, put an ad out in the paper or something. But:
      The women and the girls in the street, on the train, on the subway, on the bus etc: Leave them alone. Just leave us alone. Shut up, stop hollaring, stop the catcalls, stop yelling, stop the blocking of the path, stop the grabbing, stop the chasing after.

      Just STOP.
      That’s all I’m asking. That’s all we are asking. Just stop, and be a part of stopping other men and boys from doing it. You’ve ignored the collective Black female response, now how about joining the collective of Black males who are working hard to put an end to this?

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