Street harassment, often referred to by the less threatening term "catcalling," is sometimes dismissed as harmless flattery. But one viral story is now showing just how scary it can be for the person experiencing it — and how quickly it can escalate to something more sinister.
Redditor Jesus-slaves shared her experience on TwoXChromosomes, a subreddit for women:
"Yesterday after work, I stopped to buy laundry detergent and a couple grocery items," she wrote, "I barely registered my surroundings as I was in thought and a little tired. I half-heard someone say, 'Smile.' but it didn't compute he was speaking to me."
That's when things turned scary.
Then I heard, "I know that bitch didn't just ignore me." Hearing someone curse in the Wal-Mart line gets my attention 100% of the time. I love shit shows. I looked up. This man is looking me dead in the face.
Jesus-slaves goes on to explain that she (legally) carries a firearm and, feeling unsafe, took it out of her purse and put it in her back pocket.
"I've never done this before yesterday," she wrote.
"He spun on his heel and walked back to his car. I don't know what I avoided, but I'm glad I did."
This story only serves to reinforce the implicit threat behind a catcall, even one as seemingly innocuous as "smile."
Author Kate Harding perfectly summed it up in a viral tweet back in May: "Why don't we think harassment is a compliment? Because we know "fucking bitch" is on the tip of your tongue."
And because behind every "smile" could be lurking an implied "or else."