"I don't talk to strangers on the street, goodbye" nicely?
I know that it is not my job to be nice to random men on the street that decide they want to have a conversation with me. However, for who I am, and my personality, and *cough* probably some internalized patriarchy, I feel really uncomfortable being confrontational. Saying "go away" feels confrontational, as does "I don't want to talk to you".
Part of me wonders, what if this one person was just trying to be nice and didn't know that this is a rude/socially awkward thing to do? And so I wish I had some litmus test, that IF you keep talking to me after *insert nice phrase here*, now I know you are street harassing me and I can be more rude.
Today, a man was walking on the street ahead of me. I was carrying groceries and almost home. An elderly woman was between us. He looked over his shoulder, saw her and me, and stopped walking. After the elderly woman passed, he started walking beside me and said "Hot today!" I nodded and kept walking. He said "I'm from Africa. There, it's hot every day!" I nodded and walked faster. He looked kind of scruffy. He was pulling a battered suitcase. Maybe he was from Africa (although don't people from Africa often say specifically where they are from, not the whole continent?), and/or maybe he was just trying to be friendly. But I do not ever, ever feel like making a conversation with a man on the street, particularly not when he avoided another person to talk to me specifically and when I am half a block from my apartment building.
I wouldn't call this street harassment. This isn't like the time when a man smiled at me on the street, and I nodded and smiled back, and he walked up to me, slowly put out his hands, and firmly cupped both of my breasts. But it's kind of like that. Because until he actually had his hands on my breasts, how was I to know whether he's a street harasser, crazy person, sexual assault waiting to happen, or just a polite person saying hello on the street?
Even for feminism, even for myself, I don't have the energy to tell people to fuck off when I'm not sure they deserve it. And that sucks. Because it means that I generally don't know they're a street harasser until I've been harassed. And then it's reactionary. And then my day is already ruined.
So, yeah. Any techniques for politely telling people to go the fuck away would be really welcome - because I would love a way to be able to weed out the good-but-socially-inept people from the street harassers. Right now I just keep walking, and faster, but that only works if I can out-walk them, and it feels like a very rude thing to do if they're just misunderstanding. But then again, maybe I just need to get more comfortable with being rude on the street.
ETA: I probably could have titled this post #YesAllWomen, wow - I know street harassment is common, but these comments came so fast, and from so many different people! So many of us either have a to-go tactic to handle men on the street or are wondering how to deal with men on the street. This has already been so helpful. Thank you. <3