BarkPost recently ran an article about street harassment while walking dogs and the writer’s experience was so different from mine, I wanted to talk more about it and get more input from our readers.
I’ve linked to the Facebook post rather than the article itself because the Facebook comments overwhelmingly indicate that street harassment increases when a woman is alone with her dog. The author has a smaller dog, but according to the comments, it doesn’t matter the size or breed, and I think that’s really interesting.
Personally, I’ve got three big mutts that attract a lot of polite attention but completely eliminate street harassment. They’re big, but aren’t breeds or mixes generally considered “threatening.” The fact that having a large dog or two with me ended catcalling really drove home the message that street harassment is predatory rather than complimentary behavior. I can dress cute, do my makeup and go downtown alone at night with a dog and get the exact type and amount of attention I get if my husband or another man is with me. If my husband is alone with them, people are more likely to use the dogs as a way to start chatting than they are with me.
Not getting catcalled is so abnormal that I’ve found it incredibly freeing to walk my dogs places I would never go by myself. Of course, I wouldn’t take my guys anywhere dangerous, but catcalls can make a well-lit, crowded area feel unsafe. Polite questions about my dogs and stories about their dogs help restore my faith in random men I meet on the street.
Discovering that women with dogs in excess of 100 lbs. are still harassed while walking them makes me wonder. I live in an extremely dog-friendly city and most people have good manners about things like asking to pet your dog or not whistling at them. If someone does something rude to my dog, the people they’re with will almost always correct them without me saying anything. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that after being catcalled. Does street harassment stop because people are more comfortable advocating for polite treatment of dogs than women? Do I feel more confident with my dogs and my body language isn’t attracting the creeps it would without them? What’s going on?
Of course, this is all anecdotal, but street harassment is something that most women spend a good amount of time thinking about and arranging their lives around. It’s not uncommon for concerns about personal safety to influence the size, breed, and even the decision to get a dog. If going with a bigger breed won’t actually help you feel safer walking your dog, it’s probably better to know that and consider a lower energy breed instead.
3 replies on “Dogs and Street Harassment ”
I think that walking with a dog is a deterrent to people who are more dangerous that catcallers — no question. However, I think that some street harassers see a dog as yet another angle with which to approach people, especially from a distance. I strongly suspect that the size of the dog is one component, but that the breed and color of the dog also factor in. For example, no one was afraid of my goony 60-pound bluetick foster. MANY people were afraid of my 60-pound Chow Chow.
I’m also curious about this. There isn’t a tonne of street harassment where I live but I do feel like walking my adorable teddy-bear of a dog deflects attention from me. I feel less awkward because people smile and coo at her. With the exception of one weirdo who yelled “BINGO BINGO BINGO” (wtf?) in my face about a month ago (while I was walking my dog), I’ve barely been bothered. I chalked it up to her being (oddly) a humanizing influence … like I’m ok to walk my dog because there’s a reason for me to be out, I’m not just a woman having the audacity to walk freely down the streets In Order To Be Seen and Commented On.
I think body language is huge. I know that my body language when I’m walking my 30 pound dog is different than when I’m walking alone. I look more confident and aware because I’m always looking for triggers to steer around. I also live in a small town though, so I wonder if we lived somewhere bigger it would be more of a problem. (This is gauged by the fact that when walking in the summer, my shorts barely cover my butt. So if I was gonna hear something, that would probably be the time.)