We have two young female guests visiting from Germany, and they arrived midday today before we got home and could give them an orientation of the city and our neighborhood. In search of lunch, they headed down to Third St via Palou. Upon their arrival at Third St, and as they were looking around for a place to eat, they were greeted by catcalls from several men hanging out on both sides of the street. Catcalling - the abusive verbal harassment from men towards women passing by - has been part of our urban landscape seemingly forever.
Read "A Photographer Turns Her Lens on Men Who Catcall" for an interesting portrait of men who catcalled photographer Hannah Price.
Almost immediately, a police cruiser pulled up and the officer inside asked our guests where they were going, if they were lost, and kind of admonished them for venturing into the Bayview. The officer scared them a bit, telling them how dangerous the neighborhood is, that it's the most dangerous place in the city and that people routinely get shot there. He then encouraged them to get into his cruiser so that he could take them to a safer neighborhood. After dropping them off in the safety of the Portola, he bid them adieu.
Initially upon hearing this story I thought, how could the police be spreading such a terrible perception of our neighborhood? But then after my indignation wore off, and I'd gotten a fuller picture of the situation, that regardless of the negative perception he was spreading, I was actually quite relieved that the officer had been there and that he'd gotten in the middle of what he felt was a potentially bad situation.
Police are taught to intervene when something doesn't seem right, and I know I wish more regular citizens felt able to do the same (myself included). The other day, CW Nevius wrote in the Chronicle about a similar situation in which he and his wife intervened and helped protect a couple of women being taunted by two men at a bus stop. Comments were mixed as to whether they'd done the right thing, or if they were just being busybodies who could have ended up hurt.
For whatever reason, some men continue to believe that they are within their rights to make a woman (or anyone for that matter) feel endangered by calling out inappropriately to them. Maybe they think it's a way to make themselves feel more like men. These men think that their taunts show how manly they are, when in fact, they show the opposite. A real man respects a woman and treats her accordingly. If you google the phrase "man up", you get all these links to help you increase your level of machismo. That's hardly manning up, in my book. To me, you man up by taking responsibility for your actions, treat others with the respect you would like in return, and you show off your manliness by being the better man. My nephew has done a great deal of volunteering with the White Ribbon Campaign, which works to teach men what it really means to be a man. The reprobates on Third St this afternoon could use a little schooling in this area.
I'm really embarrassed that our guests' first experience in our neighborhood involved a police escort out of it. But I'll take being embarrassed over having something horrible happen any day.