Thao Nguyen

They call her the Rosa Parks of street harassment. That might be going a bit far, but she deserves our admiration. Nguyen is the woman who used her cell phone to snap a photo of a man exposing himself on the subway. When the police didn’t respond, she sent it to the local papers. The response was immediate and led to his arrest. Hurray!

The HollabackNYC blog is now a place for anyone to speak out against street (and underground) harassment. It's about time.

In kindergarten, I was followed home from school by a man who exposed himself to me. A vigilant neighbor noticed me on the wrong side of the street, and came and chased him away. In sixth grade Home-Ec the luck of the alphabet put me between two boys who spent the hour shooting their pencils into my lap or under my chair so they could dive under the desk and grope me. Years later, when I told friends about the kindergarten incident, they treated me with kid gloves as if I were a survivor of horrible, ongoing abuse. In sixth grade, my teachers dismissed my complaints as weakness, a failure to understand what boys are like. What I love about Nguyen’s response and the whole HollabackNYC phenomenon is that it seems to have found the appropriate middle ground of outrage.

When the website founders were interviewed on NPR the other day, a woman called in with a shout-out to all the Catholic and Yeshiva school girls whose uniforms made them daily targets for lewd comments.

Three cheers to Thao Nguyen and those who’ve spoken up since! Here’s a little bit of guerrilla feminism that helps make the world better, that makes it less and less possible for us to accept annoying nonsense and worse in public.