How 5 Women Stand Up to the Type of Sexual Harassment That Got O’Reilly Fired

Well, it finally happened. Slimy Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly has finally been ousted from his primetime position after months of pressure from the media, advertisers, the public and of course, the women who were victims of his sexual harassment.

It only took five sexual assault settlements (totaling $13 million), 50 advertisers yanking their business from Fox News, tons of scrutiny after the Roger Ailes sexual harassment scandal and even more accusations from women for Fox to fire the sexist pundit. Then again, what else can we expect considering a man who’s been formally accused of sexual misconduct 23 times was successfully elected president of the United States?

Sexual harassment has an age-old history of being minimized, dismissed or overlooked. Nearly every adult woman has experienced it, whether in the form of catcalling, crass jokes or a touch that lingered a little too long. It’s not OK, but it’s a reality of our world, so the least we can do is talk about it… a lot.

In order to keep the conversation around sexual harassment front and center, we asked five real women how they’ve dealt with sexual harassment and sexism in general. Check out their brilliant, ballsy strategies below.

More: What Feminism Means to 7 Real Women

“I used to swallow the insult, but now I’m OK with making others feel uncomfortable.”

Call it out

“Like many women, I’ve experienced sexism ranging from physical harassment, like an ass grab in my middle school hallway to having a random older man tell me to smile because ‘how could a young precious lady like yourself ever express anything other than sugar and spice?’ I’ve grown to the point where I no longer silence myself. I’m OK with making others feel uncomfortable — if they make me feel uncomfortable, I want it to be known. I used to swallow insults to cater to social settings. It’s hard being the party pooper, but silence is not the seed for change. I no longer let sexist jokes slide by and it feels great.

“In my social circles, I’m grateful that I don’t face blatant sexism often. The misogyny I do face daily is structural: the fact that on my transportation route, I have to walk from a train stop that is poorly lit. Walking between a concrete graffiti wall and train tracks is not somewhere a woman generally likes to be in the dark — yet it’s my way back home. If we had more female representation in government, I believe they would understand that walking 10 minutes in an unpopulated, dark road makes a woman’s heart rate triple. They would vote to add streetlights. I continue to talk about my fears and interactions and hope that one day women will be free of these worries.” — Gretchen, 22, Budapest

“I’ve entered the no fucks era of my relationship with sexism.”

Use it as motivation

“I’ve entered the no fucks era of my relationship with sexism. I’ll often give street harassers the finger if I feel like I’m in a safe enough situation. Work is a bit more tricky. I’m in an industry that’s roughly 80 percent male, and men have a disproportionate number of leadership positions. We’re a very progressive company, however, so I find the sexism to be more subtle. That’s helpful in some ways because you can discuss it head-on — nobody is pretending that our company is where it needs to be on this issue. I try not to let little things slip by. I’m on a regular phone call with five men and when I sent around the calendar invite, one of the men berated me for not including the call’s number high enough up in the invite — ugh. My response was, ‘Well, it’s a good thing I wasn’t hired to be a secretary.’

“I have a tight-knit group of girlfriends who all identify as feminists, as does my boyfriend. I feel so lucky to be in a relationship that is overtly feminist and allows me to be myself and pursue my ambitions. I’m trying to focus less on the injustices I experience as a relatively privileged straight white woman and figure out ways I can support women with fewer options and more barriers. Getting catcalled and not always being treated fairly at work sucks — but I think it’s important to recognize that women like me — white, well-educated, relatively wealthy — have most directly benefited from 100 years of activism by our grandmothers, mothers and sisters. There’s still a lot more work to do.” — Suzanne, 29, San Francisco

Woman Walking
Image: Getty Images

“I’ve had to move subway cars more times than I care to remember.”

Confront the offender

“I’ve encountered sexism in so many capacities that I handle each situation differently, and it almost always depends on my level of safety. If I’m being sexually harassed on the street and it’s during the day, I’m more apt to turn around and walk up to the guy and ask him why he thought it was appropriate to yell something in my general direction or smack his lips at me as though I’m a dog. It’s usually met with confusion or even more sexism. More often than not, if I don’t answer his advances or challenge him, he calls me a ‘bitch,’ ‘cunt’ or ‘ugly’ anyway.

“At night, I usually ignore it and get my keys out to make sure the harassment doesn’t turn into something more serious. I’ve had to move subway cars more times than I care to remember because a guy thought staring at me while he touched himself was appropriate behavior. I’m almost always on the defensive when I’m alone, which is an unfortunate truth about being a woman in New York City. And any man who says, ‘But if a woman did [insert harassment here] it would be totally fine,’ doesn’t understand the implicit power dynamic that men still have over women in our society.” — Lauren, 29, New York City

Woman standing in street
Image: Getty Images

“He said, ‘Why don’t you just stand there and look pretty?’”

Vent about it

“I was photographing my close friends’ wedding and this guy who is supposed to be my friend is also a photographer. I guess he decided he wanted to shoot the groomsmen photos too, which I was OK with because the more photos for the newlyweds, the better. But during the beginning of the shoot, he looked at me and said, ‘Why don’t you just stand there and look pretty?’ in the most condescending and rude way. And all the groomsmen’s eyes got wide in shock. I told him that was super-rude and he just smirked and laughed. I didn’t mention it again because the groom was there and it was his big day, so I didn’t want to ruin it for him. I just ranted to my friends after the wedding.” — Tyne, 19, New York City

“I’ll gladly do the opposite of what men find attractive.”

Rebel against outdated feminine stereotypes

“It kills me when someone implies that I should or shouldn’t do something based on a man’s opinion. I remember when a very well-respected fashion designer told me I should show off my cleavage more because, ‘Don’t you want men to look at you?’ Or the time I told my male friend I would gladly have a flat chest in a second, and he said, ‘Men love breasts — don’t do that,’ and I immediately told him I didn’t give a shit what men want and would gladly do the opposite of what any man finds attractive. So many women say things like this too, and it makes me want to say, ‘Base your life on something other than a man’s evaluation of your damn appearance!’” — Chloe, 25, New York City

More: The Top 5 Feminist Moments in Pop Culture This Year

A version of this story originally posted on StyleCaster.


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