When I was a kid, my mom always told me to "fix my face" while we were in public because my painfully readable expressions would get me into all types of trouble with all the wrong people. At the very least, many of us grew up hearing that it was not polite to stare.
Why, then, can most women agree that every venture into a public space isn't complete without getting cat-called and harassed, or even followed or threatened, by random men they encounter on the street?
Now, this isn't meant to be a rant about the messed-up double standards for men and women's behavior, or the answer to why these men didn't listen to their moms in childhood; I firmly believe that fix will come along with sex education reformation. But for now, I think every woman should have a tactic like this to deal with these uncomfortable encounters when they inevitably arise.
Because my face was a dangerously open book and I hit puberty a little sooner than most, I've been practicing my technique for Aggressive Staring since around 13-years-old. I figured that instead of buying bags that hung just low enough to cover my butt while I walked or clinging to my taser every time I left the house, I should use my RBF to my advantage and wage a little war against all the creepy men that seem to be waiting out there just to ruin your day.
Thus, I developed Aggressive Staring, the only sport I've ever been good at. The concept is pretty simple, as you can probably guess from the name.
As soon as you sense unwanted eyes in unwanted places and feel the sticky smile start to slide onto their faces, you look them straight in the eye and don't back down for anything.
While it may seem ridiculous, this technique was developed based on the cliche adage of facing your fears straight on.
Even if they haven't yet stopped appraising your goods that aren't up for sale, the objective is to look them dead in the eye with a deadly serious face until after they've noticed and beyond, even if you have to keep going until they look back once, or even twice more, until they finally get the hint and look away embarrassed.
This ensures that he and everyone in the vicinity are clear about your right to feeling comfortable and respected, without any conversation required!
The most important thing to remember is to keep your cool, stay strong and not to respond to any sarcastic comments that might be used as retaliation during the Aggressive Staring process. In my personal experience, Aggressive Staring works much better if no contact is made.
The only communication that should happen should be through your cold, disapproving stare.
If you get to the point where you're pretty comfortable with the basic Aggressive Stare, you might move on to crossing your eyes, making funny faces or even a rude, startling sound or two to help move the process along.
I've found that these are usually met with shock, too, instead of just the isolated shame or embarrassment, and makes the whole game move much more quickly till you're well on your way to pocketing another win.
Committing myself to this tactic helped me make major strides in recovering from PTSD when I was convinced that everyone (and their mother) was out to get me, and getting aggressive stares from others was proof of that.
I've noticed over time that the game has made me I feel braver—ready to demand the basic respect I deserve as a human being.
It's true that the unfriendly teen inside me was the original reason for developing Aggressive Staring, but this game has become an easy and effective way to address the very real fear that many women harbor when confronted with unwanted attention in public.
My hope is that if more women indulge in an Aggressive Stare now and then, we'll be that much closer to disbanding the myth that its acceptable for men to harass strangers and that women are powerless to stop it.
If nothing else, I hope this game allows my fellow uncomfortable ladies one small victory in the constant struggle of being—or even just looking—female in public.