How to Respond to Street Harassment in Paris - 3 Useful Tips
Paris is beautiful, and entirely walkable making it frustrating when you find yourself in a situation where you don't feel comfortable. Leering men is unfortunately a universal language and Paris isn't immune to it.
I've had a few incidents in Paris, nothing serious, but enough to make me feel a need to write this post so that other ladies can learn from my experiences. Just remember that this post shouldn't dissuade you from visiting Paris. It's a beautiful city but it's large, and like any large city you've got to be smart about it.
My experience with street harassment in Paris
A few years ago I was walking around Gare du Nord. It's a pretty common area for tourists to find themselves in because it's one of the largest train stations in Paris. It was a beautiful sunny day so I walked from the station all the way down to the Seine.
During the time it took me to walk I was approached or cat called by over 10 different men. Some men would follow me, others would come up and start talking to me, trying to get me to hang out with them or give them my name and number. I'm a nice person so I smiled and kindly said thanks but no thanks.
It started to annoy me to the point that I was ready to buy some pants (it was hot and I was wearing shorts. I couldn't help but think this added to the attention). Once I hit the river, things calmed down and having ventured through different areas of Paris I realized that some are worse than others.
I was comforted and angry to see I wasn't the only one who this happens to. Many women get harassed in similar areas or on the subway. I'm also happy to see that there is a larger movement in France called #balancetonporc (literally translates to "give up your pig", pig meaning gross guy). Awareness is being raised about street harassment and proper etiquette for the subway. The French government is also working on trying to solve this by pushing for a law to make street harassment illegal.
*Update - August 2, 2018: France has officially passed legislation to make street harassment illegal. Harassers can be fined up to 750 euros.
3 Things you can do to help with Street Harassment
While, fines are the step in the right direction, it's hard to enforce them if you're alone. So until the issue is totally resolved, here are 3 things that could help you if you find yourself in this situation:
1. Know your arrondissements
There are certain areas that I tend to avoid when alone in Paris. Not saying they're bad, there are certainly women who live there, but the chances of street harassment for me was higher.
The areas where I had the most issues were: La Chapelle, Barbès - Rochechouart, Gare du Nord, Château Rouge
When looking for accommodation, my favourite areas to stay are the following because they're centrally located to everything and I feel pretty comfortable walking home at night here: Quartier Latin, Saint-Germain dos Près, Saint-Michel, Panthéon, Opéra, Le Marais, Madeleine-Vendôme, Champs-Élysée, Tour Eiffel-Champs du Mars, Invalides École-Militaire, Louvre-Tuileries
2. respond Firmly and quickly
You can be firm when approached on the street. There's no need to be pleasant or nice, or worry about hurting their feelings. If you feel uncomfortable when someone approaches you just say no thanks and quickly walk away. If you don't speak the language a simple "non, merci" should suffice. I avoid being angry or rude as you never know how people react.
3. Seek Help if needed
If you ever feel really uncomfortable, don't be afraid to pop into a store and ask for help. If you're being followed firmly tell them, "arrête de me suivre" (stop following me) and try to get somewhere with larger crowds.
I found this article from StopStreetHarassment.org helpful. And remember, whether you're another woman or a man, if you see someone who may need the help, always offer.
Above all, don't let this ruin your experience or deter you from visiting Paris.
It's a beautiful city and overall very safe. Just be smart and enjoy your travels.