Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein on Street Harassment

Philadelphia’s City Paper has a tongue-in-cheek advice column titled “Ask Papa”. The premise of the column is for readers to solicit advice from the late Ernest Hemingway by sending their questions to the writer, Alli Katz, who then channels Ernest Hemingway via Ouija board to give advice. Last week, “Hemingway” tackled street harassment.

“Hemingway’s” advice was problematic, to say the least, we were inspired to channel his estranged mentor, Gertrude Stein; bringing back to life their famous feud.

Welcome to “Ernest Hemingway versus Gertrude Stein:  

Street Harassment Edition.”


This is what good old Hemingway-reincarnate had to say about street harassment in the City Paper’s April 27, 2013 “Ask Papa” column:

Dear Papa: Now that the weather is warm, I want to ride my bike more, but whenever I bike in a dress I get honked at. I’m sick of getting cat-called for just leaving my house! What should I do? —Bare-Legged in Bella Vista

Dear Bare: I don’t understand. What is the problem? Wear pants? Don’t ride your bike? Shout back? Tell each one to shove his own eye in his asshole? Marry them? That would surely cause suffering. But, really — why would you ask me this? The only reason I’ve ever worn a dress is to hear what a man had to say about it.

Ernest communicates with writer Alli Katz via Ouija board. Send her your questions for Papa.


Of course, we here at HollabackPHILLY couldn’t let that go without a response. We channeled his late mentor, Gertrude Stein, to bring in her expertise about Hemingway, and what it is to be a woman who is street harassed, both alone, and when walking with her same-sex partner. Check out the letter we wrote to the editor, enclosing Stein’s response!

Oh Mr. Hemingway. After hearing the call for my assistance in addressing this City Paper column, I had to respond. Perhaps had we not parted ways I could have saved you from responding to the call of this column. There is still much for you to learn. In reading and mentoring you on your work, it became clear you were one of these men, who envisioned women as things at which to stare, our humanity less than yours. Perhaps I should have taken the advice you give this woman, and told you then, when you were a mere 23 and possibly saved from espousing this drivel.
Many people who are harassed on the street take these things quietly, but still feel them deeply. The layers of oppressions often built-in to street harassment experiences make it less comfortable, and often less safe, for many people to respond to their harassers. Following your advice can extend the license men feel they have to verbally harass, and lead to physical and sexual assault to silence the people who dare to speak out against their behavior. The harassment I experienced as I walked alone was one thing, but the harassment when I dared to walk with Alice was entirely another. I am sure you can relate, since you slandered my name for my enduring relationship with Alice. Not knowing how our shouting at the man would be interpreted in these harassing situations, it wasn’t always the easiest, and was often far from the best, option. Regardless, it was not my error to correct or my shame to carry.
Nor is this Bare-Legged In Bella Vista’s shame, it lays entirely at the feet of men who engage in this behavior, and those giving advice like yours, dearest Ernest. The shame is entirely yours.
-Gertrude Stein
Writer Rochelle Keyhan, Director of HollabackPHILLY, communicated with the late Gertrude Stein via Ouija board for assistance drawn from Ms. Stein’s relationship with Hemingway as his mentor, and personal experience as a woman in a life-long relationship with her beloved Alice.
Update: 05/02/13


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