Actress and presenter Jameela Jamil has triggered a conversation involving hundreds of women after she spoke about her experience of street harassment on Twitter.
The Good Place star wrote about the need to “teach children about rejection” after a man “threatened” her when she refused to take his phone number.
In a tweet that has been liked more than 20,000 times, Jamil said the man threatened her career and called her “low class” after approaching her in the street when she was with a friend.
She said: “I explain I have a boyfriend but thank him for the offer. Man then threatens my career, saying I better remember that I rejected him.”
Responses to the tweet include several women sharing their own stories about feeling threatened after rejecting unwanted advances, with many explaining the lengths they go to in keeping themselves safe.
One Twitter user said that when she told a man she was married after he asked for her number, he claimed he did not believe her.
She said: “This reminds me of a time I was bartending and some dude asked for my number. I declined and said I was married he then follows up with ‘Are you really married because a lot of girls wear fake rings just to get out of handing out their numbers’.”
Another person warned that unwanted attention can become dangerous, saying she had been followed home after her eye contact was misunderstood.
She said: “I once had something in my eye while driving and used the rear view mirror to get it out. The guy in the car behind me thought I was winking at him and followed me all the way home. I was terrified.”
One Twitter user said that when speaking out about sexual assault, often the victim is not believed, sharing that her friends had asked what she was wearing after she was attacked.
She said: “Women, who I considered friends, say it is still the woman’s fault proves how far we have to come.”
Jamil, who has previously spoken out about body-shaming and airbrushing in the media, then made a further point about rejection of street harassment with a terrifying anecdote.
When a Twitter user pointed out that the actress should not have had to “mention that you were already taken by another man”, Jamil said she tells people she is in a relationship due to the fear of being assaulted if she has no “excuse” to reject somebody.
She said: “I once said ‘No, thank you’ to a man when I was 19 and didn’t have an excuse … and he punched me in the face. After that whether or not I have a boyfriend, I say I do.”
Jamil highlighted the need to teach children about romantic rejection, and “de-stigmatise” the act so that women will feel more empowered to say no.
She said: “We need to teach children about rejection, so that we can change the way we see rejection as a society.
“We need to de-stigmatise it, so that it doesn’t feel like the ground is swallowing you up when someone says no, however nicely.
“This would lessen their need to lash out.”
A 2016 YouGov study showed that 64% of women have experienced sexual harassment in public, rising to 85% of women aged 18 to 24.
The same study reported that 63% of women surveyed said they felt unsafe in public spaces due to the fear of harassment.
Jamil said: “Being a woman is truly, constantly scary. It’s like existing on thin ice.”