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This happened a long time ago, but I remember it vividly because it was the very first time I hollaed back.
I was 18 and living in Paris at the time, and as all Parisians, used the subway to get pretty much anywhere. I was coming back from a long cramming session at the university library, mid-terms were coming up and I was studying non stop. It was around 23h30, when a bulky bald man sat next me. I smiled quickly and went back to my book. A few minutes later, I felt something against my leg; I was wearing a skirt and tights. When I looked down at my thigh, I saw a finger circling a certain spot on my leg. I was confused for a few seconds, I looked at the man’s face and he was looking forwards as if nothing was happening. The subway wasn’t crowded, the guy wasn’t even worried about getting caught.
I stood up and ordered him to keep his filthy paws to himself, and told him I was going to contact security as soon as we reached the next stop. I was speaking loudly, making it a point of others hearing, although I don’t do that often. I was just so angry and disgusted. I told him I might have been barely eighteen but I was big to enough to stand up for myself and to know that there was no justification for his behavior. At that point he tried to get off the subway, and another passenger stepped in and told the guy he had already pressed the emergency button and security would be there in a few minutes. That same guy offered to escort me to my stop, I quote “but I’m pretty sure you don’t need it, I wish more women did what you did”.
Since that day I always answer back. Why is it that we are made to believe that answering back is rude or a sign of lack of class, and don’t even consider the behavior that prompted such reaction in the first place?
There is nothing rude about reminding a jerk that you are not an inflatable doll with no brain or willpower. Holla back every single time!
Submitted by Patricia Camelo
I’m 40 damn years old. I thought by now I’d get a break from this crap.
Went into supermarket the other day. At front door saw a man I sort of knew, he was at a booth selling phone plans. I recognized him as the husband of one of my husband’s associates, if that makes sense. The four of us had had drinks together a few months ago.
Because of that connection, I gave him a fulsome “Hey, how you doing?” and stopped to chat. He took the opportunity to say, “Wow, don’t you look good enough to eat? All fit and everything too, wow and you’re stopping to talk to me, whoa how sexy.” Giving me the creepy up-and-down stare and licking his lips.
I was dumbstruck. Seriously, I stood there saying, “What?” Like, was that a joke gone wrong? Had I misheard?
He said, “Have we met?” and I said, “Yeah, my husband and I had drinks with you and your wife. Your wife and my husband are on the town council together.”
He was like, “Yeah, uh, we’re not together anymore.” BIG SURPRISE. Clearly he couldn’t remember meeting me. Maybe he’s a drunk, or crazy. Who knows. (He actually seemed funny and perfectly nice that night we all went out. Go figure.)
I could kick myself: I should have just turned on my heel and left, but I felt so bad for him I let him give me one of the little phone pamphlets before I left.
Fast forward to today: I have to pop in the supermarket. Just as I was pulling in the parking lot I thought, crap, what if creepy guy’s there? Oh well, if I change my shopping schedule, the terrorists have won.
Sure enough, there he is, in his little booth at the entrance. He waved and I gave him the breeze-by, and I heard him shouting after me. Good lord. Then, I’m doing my shopping, and I see him hurry around a corner, notice me, and then come trotting up to me.
Dude accosts me at the damn dairy counter, saying, “Is something wrong?”
I didn’t look at him, but used my Mom Voice to say, “EXCUSE ME PLEASE” while turning and walking away. I decided that if he followed me I would go to security. He didn’t.
Now, I’ve dealt with way way worse, as have most of you. Somehow it just gave me a flashback to all those times of being groped and having strangers or acquaintances accost me and ask to cum on my tits or whatever, for years and years. Can I ever get a rest from it?
Submitted by Iola
What’s in a name?
Words are powerful. They can educate and empower, express and encourage. Words can forge relationships and build bridges. But despite their awesome ability to strengthen, they can also dismantle and destroy when they’re used as weapons. Stick and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt me? Tell that to anyone who’s ever been verbally bullied, abused, or harassed. There is gravity in words.
Changing the word “victim” to “accuser” until convictions are obtained in cases of rape, domestic violence, and stalking – as Rep. Bobby Franklin’s proposed House Bill 14 in Georgia seeks to do – tells survivors that not even the government believes their story. Basically, the rapists, stalkers, and abusers are innocent until proven guilty, but the survivors are on trial as soon as they report the crime. And for the record, according to the National Center for Policy Analysis, only 39% of rape survivors do report the crime – and of those, only half will result in a conviction. Those whose cases didn’t result in guilty verdict? Forget everything that can go wrong in a trial or the sphere of influence your attacker might have (Cough, cough Ben Roethlisberger) – Rep. Franklin thinks you’re just dirty, rotten liars who imagined the whole thing or are just out to ruin a perfectly good dude’s life. (In case you’re keeping a journal of Franklin’s opinions, he also considers gays to be “unrepentant drug dealers.” An elected official, ladies and gentlemen.)
A dangerous bill like this would be yet another deterrent in survivors reporting their crimes, and that results in more criminals living freely in our communities. (Makes you feel safe, doesn’t it?) It’s not just registered Georgia voters like me who feel outraged by this nonsense. A change.org petition proves that frustration is being felt from Illinois all the way to Israel. And while House Bill 14 may not pass, Rep. Franklin should know that we are not giving our consent for any attack on justice for victims that our officials might attempt to make – and we’re not lying about that.
Among the reasons I am leaving my job is the sexual harassment. It makes me uncomfortable and angry. At the supermarket where I just finished my last day (thank god!) I am hit on in subtle and not-subtle ways, and have been since I started working there.
The guys in produce stare at me whenever I have to go there. I used to have little conversations with them, to be friendly, and to break language barriers, and just be nice and make connections. But all these old guys (30s and up) smile in that sickening way, indicating that this is not a normal conversation, but that they want to fuck me. I can tell.
Same thing with the deli guys, old men hitting on me and giving me more smile than makes sense for the situation. I hate it. It makes me feel dirty and attacked and sexualized when I don’t want to be. It makes me feel like I can have a normal nice conversation with a man at my job (only with a woman), because they will imagine fucking me while I am talking to them. It disgusts me.
On top of that, when I first started working there, my manager Victor kept hitting on me and telling me how “sexy” I was, when I was completely insecure in this new job. I think I said something back to him…but honestly I don’t remember, because I’ve blocked it out.
Victor does that to all of the new girls and it is fucking unacceptable. Recently a girl was talking about telling the bigger manager, Tommy, about Victor (as if he doesn’t know! as if he’ll do something about it). She talked about a sexual harassment lawsuit if Tommy wouldn’t do anything about it. I told her I was behind her and would talk to him and do whatever if she would. But I don’t know if she did anything, we never talked about it again and honestly I would rather just get the hell out of that place.
I also have customers bothering me and hitting on me. The other day I was in the park by my house and this guy passed me and started talking to me, he’s a customer that always goes on my line, is 40 something maybe, and I made the mistake of having a friendly conversation with him at some point in the past. So now he knows a little about my life! Oh god. He knows I’ve been to Germany and he always talks German at me when I see him, and gives me the creepy smile. That same goddamn creepy smile, that seems to be intended to make me despise all men. So that guy passes me in the park and starts talking German at me again. I wanted to shout “I hate you and I hate that fucking language!!” (Because it reminds me of Nazis and the holocaust). Instead I just said “I don’t understand you” as he jogged away, and I avoided looking at him every other time he passed me.
These harassments remind me off all other harassments and worse that I’ve been through. I feel powerless and furious at the same time. I feel attacked from all sides. I hate it. I wish I could do something, and I know I can, by talking back to them, yelling back at them, or shaming them in front of other people. But I still feel horrible every time something like this happens, which is sadly almost every day.
Submitted by Emma
My friend and I had gotten on the wrong COTA bus to go to the local movie theater. Instead, we ended up downtown after business hours. The area was completely deserted except an older drunk man who proceeded to sit right next to me. When he started to talk to me, I didn’t want to be rude so we had a short exchange. But when he asked “is your hair real?,” and then started to touch my hair, I knew things weren’t going in the right direction. He wrapped his arm around me and started kissing me on the side of the face, and all I could do was quietly mumble, “I don’t know you, this is so awkward, I don’t know you.” When he began yelling at me to take out my septum piercing and verbally insulting my friend (telling her to “do more situps”,) I was terrified. I didn’t even know what to do. I was afraid to even walk away in case he would try to hurt me because he was very, very drunk and belligerent. After minutes of excruciating groping, a series of COTA buses rolled up and he just wandered away. I don’t think he was even taking a bus. He just stopped over to sexually harass me.
Right after, all my friend and I could do was laugh about the weirdness of the situation, but I was secretly uncomfortable and afraid. I still feel uncomfortable now when I am alone at night, and I am always afraid that I am the type of person that is too afraid to stand up for myself.
Submitted by Kathryn
This happened a long time ago, when I was 15, but it still sticks out to me as one of the creepier things that has ever happened to me.
I was walking home after school, it must have been April or May and it was warm out. There was a Mr. Softee ice cream truck on the corner on 2nd ave and 11th, and I wanted to buy some chocolate soft serve with my leftover lunch money. I walk up, and the ice cream man takes my order. He gives me the ice cream, I give him my money, and before I can start to walk away he asks me my name. I lied and said “Nancy,” he told me that that was a very beautiful name. He asked me where I lived and I said “in the neighborhood,” then I smiled and started to walk away. I was walking downtown, in the direction of traffic, and moments later I realize that *he is following me in the ice cream truck.* He yells out the window and asks where I’m headed. Completely freaked out, I turn around and walk against traffic without responding.
I was 15 years old and I only wanted some goddamn ice cream, but instead I was made to feel completely disgusting. Thanks, ice cream man.
Submitted by Syd
I was sitting at the end of a bench at the Steel Plaza T Station one evening. I had my bag by my side so no one could sit directly next to me. A man came up to the bench and instead of sitting farther down away from me, he stood directly next to me. I could feel him staring at me and moved my bag to cover my legs (I instantly regretted wearing shorts). When I moved my bag, he took that as an invitation to sit next to me. Even though there was a whole bench to my left, he sat so uncomfortably close to me he was touching me. I moved over as much as I could without falling off of the bench. He asked me if I had the time and I had my cell out so I told him the time. I tried to call my boyfriend but did not get service in the station. I stood up as my train was pulling into the station. My heart started pounding when he also stood up. He leaned in close to me and said, “You have gorgeous legs.” Thankfully, he sat back down and I ran onto the train. The minute I sat down on the train I started to cry. I wasn’t brave enough to look at him as my train pulled away. I felt dirty, violated, and objectified. I will never forget his words and how they made me feel. To him it may have seemed like an innocent compliment but it was NOT. If I could confront him today I’d tell him, “My wearing shorts was not an invitation to stare at me, objectify me, or speak to me. I am a human and you turned me into a victim and made me feel like an object. Your comment was not innocent. It was an assertion of masculine power.”
Submitted by Olivia
In more of what we’ve seen all week from media across the board, Bill Maher spent a considerable amount of his February 19 show cheaply exploiting Lara Logan’s Cairo assault by trying to convince a leery audience that middle eastern men are more sexist than American men, citing an example of a Muslim man in New York who beheaded his wife.
Distracting audience and viewer attention away from a real look at sexual violence by indulging in “this is why we’re better than them” rhetoric and wild goose chase examples of misogyny to support his hypothesis, Bill used TV privilege to assert his own ethnocentric agenda.
“…talk to women who have ever dated an Arab man—the reviews are not good.”
“I’m not pre-judging, I’m judging. They’re worse, what’s wrong with just saying that?”
Oh Bill, your male superiority complex just isn’t relevant.
Continuing on, Bill waxed proudly that American women are privileged to worry about things like equal pay and whether or not someone calls them names.
Thank goodness Tavis Smiley jumped in as a voice of reason, telling Bill that it’s not about who is better or less sexist but about really looking at the problem, pointing out that three inches of a knife blade in his back as opposed to eight inches is still a knife blade in his back.
C’mon, Bill, replacing sexism with racism is not a proper hollaback. And replacing sexism with more sexism isn’t either.
Toronto’s Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) has released the results of their study on how women do and do not respond to street harassment.
127 of you took part in the study and the results will be used to develop an app with phrases and resources for responding to harassment—look for it in October.
A whooping 30.4% of you answered YES to ‘Have you ever responded to harassment in a way that you felt proud of?’
WAY TO GO, LADIES! That number doesn’t include participants who still holla’ed but who just didn’t feel good about it—because, well, street harassment sucks and sometimes nothing makes it better!
I’ve lived in the Bay Area my whole life and have experienced all sorts of street harassment (cat calling, inappropriate touching, etc.), but what happened recently has really made me question if I should even bother responding to small talk from strangers at all.
On the night of 2/17 (approx. 8:30pm), I was making my way to the train station after my evening class and was approached by a man who looked to be in his late 30s-40s. He told me he liked my boots. I said “Thanks.” My wardrobe was basic: hoodie, scarf, long thermal + t-shirt, jeans and bright red Dr. Marten boots. He then proceeded to keep the conversation going by asking me my name, where I was heading and if we could walk to the train station together. I started to feel uneasy at that point considering that a classmate told me about a series of sexual assaults near the campus. However, despite my uneasiness, he looked harmless and seemed like he was lonely and needed someone to talk to. I was raised to be polite so I agreed to his request, but made a point to be very cautious by walking under the light and close to other people.
Once we made it to the station, we exchanged information about our goals in school, where we lived, just basic ‘get to know you’ stuff. The first red flag that I noticed was when I told him about my train exit, he responded with: “Oh well, I have the extra money to visit there so I’ll get off the same stop as you.” I was immediately taken aback and got really nervous since his train is on the opposite side of the platform. Earlier he told me that he was going home then all of a sudden changes his mind? I asked him “Do you even know anyone in the area?” and he said, “Yeah, I have a couple of friends who live there. In fact, I got my first car there.” I got my cell phone out of my backpack and started texting my boyfriend, unfortunately, since the train station is underground I couldn’t get any reception! I panicked, but did not show it.
The second red flag was when he started commenting on my looks and told me how pretty my smile was and that he was glad he met me. He sounded so OBSESSED and creepy. The way he looked at me made me feel dirty. With cell phone in hand, I told him that I had to make an IMPORTANT phone call and he should stick around so we could take the train together. He said “OK, I will be waiting for you.” I didn’t bother letting him finish his sentence and ran upstairs as fast as I could and notified the station agents about my situation. I could barely speak because I was terrified at that point. When I finally got reception I called my boyfriend and told him that I was really scared and asked if he could pick me up. The wait (about 15 minutes) felt like hours! The man never came upstairs to check on me (thankfully!) and finally my phone rang. I felt so relieved… who knows how the night could have ended if I would have never made that phone call.
I was pretty shaken up that night and still am. As I’ve mentioned in the beginning I have dealt with my fair share of street harassment, but nothing to this degree. This guy was willing to get off the same exit as I did even though he lives the opposite way! This story may not seem like a big deal, but I will never forget the look in his eyes. The last time someone followed me home I ended up being sexually assaulted so this incident brought back a lot of bad memories.
As of now, I don’t have any solid plans for my after school commute, but have decided to ignore compliments from strangers entirely. My politeness seems to be an open invitation for harassment or inappropriate behavior. I can’t dress up or dress down. Nothing seems to help! What’s a girl to do?
Thanks for reading and stay safe out there.
Submitted by S.P.