Last weekend, I went to a goth night at a gay club**. This is an environment where I feel safe and accepted. I can dress provocatively and expect respect in the appreciative glances I may get. I can flirt and dance and express myself, including my sexuality, and not be thinking the whole time about whether or not anyone will think it gives them the right to claim me as theirs, or that if someone does I’m “asking for it”. I can expect backup and support from total strangers if someone gets too aggressive on the dance floor.
But this doesn’t apply to the walk between where my friend and I parked and the club.
On the way back to the car, a group of guys gave some glances and a “hey girl” and an “I like your hair” comment to us. It shouldn’t matter. It should feel respectful and appreciative – they didn’t say anything lewd; I like my hair tonight too. But it didn’t feel that way. It put my hackles up. It made me think “we need to walk faster”. It made me think “I’m wearing vinyl pants, clearly anyone would think I’m asking for whatever happens next. Never mind the corset they can’t see under my coat”. It made me think “Priority one is protecting my friend”, who is a few years younger and who had thigh-high fishnets and garters showing under a short skirt – probably an easier target than the pants. It made me think “which is less likely to escalate this – ignoring them, making a snide remark, or saying ‘thanks’?”.
It made me think “They’re black, we’re white. God why does that matter? Why does that make me more uncomfortable?”*
It made me think of all the times similar things have happened in my life – creepy drunk guy sitting down right next to me late at night on an otherwise empty L car in Chicago and putting his hand disturbingly close to the hem of my skirt(I got up and switched cars at the next stop); crazy addicts commenting on the size of my breasts at the train station near the meth clinic in my hometown (I’d go into the coffee shop in the station and risk missing the train; I might add this happened many times and I was usually wearing baggy tee shirts and jeans, and clearly a minor); an old Buick slowing down next to me and a group of female friends walking around our hometown after dark, rolling down the window, asking how much for a good time (we laughed and kept walking; thankfully he drove off; again, tees and jeans, young girls).
It made me think all of this strategic, defensive thinking, and all of these flashbacks, in a split second.
I said “Thanks” over my shoulder as we kept walking, and we all went on our ways without any further interaction.
*Sorry, I read the anti-discrimination bit after sending in my story. I do think the race of the “harrassers” is relevant, because it speaks to a culture and society where I have been trained to have a more adverse reaction based on race (the point of my story is that the whole situation was pretty much harmless, but past experiences and societal training made it raise my hackles), which is sad and makes me angry at society and myself, but I understand the complexities of that may not be apparent in my story and am totally fine with it being edited out.
**I also think that the club I was at being a gay club is relevant because it’s a factor that contributes to my feeling safe there, but the more important factor is that it is a goth club, which is a community where I have found sexuality at a high combined with harrassment at a low, and thus I am ok with the fact that it is also a gay club being edited out.
I enjoy running, especially during exam time, which happens to be the peak of summer. As such, running in a tank top and shorts seems to be the obvious choice (not that it matters what I was wearing, I still don’t deserve to be treated like a piece of meat!).
Anyway, as I came round a corner during one of my runs, a dog came up and, as they do, started to sniff my crotch. I gently pushed his head away, and gave him a small pat. His owner came up, scanned me up and down, and because I was wearing an ipod (but didn’t actually have my music on- I use it as an excuse to not stop and talk to people) decided it was ok to say “Fuck, I don’t blame him for getting under there. I want to be there too.”
Excuse me?! You may have not thought I was able to hear you, but that still gives you no right to say it!
I am a foreign student at an American university. One night, I went with friends to a fraternity lodge for a party. I was expecting to have fun, to dance, maybe even have a little drink from one of the red cups which are so prevalent in American college movies. What happened was rather different. First, let me be clear- we do not grind where I am from, we dance. Close together, yes, but the participants face each other. In grinding, if a man and a woman are dancing, the man is *behind* the woman, so that they are positioned his front to her back.
I started dancing with my friends in an area where there was slightly more space, but a guy came up behind me, grabbed me really hard at my waist, still from behind, and started grinding himself into my tailbone. His hands were pressing me against him so hard that I couldn’t get out- I’m short and his arms were stopping my arms from giving him a good elbowing. Then he put his hand on my breast, and I tried to swat him away. It worked. He moved his hand down to my skirt and under it. I was wearing tights, but still- nothing should be under my skirt if i don’t want it to be there! This time when I swatted him away he didn’t budge. Finally, he let me go after about 20 minutes of groping; I never even saw his face. My American (girl) friend thought I was being prudish. I went home and cried. I felt dirtied and cheap.
I went to New York with a friend who had a conference in the city. One day while she was in a meeting, I decided to grab a taxi and explore a little by myself. I had $50 and my phone, and that was it. As I exited my hotel and started to walk towards a larger street to hail a cab, a man walking the other way turned around and started whispering things near my ears. “Damn baby, you hot as hell, look at your sexy self… I’d do so many things to that little body…” I’m 18 and am often mistaken for 14 or 15. I turned around and said “I’m sorry, do you care that I’m 15?” In retrospect, if he had said no, I would have been in even more trouble than I already was. He simply looked at me with a deer-caught-in-headlights look, turned around, and walked away.
Once I’d shrugged him off, I hailed a cab. Being unfamiliar to NYC, when I told the cabby Times Square and he said “I’ll take the JFK (I think JFK…maybe), it’s faster” I said okay. $19.50 and half an hour later, we arrived at the edge of the Square and I said “You know what, here is good. I’ll take 50 cents in change.” As I gave him a $20. He muttered “Crazy bitch.” as I opened the door and began to exit. I climbed back in and said “You ripped me off. A ride from my hotel to Times Square should have been $10. Peace.” After enduring both these within half an hour, and many more as I walked through Times Square, it made me wonder. Why should I have to put up with this?
One night I decided to walk the twenty minutes to my home from the Skytrain Station. It was past midnight and the buses were not running, and I didn’t want to have to pay for a taxi. However, the route that I was taking went through the neighbourhood of Whalley in Surrey, BC, which is known for a high rate of crime and drug users.
I started walking and tried to be extra aware of my surroundings, since I was alone on a dark and empty area. A few minutes later, a car going in the same direction slowed down behind me. This happened awhile ago, but I seem to recall that the vehicle was a taxi with a number of men inside. I continued walking, now angry with myself for being alone in this situation. Meanwhile the car slowly crept along beside me. Someone in the group asked me if I wanted to get into the car with them.
Without stopping, I took a deep breath and yelled out “NO!!” in a very loud and firm voice. I was relieved to see the car drive away and I was left by myself again.
Once I arrived home, I told the event to my boyfriend and he was upset and concerned, saying he was glad that I was okay, but that things could have turned out much worse. He cautioned me not to go walking at night by myself.
I do think that it is wise to avoid risky situations (particularly walking alone at night). At the same time, it’s sad how women are told to be more careful and often women are blamed if an assault does occur. The aggressors are the people who need to take responsibility of their actions– they need to realize the harmful impact of street harassment!
First I am a witness to these unfortunate events. I guess I was lucky in not being touched.
There was an event at an arts gallery and girls were telling me this man was inappropriately touching them. We go to confront him and he starts yelling at my friend as we are trying to get our equipment we have in his room. We start leave his room and starts rubbing a volunteers back in front of me. I ask him to stop he comes up to me like he’s gonna hug me and i hold a back pack in between us. He gets mad and slams the door. Within the hour we hear about him shoving a girl and that he touched and kissed a 16 year old girl. The man locks himself in his gallery. We go to one of the other gallery owners for help and in turn he tells us this is not the first time this man has done this. They wanted to keep it quiet because they didn’t want people to think badly of the building. If we had known before hand we would have never held our event there. We called the police, she gives her report. What I hear back from a volunteer is that since it wasn’t rape or murder the police won’t do anything. They do make the effort to come downstairs and knock on his gallery door. He doesn’t answer they leave. After the event the arts guild we worked with are only worried about their galleries and not getting into trouble. They want the “incident” kept quiet. Some stand by this man because he’s there friend and blame his alcoholism, the police are annoyed because some girls took too long to report. They didn’t know what to do. Neither did we. That building is supposed to host a local High School Arts program and that man that went around grabbing girls will be working with them. I don’t know what to do anymore.
Whilst traveling in Egypt I was conscious of the need to be culturally sensitive in order to prevent unwanted attention. I lived in Saudi Arabia and had traveled extensively through the Middle East and dressed conservatively and respectfully and knew the codes of acceptable male-female contact. The women there appreciated me covering up, and many of the men I met complimented me on my respectful dress. This however, did not make me immune to the catcalling, stalking and groping that Egyptian women deal with everyday. On one instance I was standing at a fruit stall by the road with my mother when a man reached out of his car and grabbed my bum, slipping his hand between my legs. I was covered and I was not alone, but this did not stop him. I was furious, turned to face him and hit his car repeatedly with my hand yelling “haraam, haraam” (forbidden, forbidden). The whole street stared at the man in his car as he sped away. I think the power of my response lay in the cultural accessability, promptness and volume. I was not rude. I did not degrade myself and I shamed this disgusting individual.
After a day out in the city with my 5 year old son (who is autistic), we were sitting on a bus on the way home. A group of older teenage boys (aged roughly between 18 and 20, perhaps a little older) got on the bus, all talking and swearing, acting up, discussing the merits of each others’ girlfriends and so on.
Shortly after their arrival, 2 seats behind my son and I (with an older male passenger separating us), I realised that they were talking about me – my breast size, that I’m not thin (“Why is it fat slags have the biggest tits?”) and so on – all within obvious earshot of my son.
I didn’t realise it, but the window above my son’s seat was open, and one of the “boys” leaned forward suddenly to slam it shut, making my son jump. As he sat back down, the lad ran his fingers through my hair.
A moment later and the group was making lewd suggestions and repeatedly leaning forward to touch me, laughing and carrying on the whole time. I turned around and demanded they stop, loudly enough for the other passengers to realise there was a problem, and was laughed at by the boys, who promptly carried on – now adding an impression of my voice to their game.
Eventually the male passenger sitting behind me turned around and shouted at them, saying if they didn’t stop, he’d hit them.
At this point, though it was raining and my son was tired, I decided to get off the bus – three stops early. I live in a part of Bristol where you need to be careful after dark, but, frankly, Stapleton Road was preferable to this continuing harassment – and in front of my child.
As I reached the front of the bus, I told the driver what had happened, and that a fight was about to break out between the passenger and the boys. The driver shrugged and said “What do you expect me to do? Boys will be boys.”
This sentiment was echoed by the bus company, who said that, as there was no camera on the service and as I didn’t get either the driver’s name or the contact details of any of the other passengers, there was no way of verifying my story (because, apparently, women like to make that stuff up a lot?!) and, in any case, it just sounded like they were having “a little harmless fun”.
Interestingly, whenever I’ve told any of my male friends, they’ve barely blinked an eye. All of them have made the right noises while being obviously confused about what I’m so upset about (“No one was hurt, after all”). Meanwhile, all my female friends have been utterly disgusted by what happened – and in front of my son, who was possibly more upset about it all than I was, and now refuses to get on a number 24 service.
“Boys will be boys” is NO excuse for this type of behaviour – if I had have been the one behaving in a sexually aggressive way toward them, you can bet I’d have been ejected from the bus without question. But the message seems to be very clear: if you have boobs, you should sit down, shut up and put up with it without complaint.
Inner city bus services should ALL have CCTV cameras on them (not just on “selected services”), and bus drivers should be accountable for ALL behaviour that takes place on their buses – they carry DNA swab-kits, after all – it’s not up to them, surely, to pick and choose what’s important and what’s not. There needs to be a nation-wide policy in place to protect women (and children) using ALL forms of public transport.
Thank you for this campaign and for giving me a place to write about what happened without fear of people (men) rolling their eyes and tutting about yet another female over-reaction.
Good luck to you, and to all women who pass through this site: it’s about time someone made a serious attempt to give voice to the outrage, distress and fear this sort of thing causes.
I was on the 53 in Woolwich and some old bloke told me that if I kept touching myself (referring to my hand on my knee), he’d miss his stop. I told him to f**k himself.
I work in a college where there are young students, mainly between the ages of 14-23, largely from underprivileged backgrounds, council estates and disenfranchised areas. I work as a senior manager, always dress professionally in a suit, button up shirt, dark tights and low heels. I unfortunately am one of the youngest people in the organisation, despite my status as a senior manager.
I frequently have students catcalling me in the corridors, as I pass between meeting rooms. It is disgraceful if it happens once, but for it to happen constantly, despite my demure appearance is ridiculous. My policy (depending on how urgent my meetings are), is to deal with incidents then and there, professionally, using the student policies designed to support and protect staff.
Unfortunately, the last (and potentially worst) situation happened last week. I was not only catcalled in the corridor, but was followed back to my secluded office up the stairs by 3 male students, who cornered me in an office, making me feel as if I was a piece of dirt, a piece of meat- IN MY WORKPLACE.
After being chased up the stairs, I ran into the closest room, screamed, locked the door and called security straightaway. The students were inevitably suspended, but following an investigation, with findings that the male students had a good academic record, and no previous disciplinary sanctions and on the grounds that NO assault occurred, they were let off with a verbal warning.
I am furious, totally furious, and cannot face going back to a workplace that puts harassment above the safety of their staff.
I know that harassment in the street is common, but in the workplace, its deplorable and inexcusable.
Do I need to be raped before it becomes serious enough to be dealt with????