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BY LARA DALE
I live out in New Mexico, but as an ex-New Yorker, I am amazed there hasn’t been a public thank you to the Sofitel Hotel for their prompt, empathic handling of the Strauss-Kahn rape case. I would be on your doorstep right now to discuss this if I didn’t live so far away.
So often in cases like these, the story is dismissed or swept under the rug to such a degree the victim has no chance of a fair trial. Evidence is botched, or pressure is put on in such a way that the victim fears for her life, and the perpetrator walks with zero consequences and cart blanche to assault again.
As near as I can tell from media reports, Sofitel Hotel acted promptly, professionally, and appropriately in this case, paving the way for the victim to be given a fair trial, and the respect and support she needs and deserves. For that, they get zero acknowledgement in the media, and zero thanks from the public.
What kind of message do we as women and victims send when people do the right thing and we don’t acknowledge it? What is the incentive to continue, if nobody cares? If the Sofitel Hotel had handled this improperly, the media would have been all over them, but for doing the right thing they get nothing. I’d like to end this hypocrisy.
Anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault should take comfort that at least one large, prominent organization has morals, and acts on them immediately. I’m just worried that no-one really cares, and so I am asking that anyone and everyone in NYC who cares about this issue, and is in a position of power or influence, to publicly honor and thank the Sofitel Hotel for its actions. Please join me in striving for this, and please do whatever you can to offer suggestions as to how to accomplish this.
Just as we need to point the finger at people who harm us, we need to draw attention to the people who make our lives better. Thank you Sofitel Hotel – you truly made my day with your compassionate response to a traumatized victim! I hope many others agree and offer their thanks and appreciation as well. And may many, many professional businesswomen frequent your hotel, knowing it is a safe and caring environment for all.
I left my house to go to the shop down the road and there were two women jogging, a white van then drives by, toots them with two men leering over them whilst they were just trying to exercise. So I hollabacked “perverts” at the men in the van. It’s sad that society tries to teach women that this kind of behaviour is a compliment.
I was eating breakfast with my friend at Waffle House and having a great time. As we walked out my mom noticed a man taking a picture of my friend and me. She was outraged because he was taking pictures of our butts as we walked by! While my friend promptly freaked out I calmly turned around and took a picture of him. I must also add that we’re fifteen and my mom is an overprotective momma bear so she of course ran to take license plate numbers down when they left. That picture was unfortunately blurry but it achieved the goal I had in mind, scaring him shitless. Thank you hollaback, for reinforcing my ability to react swiftly and speak up.
Unfortunately this is an all too regular occurrence here in Spain. On my way to work this morning, a taxi driver in a registered city cab slowed down to practically kerb crawl the pavement I was walking on and spout inappropriate sexual noises and comments at me. The street was ‘one way’ so I walked behind the cab, crossed the road and continued walking. He was going in the direction I was so he then waited higher up the road on a corner, stopping the cab to ogle me.
I showed him the middle finger as I passed behind his car again and continued with my journey walking away from him. He started shouting “Fea, fea!” (Ugly, ugly) out of his window and across the street at me. In the space of a minute I had gone from ‘sexy and gorgeous’ to ‘ugly’ in his eyes.
I shouted back that he was disgusting and had no respect.
This type of bullshit happens on pretty much a daily basis out here in Madrid and it usually comes from a generation above mine (40-60 year old men). In the last few months, I have decided to “hollaback”; inspired by the movement after an American friend of mine out here told me about it.
The last time I holla’d back before today I got called a c***. It seems you are expected to take this crap but should you even have the ‘audacity’ to respond negatively to these creeps, you get verbally abused.
I wished I had taken his photo and will do so the next time it happens. I will also report such events in the future.
yesterday i had to go to a 5 pm class, which really irritated me to no end,i just wasnt feeling very good with myself. to get to my school i have to walk like 7 minutes after i get off the bus, so i was walking on the sidewalk and i had my ipod on, because really is an off day when i dont get honked at or called at, its just freaking annoying and it makes me very angry. So im walking and 3 guys are walking towards me and i was in hurry so i was walking fast and after i walk by them one of them makes a hand movement as if he was going to touch me (but he didnt), all i could do was to raise my hand to stop his as i said asshole under my breath, one of the guys hears and laughs, which makes me mad, and it took everything in me to not turn around and yell like a maniac, so i continue walking and after i walked by a car wash where aproximately 4 guys were working they started to call me baby, mamacita and nasty stuff, i did hear them but really i had no energy to say anything(i usually turn around and start yelling at them or i tell them to fuck off or give them the finger or something, ANYTHING!) and when they didnt see any reaction from me they just yelled *you are fat* instantly my self steem was at the floor, i felt like crap, so much that i almost cried right then and there. After my class i walked to the bus stop and as im standing there waiting for it, a guy in a motorcycle passes by stares at me and i dont stare back and avert my eyes from his and when he passed right by my side he said *you are fat anyway* that day was awful i mean why do they think they have the right to say ANYTHING about a person’s body? and why do we let it affect us SO damn much?? why do we let men control us?
It’s 2:55pm and I’ve just gotten off the bus ready to get my son from school. I’m loaded down with shopping (board games in big, flat, colourful bags) and I’m clearly in a hurry.
I’m walking along in my typical “Leave me be” fashion – not making eye contact with anyone; keeping a fast, purposeful pace; trying to keep a look of determination on my face.
I pass a cook shop. There’s a guy in the doorway. “Good afternoon, Young Lady,” he says to me. Seems innocuous enough. For community’s sake, I reply “Hi” without slowing down. This was a mistake.
“Hey! Baby! Why so hurried! Get your ass back here, baby!”
I’m still processing this (In my mind, my cocky, confident persona is taking a bashing, “Does this guy know who he’s messing with?” I saying to myself in an Emergency Inner Pep Talk, “I’m going to ruin his ass come August”) as the guy immediately in front of me turns around to see what the first guy is yelling about. He stops right in front of me so suddenly I almost pile into the back of him.
Asshole #1 is still calling to me from his doorway. Asshole #2 decides to join in.
This is the first time in YEARS I’ve experienced a moment of panic; there’s no escape route. Major road to one side, buildings to my other. Harassing Guy #1 is behind and this other asshole is right in front of me. Better yet, I’m frozen in the spot wondering what the hell to do while Guy #2 is reaching his hand out toward me.
“Get the fuck away” I mumble. I move the shopping to my other hand, so it forms a barrier between me and his hand and push past him. Everything I’ve learned about rape and sexual assault is scrolling, Terminator-style, through my mind. My first thought isn’t to hurt him to defend myself; my only thought is to escape.
Five yards ahead is a shop where I go sometimes with my son. I fumble my way in there and stand with my back against the wall. Not quite sure what to do now, I wait a couple of beats while the guy behind the counter asks me if I’m okay. I am, I tell him so. I look at my watch – it’s almost time for my son to get collected.
It’s only this thought that gets me moving again. The truth is, I could have stayed in the shop for an hour, but my son needs me to be at school.
I step out, both assholes have gone: it’s just another rainy day in Bristol and while their days are continuing uninterrupted, mine has been marred. That same old feeling of powerlessness is back again, the “What Ifs” are playing in my head as I get to school and wait for my son to come out. Suddenly I can’t wait to get home, to log on and to Hollaback. And now I’ve written out what happened, I’m already feeling calmer and safer.
I’m starting a Hollaback in Bristol in August; I like to think I know enough about street harassment to remain cool and unflustered. Goes to show, you can never really be prepared – all the responses I’ve drilled in my head came to nothing. Now I’m home, fear has turned to fury – I find I’m blaming myself: did I overreact? Should I have answered the first guy? Did I really need to use that bus-stop instead of the next? Was I “asking for it” by reciprocating? Was my aggression really warranted?
The truth is, in that moment I was trapped between two guys who were giving me obviously unwanted advances: one was shouting for my attention, the other was making physical advances. I’m now feeling incredibly angry and more determined than ever to end this kind of culture that allows men to randomly surround a woman who clearly wasn’t interested in anything other than getting where she was going.
I’m more determined than ever to stop these assholes.
“I’m not your sweetheart.”
The other day, I got into a livery cab, which I often do when I travel from Washington Heights to go downtown. I indulge in this guilty pleasure especially when I’m going toward the East Side, which takes a monstrous amount of time to get to from the Heights. Typically, I do a “street hail,” because it seems to save time, as well as money. This means that I take certain precautions when getting in a cab, so that I don’t have any problems, which I’ll detail in another post. Well, this cab seemed alright, as in, the driver seemed courteous, and not creepy. So I got in and everything seemed to be going OK, when he decided to go a different way than the way that I had requested him to go, which unfortunately resulted in us missing several lights, getting caught in traffic etc. So I politely said that I really preferred to take the other route to the Harlem River Drive. He responded by calling me “sweetheart,” which, considering the circumstances, was pretty condescending.
I immediately said, “Don’t call me sweetheart!” He seemed very surprised, and perhaps had never received that response before. As an older man, I suspect that he probably had called young women that throughout his life, and was never called to task for it. And honestly, I’ve been called that so many times before by men of a certain age, that I thought I had almost become insensitive to it ~ the operative word here being “almost.” It’s so common, that it’s easy to tell yourself that “they don’t mean anything by it,” which is exactly the response I received when I spoke up to this cab driver. But just because something offensive/patronizing has become normalized, doesn’t make it in the least bit acceptable. And I don’t think I’m alone in this view.
When I told him not to call me that, I elaborated the reason ~ not with the obvious one, of him being condescending to me given the specific circumstances, but of the real reason. I told him that it was considered a term that should only be used between a husband and wife, and a boyfriend and girlfriend, and that it indicated that the man had a sexual relationship with the woman. This statement of course stopped him dead in his tracks, so to speak. Now, I know that parents sometimes call their son or daughters this as well, as a term of endearment, but I wanted to drive home to him the fact that it was a term only used between people who had an intimate relationship with one another, and that it wasn’t acceptable to use in other settings. Well, he got the message, and at that moment professed undying love to his dear wife, saying that he never meant to come on to me. It totally worked ~ he understood what I was trying to say, and did actually apologize.
When will men learn that calling women whom they’ve just met, “sweetheart” is not acceptable? When we start calling them on it, each clueless person at a time. And that’s how change works.
The long train journey was beginning to wear me off. I dosed at my seat only to wake up at some sounds by a man sitting in the opposite seat. I knew he didn’t have a ticket and must have persuaded other travelers to share their seat with him. He was staring at my chest. My dizziness left me that very instant and I started staring at him. He saw I was staring but it didn’t seem to perturb him. I told myself there’s no way I am letting this creep win this power game with me. I snapped my fingers in front of his face. He seemed surprised. I kept staring, anger in my eyes. After some moments of exchanging stares, he looked away. A vendor came by and he purchased some eatables. I kept staring. He could no longer maintain eye contact. He started stuffing them in his mouth while i started. He looked here and there as if wanting to escape. I bet his ego held him at his place. But as soon as his eatables were finished, he got up and left.
Moral of the story: Most people who tease are cowards. Challenge them and you’ll find their hollowness.
I don’t consider myself particularly hot or sexy. I am 15, 5’9″, and a size eleven. I am not curvaceous, at least not compared to some girls at my school. But still, I get holla’d at. During school. The first time it happened I was walking through the quad during break, and suddenly I hear “How you doin’ gurrrl, you lookin’ fine to-day!” I look up, confused, only to see a large boy, (He was probably 18, but can someone who has the nerve to holla at a girl publicly be called a man?). He stared right back, leering. I didn’t know what to do. At the time I was 14, I had never received this kind of attention. I responded, “I’m fine, and you?” and quickly walked past him. I was shocked. Not only had it happened in the center of the quad, surrounded by people, I was wearing sweatpants, a loose t shirt and no makeup. I couldn’t understand why he had singled me out. I was definitely not “looking’ fine to-day”. Nothing like that happened that year, and I eventually forgot about it.
Then only a week ago, I was called into the office during class to clear an absence. As I was about to open the door of the main building, I hear “How you doin’ guuurrrl?” through the glass. I see a group of about five boys, all seniors I believe, standing just inside the door. If I had been farther away I would have turned around, but I didn’t want to show that they had any power over me. I entered the building to a chorus of how-you-doin’s. Like before, I responded “I’m fine, and you?” Again I was dumbfounded. Why had they chosen me? I entered the building, and turned down the hallway. Unfortunately I was wearing a team t shirt for lacrosse, and it had my name on the back. They started down the hallway after me, now saying “How you doin’ Maureen?.” Although they stopped after a few steps, their voices followed me down the hallway. I was so afraid, probably unreasonably so. I entered the office, and cleared my absence. I didn’t say anything about the boys. I was hesitant to go back out into the hall, and when I finally did, they were gone. But just to be sure, I took the long way back to my classroom. Now everyday I see them sitting in front of the lunchroom as I go to buy lunch, and I pray they don’t remember my face.
I’m bisexual. What does this mean? I am physically, emotionally and mentally attracted to both sexes, male and female, as well as both genders, men and women (note: there is a difference between sex and gender, most people can’t differentiate between the two). Essentially, I’m queer-minded; I will not turn down any person because of genetics or orientation. That being said, I’ve been in several serious relationships with men, had casual flings with women and most recently, entered into a long-term relationship with a woman. At one point or another, both sexes have grabbed the attention of my heart, mind and body, not necessarily equally so, but why should that factor matter?
A few years ago, I took a Sexuality & Society course at Georgia State University. I wanted to learn more about human sexuality and its history, trends, expectations and media influence that affect people’s view. Naturally, this course was extremely controversial. Many students signed up simply because they thought we’d be watching soft-core porn all day. Wrong. It was definitely one of the most informative and eye opening classes of my entire undergraduate career.
And then came the discussion of sexual identity. Just as the professor was explaining how many people do not dichotomize their sexuality with ‘straight’ and ‘gay,’ one male student (who was extremely fond of his straightness) stood up and yelled, “You can label yourself! You are either straight or gay. If you like men and women, you are gay. Point blank period.”
This did not fly with me. Fuck raising my hand and waiting to be called on; this guy needed to LEARN and UNDERSTAND that you cannot just put people and their feelings and attractions into one of two boxes. Life is not that black and white. Life is not that square.
I tried to explain it to him. Yes, some people are 100% straight and some people are 100% homosexual, physically, emotionally and mentally. But not everyone, not me. Before I could even elaborate further, he was already yelling for the whole class to hear, but directing his dialogue toward me. “You’re just confused. You can’t be in the middle. Bisexuality doesn’t exist. Girls who say they are bisexual are just horny girls looking for attention anywhere they can find it. They want to have sex with men and entertain the men by having sex with women too…” – something along those lines. Imagine know-it-all college student in his very early 20s discriminating against an entire group of people without even allowing the discussion to set in. He didn’t want to hear anyone else’s opinions or even learn one single perspective on the variety of sexual identities that exist. The professor eventually kicked him out of class, and apparently he couldn’t handle it because he never came back.
It would’ve been to his benefit to not drop the class. By the end of the semester, he could have learned something new that may have changed his perspective. Yet another opportunity for growth and understanding down the drain. Unfortunately, many people do not make it through classes like these, or let alone through life encountering people of different sexual orientations and cultural backgrounds. Their only way of coping with something so opposite their own norm is to immediately bash it. They turn to hate and discrimination to make sense of something they just can’t wrap their head around. It’s selfish and disappointing that people are so quick and willing to immediately cast people off rather than take two minutes to learn about another lifestyle, another culture, another human being.
I’m grateful for HollaBack and other organizations that promote anti-discrimination towards all groups of people — not just gays, transgendered, lesbians, bisexuals, blacks, Muslims or anyone. It is absolutely uncalled for. Whatever life path we decide to take, it’s our own. No one should take that away from us. Share your story with the world – or even just one person. It will make a difference if they have the heart and consideration to listen before making judgments.
Cross-posted from HollabackATL!