Katherine C.’s Story: “Am I really going to sweat the day away because some nasty people shamed me?”

I’m new as a college freshman here in Providence, and I thought I’d begin my Saturday morning with a long walk through the city, just to get the lay of the land. I have very long, very thick dark blonde hair, and I left it down to dry from my shower; it was a warm day, so I wore a tank top and shorts.

I walked for a while with no problems, enjoying the day and taking note of all the architecture. After about a half hour’s walk, I entered a part of the city I didn’t know at all. All of a sudden I realized that I was the only woman on the street, and that there were several groups of men, young and old, standing together along the sidewalk in front of me. I always feel nervous when walking by such groups, but I took a deep breath and walked forward.

Every group that I passed harassed me. They called my a slut and a whore in English and in Spanish, said obscene things about the length of my hair, and some even followed me a little way up the street. Drivers of cars started honking at me. After about ten straight minutes of this, I decided to turn around and go home (I also tied my hair back to avoid attention). A couple of young men who apparently had been watching me approached me and asked why I was turning around- was I lost? Did I need directions?

I was relieved. I thought, oh, phew, here are a couple of men who aren’t going to threaten me! But when I said very politely that no, thank you, I was just looking around since I was new to the city, they started leering at me, asking me if I wanted to come with them and “have some fun.” No thank you. Meek smile. Walk on.

As I passed through that same area again, I still got the leering looks, the hey baby’s, the get in the car bitch. I had started out so comfortable in my own skin, with the breeze in my hair and the fresh air on my arms and legs. Now all I wanted to do was hide.

When I finally got back to my dorm room, I found myself slapping my hair up into a severe bun and dragging long pasts and a long-sleeved shirt from my dresser. But then I stopped myself- that’s what they wanted. Am I really going to sweat the day away because some nasty people shamed me?

So I went on with my day. But it makes me so fucking angry that there are places I can’t go, in broad daylight, because I am a woman. And I couldn’t hollaback or even take a picture, because I knew no one would help me, and I was too damn scared.

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