My neighborhood in Astoria is quiet, mostly. It’s safe, mostly. And for the most part its residents have never given me any kind of trouble.
One day I was walking home from my friend’s apartment along 31st street. It was summer so I was wearing cut-off jean shorts and a tank. I know that my outfit had nothing to do with it, but for a while I stopped wearing tank tops in public thinking this was the cause.
It was the middle of the day so the street was almost empty except for a largish (5+) group of young teens sitting outside an apartment building. Now, I try not to profile, but in my experience groups of teenage boys are trouble, and I am usually right. I put on my sunglasses and walked past them, avoiding eye contact.
Well, to my surprise I made it past them without any trouble when I heard that sound that will make the hairs on most women’s arms stand on end. The kissy noise. What happened next you could say was my fault, I should have kept walking, but I had had it. Here was a group of kids almost half my age with the nerve to make that awful sound at me. So I turned around and said, “are you f*cking serious? How old are you?” To which the larger of the group said “Old enough to f*ck you like a grown man”. At this point one of his friends says, “Girl I am gonna f*ck you with some chopsticks”. I’m half-Chinese, and was appalled that this brat had added racism onto the growing pile of sexual harassment. Various other insults followed, “skinny b*tch”, “dumb c*nt”, etc. I always wonder why, if I’m such a dumb etc., etc. why they tried to “holla at” me in the first place…
There were over five of them, and just one of me, so I decided to walk away. I called the police and told them a group of young men had verbally assaulted me and threatened me with sexual abuse. The officer offered his condolences but told me that since they had not physically assaulted me there was nothing he could do. While I agree that the police probably do not have the resources to investigate every instance of harassment, it made me feel alone, weak, and even slutty. I felt that because I was wearing a thin tank top I had somehow brought this onto myself.
When did it become okay for young boys to talk to older women this way? To threaten them in their own neighborhoods with this kind of sexualized, and sometimes racialized, violence? I was so disgusted, so horrified. And honestly to this day I have not walked down that street again.
Submitted by Jen
So here I am, a 17 year old girl, black (it matters) in her school uniform, just going to the mall to get some stuff, and I hear it.
“Hey-o, pretty girl, lemme holla! Why the long face? I got some stuff to make you smile!”
I was actually about to spin around and tell him to pop off, but when I looked at him, I saw he ran one of the vendors selling lotions in the hallways of the mall.
Why is it cool to act this way towards me? I watched this guy ask other women “Hey, miss, would you like to buy some lotions?” But as soon as a black girl walks by you switch up your game? And you don’t even care that she’s obviously underage? FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON.
I just wanted to the MAC counter and get out, so I gave him the dirtiest look that I save especially for scumbags like him and kept walking.
Submitted by Mariel
Hollaback embodies all that is strong, powerful, and badass about being a woman today, and reflects a global female solidarity that knows no racial, age, or geographic boundaries. As such, we seek three men or women who can represent and illustrate these values in written form.
Selected writers need to be able to commit to blogging a minimum of twice per week about key stories and milestones in the anti-harassment movement in a voice that is bold and street harassment savvy.
Interested candidates should submit a sample piece for publication by February 10, 2011 on a topic that you feel is important, timely, and of interest to Hollaback readers. Accompanying your piece should be a brief description of you, why the anti-harassment movement is important to you, and how you represent a unique voice.
Bloggers will be selected for diversity of voice and quality of writing and can hail from anywhere in the world. To submit your sample piece and accompanying information, please email everything in the body of an email to [email protected]
So the other day I had what Oprah would call an “A-ha” moment. Though I prefer to refer to it my “Get the fuck out of my personal space you male-privilege-assuming bastard” episode. Just has a nicer ring to it.
Anyways, I was at a gas station and had just finished filling up when an older gentleman clad in overalls (I live in NC) ambled over to stand RIGHT in front of me, blocking my entrance back into the driver’s seat of my beloved automobile.
He tried to start up some inane conversation about gas prices, which were SO HIGH these days compared to when he was young. Pissed off that he wasn’t getting my subtle “step-back-random-dude” vibes, I thought about asking if his first car was a Model T. But, as he kept inching creepily closer to me, I just said very firmly “I need to get back in my car.”
But that’s not what HE wanted.
The lovely gent actually shook his head no and tried to keep talking, all the while inching closer and closer toward me. In my mind I found myself running through all those perpetrator-excusing things we’re taught to do as women…Maybe this guy was just a little crazy, bless his heart, or actually was trying to pick me up but didn’t know how to go about it…but then IT CLICKED.
I didn’t, and I don’t, give a damn why a STRANGER chooses to disrespect my personal space with unwanted interaction. When I say leave me alone, it means LEAVE ME ALONE.
So I screamed at the top of my lungs “Get out of my way” so loudly the man literally winced, covered his ears and RAN back to his truck that was parked near by. People were looking and he was embarrassed.
It, was awesome.
And empowering. Worse things have happened to me, but this was one of the first times I’ve ever responded so powerfully. It felt good and it balanced out the “ick” factor.
I truly believe that HollaBack helped me to be so assertive. Reading through your blog’s entries and article links has helped me understand what street harassment is really about: Power. Making women feel less than men in public spaces, making us feel like prey, whether we’re in a power suit or a sundress. Making us feel like we’re the property of any and every man on the street.
This won’t be the last time some stranger thinks he can treat me like I exist for his amusement.
But, I’m going to keep being loud. I’m going to keep holding harassers accountable whenever I feel safe enough to do so. And it’s going to feel good, oh so good.
Death to the “good girl,” I say.
Ladies, it’s time for us to get mean.
Submitted by Beth
What’s your craft? Women’s Studies, professional student, and barista
HOLLAfact about your city: Atlanta wasn’t always the state capital, it used to be Milledgeville. Also, the World Barista Championship was held in Atlanta in April of 2010!
My superheroine power is … I like to call myself Feminista Barista! I fight sexist oppression while simultaneously pulling a tasty shot of espresso-all with my mind!
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment? As queen for a day, do I get to use my superpower? If so, I would erase everyone’s memories of patriarchal ideology (and other oppressive belief systems for that matter) perpetuating acts of misogynistic violence!
Why do you HOLLA?: Because it’s an effective, non-violent, and powerful way to combat street harassment! As well as providing an opportunity to connect with my community (and others across the globe)!
Define your style: I like vintage stuff-currently donning my 50’s style cat-eye frames. I love tattoos and plan on adding to my collection soon-my favorite tatt is currently an aviator pin-up girl I had completed over the summer! I have an asymmetrical haircut. And….high waisted pants and thrift store sweaters are currently my jam. 🙂
What do you collect? Tattoos, unique coffee brewing devices, and feminist reading materials
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Don’t remain complacent with the current state of things. We do not live in a post-feminist society and it is imperative that we work together against oppressive ideologies and institutions-including taking responsibility for our personal internalization of racist, classist, sexist, ableist, and homophobic belief systems.
In the year 2020, street harassment … will be non-existent!
Random: I think I would have enjoyed being a twenty-something in the 20s, late 70s, and early 90s. I am obsessed with female vocalists-Kate Bush is currently my favorite! I was the 2nd place Southeast regional barista champion in 2009!
I was in 8th grade and walking home from school. I didn’t live more than three or four short blocks from my school, I was on a street I’d walked for years, and it was the middle of the afternoon. I suddenly felt like there was someone staring at me. When I turned I saw a man, probably old enough to be my father, cruising slowly next to me and leaning out his car window. As soon as I looked at him he said in this slow, skeezy voice, “My oh my.” I pretty much ran home.
I’ve always felt really confused about the whole thing. I was immensely creeped out, but a part of me was kind of flattered by it, and because of that I was ashamed of myself.
I still don’t know how to handle catcallers. I have a nice body that I feel good about and I like to dress up in clothes that often attract attention, so if I’m called at and I tell a friend about it they get a look on their face like I had it coming. I shouldn’t have to feel guilty or ashamed about wanting to look nice, and I certainly don’t dress up for the creeps of the world.
Submitted by Jax
While riding the A train home and reading my book, I notice the guy sitting across from me looking at me. I am so tired and am very close to telling him to stop looking at me, but I don’t. As my stop approaches, I start getting up and he leans over and says: “Sweetie, I study heritage. What heritage are you?” I stand up, look at him, and say: “What makes you think you can call me ‘sweetie’?” He replies with “It’s a polite thing to say,” to which I reply, “I’m not your sweetie.” Then he says “You’ve got a bad attitude.” I tell him “Fuck you” (I know that isn’t the most constructive response), and he tells me “fuck you” right back. Lovely way to end the day.
Submitted by Diane
We’re 18 years old. It’s our first college break and my friend’s mother sent us to get some pumpkins from a church fair. We’re laughing and I’m making fun of my friend who in the few short months she’s been in Montreal has already adapted an accent.
We’re at a light, laughing hysterically. A fifty something year old man in a middle age crisis sports car at the red light rolls down his window. My heart sinks and I clench my hands. I know what’s coming next. The man yells “Hey baby, lose some weight and shake that ass!” when the light turns green and he speeds off.
“Dickface!” I yell, my face flaming. My friend also yells at the man, cursing him out.
I doubt he heard us. I doubt he cares.
Submitted by Emma
In middle school I used to walk home by myself. Normally this was a complete non-issue, and I wasn’t nervous about it for the longest time. Then one day when I was 12 a red pickup truck full of grown men slowed as they passed, and wolf whistled at me. Shocked and a little disturbed, I froze as they passed, but then regained control of myself and flipped them the finger as I continued walking. Not even a teenager yet, I was already starting to ‘develop’ in a noticeable way and probably looked about 15. However, that is not an excuse. It is just as inappropriate to leer in such a degrading manner at women of ANY age, and it is something I have continued to face throughout my life. Men have continued to leer at me in public (and private!) places, and I am very nervous to go anywhere alone except in the very brightest daylight. It sometimes makes me wish I could trade in my body for something less noticeable, simply to escape the stares and catcalls. I am not even particularly good looking, and I DO NOT dress in a provocative manner. In fact I typically wear jeans a zippered sweatshirt everywhere I go. I feel angry and violated when strangers feel like it is their right to comment on my body in such a disrespectful way, but no catcall has ever been worse than that first time. There is no reason for children to need to be afraid just because they were born female.
Submitted by Jade