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As I attend school in downtown Cincinnati, I understood that it wasn’t always a pretty place. I’ll be adding more stories of things that I have experienced and witnessed, but here’s one that was my first.
It was August and still hot on the streets so I wore what was comfortable, shorts and a t-shirt. After leaving school for the day, I headed to the library to meet a friend.
Heading down the street, I noticed the occasional security guards from numerous companies and felt pretty safe. Out of nowhere, a black pickup truck pulled up next to me.
The man in the front seat leaned out and yelled, even though he was directly next to me,”How about you get in and we’ll show you why two is better than one.”
Instinctually, I took off, dashing down the street as his friend yelled,”DYKE BITCH!” out the window.
When I reached the library. I didn’t tell my friend a word of what happened. I regretted not speaking up sooner and blaming myself for the harassment. Even the school dress code told me that I was a distraction.
Street harassment should not be the norm for young girls.
We daily experienced that verbal harassment while walking !
While jogging, I was video tapped, cat called and followed for about 10 minutes. Infuriating!!
This is an old story. This is not new. Still, I think it is important people know what happens in a “quaint tourist town.”
I was 11 the first time I was wolf whistled at while walking in town. I didn’t even have boobs.
I was walking home from school at the age of 15, dressed in baggy clothes, when an old man kept circling the block. He later followed me and my friends to a grocery store.
I was walking home from work as a waitress at the age of 16, when I had a man in his 40s slow his car down and ask me “How much for a party?” He refused to leave me alone and refused to believe I wasn’t a prostitute until a cop car came by.
Not sure if this counts as street harassment as I was in my house when I happened… At about 11pm one night I heard this unnerving shuffling outside my lounge window…And when I turned on the outside light I saw a shadow on the curtains.
Lucky I still live at home and my brother was still up… I looked out my bedroom window to find some guy standing in the street… Fiddling away… Cops were called but he was gone long before they arrived. Can’t even feel safe in my own house.
Two guys are hanging out on the corner and periodically calling out to girls passing by things like “let me take you around town tonight! I’ll wine you and dine you and take you around the city.” then they laugh about it afterwards to each other.
I and two guys I worked with were putting new recycling barrels in a dormitory. We were waiting for the elevator and when it opened it had 5 or 6 guys in it. My co-worker said we’d take the next one. One of the guys said “You two (referring to my male coworkers) can’t fit, but I’m sure we can squeeze blondie in here with us.”
I ignored them as I waited for what felt like forever for the doors to close and them to go away while they smiled and made comments. We went back downstairs to get more bins and they were all hanging out outside the building, calling “Hey blondie! Whatcha doing? Why are you working so hard? Leave the work to the guys and come hang out with us!” I ignored them. This repeated the next two times we came down for more bins, until my coworker finally told them to fuck off.
And they did, until an hour or so later when I was walking off campus to my apartment a few blocks away and the same group of guys were walking around smoking pot. They continued to catcall me and follow me home. I told them to kindly fuck off, and they laughed and said “Ooh blondie is all fired up! I like it!” I texted my roommates as I walked and luckily one was home and came outside our apartment to walk me in and once again tell these guys to fuck off.
It felt like shit to have to rely on a male friend both times to make these guys go away. I felt annoyed that I couldn’t just do my job and walk home without being bothered. It was in broad daylight and in public so I didn’t necessarily feel unsafe, just uncomfortable and annoyed.
My best friend and I loved getting pedicures together. It was an easy way to get to spend time together since she just had a baby and I was newly married.
We always went to Royal Essence at the St. Johns Town Center in Jacksonville, FL. They had the best pedicures. It included a short massage while your nails dried, a hot stone massage and a paraffin wax treatment for a great price.
This particular day, as maybe once before, I had a male pedicurist. I didn’t think too much of it, just tried to act normal as it’s always a little awkward to have a male you don’t know rubbing your feet/legs.
What I didn’t know was that this particular pedicurist waited until a young girl came to the salon then would step up to work, otherwise, he’d just wait in the back.
while rubbing my legs with lotion (a normal part of a pedicure) I found myself trying to force my legs together (I was wearing a summer dress). He was trying to rub up to my knees and slightly more but I politely resisted, not thinking too much of it.
At the end of the pedicure I sat down to get my nails dried. Another part of the pedicure at this particular salon was a short back massage while your nails dry from your pedicurist. Something I normally enjoyed. But this time, with this particular pedicurist, it went too far. He began rubbing my shoulders, then went down my back. I was just talking to my friend sitting next to me, trying to act normal, and then he started rubbing my lower back, too low.
We left without me saying anything. My friend and I kind of laughed as if it was just an awkward situation.
The next day at work I told a co-worker about it and she encouraged me to speak up about it. I was too nervous to call the salon because I didn’t want to cause a commotion and put myself in any danger so I called my mom.
My mom called the salon, explained the situation to the owners. We found out that the guy was already reprimanded because the owner saw how low he massaged my back, and said not to do that. But it didn’t stop there. They said that they knew he would wait around in the back until a smaller/younger girl would come in.
Basically, they decided to call the cops and have them present while they fired him (he was kind of a big guy) and when they fired him he spoke some threatening words to the owners.
I had to file a police report about what happened (they called it ‘light battery’) and later received a notification that he was arrested for battery.
It was a scary situation but in the long run I’m very glad I spoke up. The cop filling my report said the same thing, mentioning that if he’s bold enough to do that in public, who knows the things he’s doing in private.
I hope my speaking up helped someone else stay safe from worse harm.
Hello Hollabackers! Hope everyone had a great International Women’s Day on Saturday!
This week, Hollaback! was featured in ASOS Magazine, London’s Evening Standard, The Guardian, The New York Times, Dalstonist, Ottawa Citizen, Wildtimes, MixMag, The Ransom Note, DJ Mag, Tribune 42, FACT Magazine, Resident Advisor, The Debrief, Dazed Digital, The Quietus, CNN (more than once!), and Buzzsaw Magazine
Here’s what HOLLAs around the world have been up to:
Hollaback! Bahamas has been standing up to their government the past couple of weeks due to a recent incident in which a Bahamian Member of Parliament decided it was appropriate to joke about beating up his girlfriend during a budget debate. When he was publicly criticized for his words, he responded with non-apologies and compared this criticism to rape. The government of the Bahamas has declined to address this conduct in their House so Hollaback! Bahamas is asking others around the world to add voices to theirs and demand accountability. If you’d like to join their efforts, you can check out their Facebook page for recent updates, follow the conversation on twitter using #NotBetterInTheBahamas and #VAW, and share their story. HB! Bahamas was also on the radio show “Global Talk” this week, discussing “Women’s Rights in The Bahamas, the Region, and the World”.
Hollaback! Bosnia and Herzegovina joined the CURE foundation in marching through Sarajevo for International Women’s Day. The purpose of the march was to remind citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina of the true values of IWD, but to also draw attention to the current discrimination of women in BiH society. Check out these awesome photos from the march here.
Hollaback! Boston presented at the Five College Queer Gender and Sexuality Conference at Hampshire College in Amherst.
Hollaback! Dublin did a workshop with students in Trinity College, Dublin as part of their International Women’s Week program. They also wrote an open letter to Chris Barry, host of FM104 Phoneshow – one of Dublin’s most talked about radio show. Barry recently made comments on the air condoning sexual harassment in the workplace in which HB! Dublin’s letter is in response to. In the letter, HB! Dublin discusses the seriousness of sexual harassment in the workplace, how Barry’s comments can have great negative consequence on their culture, and request that he make a public apology to the women of Dublin.
Hollaback! Gent held a meeting on violence against women in collaboration with other feminist organizations in Gent. The event included various workshops, with HB! Gent presenting on “Being a Bystander on the Street and a Supporter for Victims of Sexual Assault”. More information (mostly in Dutch) and visuals can be found on the event website: Doorbreek de Stilte (which translates to “Break the Silence” in Dutch).
Hollaback! London had a fantastic launch week for their Good Night Out campaign. They got a TON of press (linked up top), put up posters in supporter venues around the city, and already have some interest from more venues to get on board! Check out some of the positive feedback they’ve been getting on twitter and feel free to join the conversation at #goodnightout. HB! London also participated in the Million Women Rise march and rally on Saturday, and held a free workshop at the WOWZERS Festival on Sunday. The workshop was an informal, friendly safe space where attendees could discuss their experiences of street harassment, talk about myths, learn about the work of Hollaback!, and find out how to get involved.
Hollaback! Ottawa was a recipient of a 2014 Femmy Award for their work, a local award given to organizations or individuals who have made a difference in the fight for women’s equality in the National Capital Region. Way to go HB! Ottawa!
Hollaback! Pittsburgh created a Guest Mix for The Grey Estates, a Pittsburgh based music blog and zine. The playlist is “full of songs meant to empower and remind women (and LGBTQ folks, or anyone who is the victim of street harassment) to fight back again harassment and hollaback!”. In other words, it rules!
Hollaback! University of London Union (ULU) launched a new training guide for staff in students’ unions as part of the Good Night Out campaign. The guide aims to help clubs, venues, bars and pubs to better deal with, address and prevent the harassment of women and LGBTQ people in their spaces. You can download the ‘Good Night Out’ – Students’ Unions Staff Training Guide here.
The HOLLAs continue to rock Women’s Herstory Month! Woo! Til next week-
HOLLA and out!
– The Hollaback! Team
I was just starting my job at a popular bar/restaurant in the town I was going to college in. It was my first real experience working in a fast paced resaurant setting, and I was doing my training with one of the other girls who had worked their a long time.
After a couple days, we were scheduled to work out in the outdoor section, which gets pretty hectic when its nice out. Things were going relatively well, until this large table of middle to older aged men came out. They were loud, and extremely obnoxious. They were sticking around for multiple hours ordering drink after drink, and getting noticeably louder, and increasingly drunk.
Each time I went to the table to take drink order after drink order, they kept calling me names like sweetie, sweetheart, doll, etc. and asking me questions that made me extremely uncomfortable. As the night went on, I was getting more and more shaken. There was even one point where one of them knocked me over and I spilled a tray full of drinks all over the ground, and myself.
I tried my best not to let it get to me, until I took their order again, and then suddenly, as I was taking their order, one of the older men I was standing next to took his arm and just laid it on my shoulders. I’m a really small person, just about 5’2, and so I couldn’t get away. The girl I was training with had to pull me away from him, and she told me not to worry about it.
Not long after that experience, I left the bar, because I just couldn’t handle it. I kept blaming myself, saying,”Well I should have expected that, being so small and working around a bunch of drunk men.” But after awhile, I realized I was just supporting their god awful behavior, and that I should have never excused the way those men treated me that night. Its definitely a memory that will always stick with me.