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I was walking into the Target on the corner with two friends. I was wearing a dress. I heard a male voice behind me say that he loved the dress and I ignored him. He followed my friends and I further into the store and kept saying “hey you in the dress,” but I ignored him. Finally I without looking told him to fuck off. He started being like “fuck off, all I wanted to do was compliment you!!!” I turned around at that and he looked physically threatening so I walked with my friends further into the store. The store was crowded, there were employees everywhere but no one said a thing.
I go to The University of Texas in Austin and it’s hella expensive to park your car on campus. Usually I just park my car across 35 and take the shuttle back to campus, but I had just gotten back to town and it was a Sunday, so the shuttle wasn’t running a full schedule. Because the next bus wouldn’t arrive for another 45 minutes (and because it was early March and 30 degrees outside), I decided to walk back to campus rather than wait.
I was walking down MLK, having almost made it back to my dorm without incident, when a silver PT cruiser sped past me. Some guy stuck his head out the window and yelled “SLUT,” started laughing, and pulled his head back into the car.
They turned onto the same street as my dorm and I tried to chase after them, but they were gone by the time I turned the corner.
The guy in the photo below decided that he wanted to talk to me at the cafe that both of us happen to be at twenty minutes ago so he said hi. I ignored him, he said hi again then a few more times. I ignored him & stayed focused on the book I was reading. He said, “ok,” then started waving he hand in my face to get my attention. I still ignored him. Then he touched me on the shoulder while laughing & said ok. I then said, “Fuck you.” Then I walked to the barista and complained. She said, “he’s a regular, he’s here all the time but I’m sorry that that happened & I’ll tell the guys (that work there). And I took his photo & said that this is for Hollaback. He left the establishment.
At around 8:30 am while waiting for the downtown J train at Bowery I was followed and watched by a man who began masturbating. He stood about 20 feet away from me on the same platform. He looked right into my eyes. Thankfully, my train arrived soon after. I called 311 but was on the line for 15 minutes with no response so I gave up. Unfortunately, I was too shocked and disgusted to give this sexist pig a big FUCK YOU. Thank you, you fucking jerkoff, for ruining my Saturday.
He appears at my work every single day.
Criticizing the women I work with, including me, he reaches a topic that is a personal and gender-based insecurity to every woman, sex. The way women look and dress is always a sexual concern in the publicity of men, which he makes apparent.
Questioning the way my co-workers and I present ourselves, he makes comments like, “So when are you going to make a sex tape?” “You look tense, you should purchase a vibrator”, and, “When am I going to see you as the center-fold for Playboy?” These questions do not contribute to women as an individual, but as sexual fixations, enabling us to believe that being a sexual object for men is the purpose of women’s existence.
He does not pass up the opportunity to lower one’s mental health; he attacks even men as well. Commenting on a man’s hopes and aspirations, he belies, “You’re a beatnik and will never amount to anything.” For men, not “amounting to anything” results in a gender-based insecurity of failure. Men value their work ethic and aspirations as a reflection of their selves, because essentially men are taught that they will be relied on later in life. If someone doubts their accomplishments or determination, they take it as a personal threat of their inability to provide for others in life.
He doesn’t need to know someone as a person, only how to make generalized comments towards their gender. The University of Oregon recognizes this behavior as gender harassment, defining it as, “Generalized sexist statements and behavior that covey insulting or degrading attitudes about women [or men]” (University Counseling & Testing Center, 2010).
Making note of his appearance and the way he confidently fabricates his life as successful, this explains why he must mentally flagellate those around him. He struggles with his own heightened insecurities and belittling others creates the illusion that he feels superior; by recognizing that others have insecurities of their own. He heightens his perception of his own self-worth when verbalizing false statements to those around him.
The use of harassment in the workplace causes my co-workers and me to develop effects of drop in work performance due to stress, decrease in job satisfaction, depression, self-consciousness, frustration, and unfavorable work conditions. The comments that he makes cause psychological damage and sustain us from not performing our best while at work.
A lot of victims hide in terror and denial from their harassers, unable to tell anyone or change the outcome. Victims may feel powerless; an imbalance of power between the harasser and the victim is just a disconnected form of reality. When in actuality, the harasser holds no more power over the victim. In this case, he has no greater power over me or my co-workers.
When my friend and I were 13, we were walking back to my house from a fast food restaurant. We had entered a fairly nice neighborhood and were minding our own business when we hear “damn!” And we turn and there’s a group of 4 guys who looked to be 17, cat calling us, and just making lewd comments. After hearing enough, I turned around and flipped them off, telling them that if they didn’t shut up, they’d be getting this finger somewhere else. It’s amazing to see how young this behavior starts.
There is a local grocery store within .1 miles of my house that I walk to often, not having a car to drive, and I have gotten honked at multiple times, guys slow down when they pass me and give me a degrading stare, and I get comments like “hey hot stuff!” thrown out the window often. I’m barely 15, why not watch the road instead of the adolescents walking next to it??
Walking to my Y when a man at a bus stop on 16th and 50th NE started screaming at me and calling me a dyke, telling me to suck his dick, and that I deserved to be raped. Because I walked past him. I kept walking and called the cops, but he was gone when they arrived.
I have experienced everything from whistling to someone aggressively forcing a conversation on me while I was walking somewhere.
The worst had to be the time I was walking to the grocery store. I was in work out gear and had head phones in when a car horn blares scaring the living daylights out of me. I look up and see some young guy hanging his head out of his friends car. We make eye contact for a split second and then he spit at me before the car drove off.
I was so caught off guard by the whole interaction. The only thing I could do was laugh, but nothing about the experience was funny. No one deserves to be degraded and made to feel scared.
This week, Hollaback! was featured in City Paper, Belgium Time, CONTESSA GAYLES · Multimedia Journalist, Black Youth Project, Writog, State News, and NY City Lens. Also, Thee Kats Meoww just released this awesome video from our rally earlier this month!
Finally, check out this video from STAGE: Students Taking Action for Gender Equity. In celebration of the launch of our Holla 101: An Educator’s Guide to Street Harassment back in February, STAGE hit the streets and held their own Chalk Walk, in an effort to reclaim their city’s sidewalks. The video is a recap of their walk!
Here’s what HOLLAs around the world have been up to:
Hollaback! Appalachian Ohio held a 2 hour workshop at Hocking College on Assertive Responses to street harassment and Bystander Intervention.
Hollaback! Baltimore was interviewed on WYPR’s Maryland Morning radio show talking about their Safer Spaces campaign. Check it out here! On Tuesday and Thursday, they co-sponsored an event with Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, artist of the Stop Telling Women to Smile project. Tatyana held an open and casual discussion about street harassment and the Stop Telling Women to Smile project.
Hollaback! Houston visited with some inspiring students at St. Catherine’s Montessori who wanted to know more about the Hollaback! movement. They are taking on some great feminist topics and are ready to take action. Sounds fantastic!
Til next week,
HOLLA and out!
- The Hollaback! Team