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I worked on the street as a sign twirler for a furniture store, right on a corner that was known to have really long traffic lights. It was Summer in Arizona, so I wore a white T-shirt and midi-shorts (normal summer attire, not dressed indecently). Traffic was stopped and the car next to me was full of men. They rolled down their windows and catcalled for a while, and one of them attempted to douse my shirt with his drink (my WHITE T-shirt). When I didn’t respond, they cursed at me, saying I was an uptight prick and threw food at me. I was underage, trying to earn extra money for college. I felt so demeaned and uncomfortable that I quit my job, and when I told my boss why, he told me I was making too big a deal out of things.
Riding my bicycle this man yelled “titties!” I was enjoying my ride and then felt embarrassed and unsafe.
This man driving a truck honked at me and entire half a block. I ignored him until I turned the corner and he just leered at me. I was wearing a skirt and feeling beautiful and he made me feel shameful and frightened.
My girlfriend and I were going to buy liquor when we heard the people in the apartment above the liquor store having a party. They made a joke about our appearance when we walked in and when we left with our purchase, one guy yelled, “Want to party?” We both said, “No thanks. ” He yelled, “Don’t be a bitch; I was trying to be nice, bitch!” I told them to eff off, but I shouldn’t have to be harassed because I’m a lesbian buying a product below an apartment.
I work at an elementary school as an after school teacher. On my way to work I get cat called and honked at every single day. I thought that work would be one place I could escape being harassed until one day I was wearing some boldly patterned pants and as I walked by one of the school staff, he asked me if he could “…watch me walk away in those pants.”
I walk my students to swim lessons once a week. Half way through the school year, the father of a student decided to join us. I was relieved to have the help of one more adult until he began flirting with me and asked me out on a date while at the EXACT same time the swim instructor sits on the opposite side of me and also flirts and asks me out. Although, nothing degrading was said by the last 2 men, they put me in very uncomfortable positions when my focus was supposed to be on my young students, doing what I was paid to do.
Instead, I had to spend the rest of the school year consciously avoiding all three of these men- mindfully dodging and carefully navigating myself throughout campus to protect myself and the job I cared so much for.
No one should have to deal with this on the street or at work. 100% of my attention should’ve been on my students, not avoiding harassment.
Right now I am sitting on my bedroom floor, because I’m scared—I don’t have to stamina to go outside today. I don’t want to hear another “hey sexy” or “look at me gorgeous” again. I have only lived in New York City for a few months now, and have come to hate going outside alone. Don’t get me wrong I love New York City, but the catcalling, within it, makes me feel terrified. I am not a NYC native, like some of my friends who, having grown up with catcalls can simply call the verbal harassment “harmless.” But from my personal history, and the histories of some of my closest friends and family, I am terrified of what men have done and can still do to me—not to mention influences from media.
Still before this summer, I used to reply to a casual “hey how are you pretty lady?”. I was polite and if someone said “hello” or “good morning,” I replied. But then in recent months (living in an urban area for the first time), not only were some more sexual comments were directed my way, but the frequency of verbal harassment in general was more that I could ever have imagined. I am harassed like clock work, everyday within 5 to 10 minutes of leaving my building, I’m either greeted by verbal harassment or a honking taxi (I know they honk at me because when they drive by their windows are rolled down and they have their heads turned, undoubtedly staring me down).
As most would expect, in my experience, street harassment almost exclusively directed at me when I’m alone. However on occasion I have even been catcalled when I have been with a close guy friend. Perpetrators assuming we were together, gave my friend loud verbal props for “landing one of the finest little things,” on one occasion. My friend has yet to call attention to it when we walk together, although I bring it up a while after. I don’t know if I wish he would or not. I just know I’m honestly glad to be walking with him rather than alone—it’s much worse alone; they would be much more frequent, potentially more vulgar and less nice, and not to mention it’s always scarier alone. When I am by myself, I’m worried if my reaction to the harassment will set the perpetrator off. If I smile will he continue? If I ignore him will he keep going or worse get mad? I never replay negatively because I am too afraid of what the response might be. Often things don’t escalate, but I know it can, and has happened.
Catcalling or verbal harassment isn’t just a nuisance to a peaceful walk down your city block. For me is has become a rampant bombardment of images strangers threaten to do to my body, without the slightest thought or concern for the integrity or the wants of the person inside it. “Oh you’re a pretty girl, you’re a special one. Oh the things I would do to have you. I’d buy you everything you wanted, so I could have you,” was called loudly at me in broad daylight as I carried my groceries home, on a crowed sidewalk, and everyone and their lives went on, but imprinted in my mind was the image of me being trapped as his sexual servant just because he gave me expensive things –a cultural precedent then needs to be forgotten.
Additionally even the more quiet executions of street harassment can even be scarier. At least if things are yelled loudly on the street, sure if they yell descriptive words about how you look in that outfit (eg. “hey you looking fine! You got you’re hair down and everything. Yes you! Damn those shorts make your legs look nice too!” (Was yelled at me from across a street at 9:30 am. Also a “Public Safety” cruiser was standing right next to him.)) you might be self conscious and slightly pissed, especially if you’re still needing more coffee. But the more scarier instances of harassment this summer were much more silent, as men say things to me under their breath as they pass me on a sidewalk. Although those quieter slurs are much more brief, as I’m thankfully a fast walker, even a simple “hey sexy” said in a suggestive voice and facial expression, feels very violating. It gives me the chills knowing that absolutely no one but the two of use heard what he might have said.
All the examples above are not accumulated from a lifetime of street harassment, but they all occurred within the summer of 2014, and all of it accumulated and when mixed with my past, street harassment has become psychologically damaging to me. I feel conditioned to expect the worst from male strangers—like I said I used to reply with a smile and “good morning” to a “good morning pretty.”
Two friends and I were walking in town at around midnight going to a bar when two older men started speaking loudly about us. They were walking towards us saying “which one do you think is the hottest?” ect.. One of my friends said excuse me and I don’t remember what exactly was said but one of the men and I ended up telling each other off at which point he took a run at me and raised his fist.
I asked if he was really going to hit a girl when he was about a foot from me in a fighting stance and he spat at me and walked off. I was livid. The worst part about it is that we kept walking and saw some cops whom we told, they acted like they were going to do something but we saw them 5 minutes later walking the opposite direction so they clearly didn’t.
I walk from work to Green Square Station of the afternoon, around midday. It’s a 20 minute walk in which I always experience some form of street harassment – whistling, horn honking, and catcalling both from cars and from men on the street.
Today I was at a set of lights waiting to cross. A car with two males drove around the corner from behind me. The passenger yelled something out his window before splashing some type of liquid on my face.
I just want to be able to get home in peace!
I was walking down the street, holding hands with my Dad. A driver in a passing car evidently mistook us for a couple, and shouted at my Dad “Hey mister, nice bird”. What really annoyed me was that he was complimenting my Dad on having a nice possession, in the same way one may say “Hey mister, nice car/ jeans/ dog”. He shouted this as he drove away, leaving us standing dumbfounded with no means of retaliation.
I was working one Friday night until close. Throughout my 5 hour shift, 4 men had stopped at my desk to talk to me. After a certain point (usually after 45 minutes of them standing there) I would kindly say that I needed to get back to work and EVERY SINGLE ONE stayed and kept talking to me. The conversations turned into asking when I would be off work, where I was from, and if they could have my phone number. After I explained to one that I had a boyfriend, he replied that he didn’t want to be my boyfriend… He was just “trying to get it in.” It is not right that I went to bed that night with fears that one of those men followed me home. Women should not be scared to go to work because MUCH older men don’t know how to keep it in their pants.