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Whilst traveling in Egypt I was conscious of the need to be culturally sensitive in order to prevent unwanted attention. I lived in Saudi Arabia and had traveled extensively through the Middle East and dressed conservatively and respectfully and knew the codes of acceptable male-female contact. The women there appreciated me covering up, and many of the men I met complimented me on my respectful dress. This however, did not make me immune to the catcalling, stalking and groping that Egyptian women deal with everyday. On one instance I was standing at a fruit stall by the road with my mother when a man reached out of his car and grabbed my bum, slipping his hand between my legs. I was covered and I was not alone, but this did not stop him. I was furious, turned to face him and hit his car repeatedly with my hand yelling “haraam, haraam” (forbidden, forbidden). The whole street stared at the man in his car as he sped away. I think the power of my response lay in the cultural accessability, promptness and volume. I was not rude. I did not degrade myself and I shamed this disgusting individual.
After a day out in the city with my 5 year old son (who is autistic), we were sitting on a bus on the way home. A group of older teenage boys (aged roughly between 18 and 20, perhaps a little older) got on the bus, all talking and swearing, acting up, discussing the merits of each others’ girlfriends and so on.
Shortly after their arrival, 2 seats behind my son and I (with an older male passenger separating us), I realised that they were talking about me – my breast size, that I’m not thin (“Why is it fat slags have the biggest tits?”) and so on – all within obvious earshot of my son.
I didn’t realise it, but the window above my son’s seat was open, and one of the “boys” leaned forward suddenly to slam it shut, making my son jump. As he sat back down, the lad ran his fingers through my hair.
A moment later and the group was making lewd suggestions and repeatedly leaning forward to touch me, laughing and carrying on the whole time. I turned around and demanded they stop, loudly enough for the other passengers to realise there was a problem, and was laughed at by the boys, who promptly carried on – now adding an impression of my voice to their game.
Eventually the male passenger sitting behind me turned around and shouted at them, saying if they didn’t stop, he’d hit them.
At this point, though it was raining and my son was tired, I decided to get off the bus – three stops early. I live in a part of Bristol where you need to be careful after dark, but, frankly, Stapleton Road was preferable to this continuing harassment – and in front of my child.
As I reached the front of the bus, I told the driver what had happened, and that a fight was about to break out between the passenger and the boys. The driver shrugged and said “What do you expect me to do? Boys will be boys.”
This sentiment was echoed by the bus company, who said that, as there was no camera on the service and as I didn’t get either the driver’s name or the contact details of any of the other passengers, there was no way of verifying my story (because, apparently, women like to make that stuff up a lot?!) and, in any case, it just sounded like they were having “a little harmless fun”.
Interestingly, whenever I’ve told any of my male friends, they’ve barely blinked an eye. All of them have made the right noises while being obviously confused about what I’m so upset about (“No one was hurt, after all”). Meanwhile, all my female friends have been utterly disgusted by what happened – and in front of my son, who was possibly more upset about it all than I was, and now refuses to get on a number 24 service.
“Boys will be boys” is NO excuse for this type of behaviour – if I had have been the one behaving in a sexually aggressive way toward them, you can bet I’d have been ejected from the bus without question. But the message seems to be very clear: if you have boobs, you should sit down, shut up and put up with it without complaint.
Inner city bus services should ALL have CCTV cameras on them (not just on “selected services”), and bus drivers should be accountable for ALL behaviour that takes place on their buses – they carry DNA swab-kits, after all – it’s not up to them, surely, to pick and choose what’s important and what’s not. There needs to be a nation-wide policy in place to protect women (and children) using ALL forms of public transport.
Thank you for this campaign and for giving me a place to write about what happened without fear of people (men) rolling their eyes and tutting about yet another female over-reaction.
Good luck to you, and to all women who pass through this site: it’s about time someone made a serious attempt to give voice to the outrage, distress and fear this sort of thing causes.
I was on the 53 in Woolwich and some old bloke told me that if I kept touching myself (referring to my hand on my knee), he’d miss his stop. I told him to f**k himself.
I work in a college where there are young students, mainly between the ages of 14-23, largely from underprivileged backgrounds, council estates and disenfranchised areas. I work as a senior manager, always dress professionally in a suit, button up shirt, dark tights and low heels. I unfortunately am one of the youngest people in the organisation, despite my status as a senior manager.
I frequently have students catcalling me in the corridors, as I pass between meeting rooms. It is disgraceful if it happens once, but for it to happen constantly, despite my demure appearance is ridiculous. My policy (depending on how urgent my meetings are), is to deal with incidents then and there, professionally, using the student policies designed to support and protect staff.
Unfortunately, the last (and potentially worst) situation happened last week. I was not only catcalled in the corridor, but was followed back to my secluded office up the stairs by 3 male students, who cornered me in an office, making me feel as if I was a piece of dirt, a piece of meat- IN MY WORKPLACE.
After being chased up the stairs, I ran into the closest room, screamed, locked the door and called security straightaway. The students were inevitably suspended, but following an investigation, with findings that the male students had a good academic record, and no previous disciplinary sanctions and on the grounds that NO assault occurred, they were let off with a verbal warning.
I am furious, totally furious, and cannot face going back to a workplace that puts harassment above the safety of their staff.
I know that harassment in the street is common, but in the workplace, its deplorable and inexcusable.
Do I need to be raped before it becomes serious enough to be dealt with????
I was walking through London yesterday, and a man in a van shouted out, “Nice tits, love!”. I gave him the middle finger and continued walking, and he proceeded to stop his van and roll down his window and say, “Whack ‘em out! Come on, babe! Whack ‘em out for me!”, whilst he and his friend were laughing and making sexual gestures. I shouted at them to leave me alone, and the man who drove the van got out and proceeded to come up to me angrily. I was so scared, I was shaking. The man got right in my face and said, “I was only having a bit of fucking fun, sweetheart. No need to get rude is there?” His tone was so aggressive, I went home and cried for hours. He could have raped me. I could have been a rape victim. It’s all that keeps going through my mind.
“Fat ass”. And when I didn’t stop running or turn around, there it was again, “Fat ASS”.
I’ve been living in New Haven for about two years and was nicely surprised by the lack of harassment received from builders on the street, men outside pubs and bars, white van drivers, and the like. I’m from England: in my home country, these kinds of men are often more liberal with their commentaries. So when I’m running in New Haven, whatever does come my way resonates that little bit more strongly. And there is a difference between receiving a wolf-whistle or a car horn honk: non verbal appreciation can at least be explained away by me into more positive categories of admiration. As a runner, I find some of the street responses come from a genuine respect for a woman who runs in all weathers, as when a car horn honks at you during a downpour and gives you the thumbs up. That’s fine.
But “fat ass”? Really? I’m turning the corner, I’m sprinting, I’m wearing lycra because it’s more streamlined and comfortable and warmer, necessary for that time of year (January). And this guy yells this at me. And repeats it. Louder. And what’s worse, I don’t know if it’s a compliment and he likes the butt I have, or its derogatory, in which case, he might consider that running would help it. Either way, my ass is not fat, and it’s not for his viewing pleasure or censure either.
I was in Bournemouth walking back to my hotel with my friend, these guys in a car parked up start leaning out going ‘hey girl come into the car with us’ I went ‘as if’ and had a go at them.
This sort of thing has happened to me 100′s of times, the worst was 11 years ago when I was 16 years old and it was millennium new years eve, me and my two friends were walking back to Euston to get the train home and as we walked past a side street a guy came out and picked me up by my waist from behind and tried to take me down an alley, luckily I started screaming and my friends came to my aid.
I set up TeenBoundariesUk, to re-educate young men and women on sexualized bullying. I am so glad Hollaback exists we need more people to fight this cause its so widespread!
Me and 2 friends were walking to a bar in Leeds about 10 o’clock at night, when we passed some guys hanging around by a car. As we walked passed we got catcalls like ‘oi love, how much?!’ and ‘phwoar I’d do you one!’. We weren’t scared as such, we just tried to ignore it walk away as quickly as possible. All the time I was thinking why? Why is it just because we’re women, that we have to put up this? Men don’t have this problem, it doesn’t make us feel ‘special’ or ‘complimented’ or ‘attractive’ it just makes us feel uneasy, embarrassed, and awkward.
I was studying in Cairo for the summer, trying to improve my not-so-great Arabic. A few weeks into our time there, my roommate and I decided to go for a shop in the marketplace in the middle of the day.
Both of us had been making a conscious effort while in Egypt to dress conservatively – loose trousers, baggy shirts, nothing “provocative” by Egyptian standards. (Something that quite a few Western tourists never bother doing). In our naivety, we assumed that by dressing in a culturally respectful way, we would be treated respectfully.
Anyways, we were walking through the marketplace when this man began following us, muttering sexually suggestive phrases in Arabic at us (never imagining, I’m sure, that both of us understood full well what he was saying). We ignored him, darting in and out of shops to try and shake him off. He just hung around outside them, waiting for us to come out.
Eventually, he came up behind me and began rubbing his pelvis against me, and groping my butt. I managed to shake free of him, and then he did the same to my roommate. Unbelievably, he came up behind me AGAIN to try for another feel, at which point I elbowed him as hard as I could in the stomach. As I turned around, I saw him looking at me with this expression of mingled fury and hurt – as though somehow, he’d been doing me a tremendous favour, and I was the one behaving outrageously.
Another time, early in the morning, I had a guy follow me for about an hour. He followed me all the way to my classes, leering, catcalling, calling me a whore in Arabic – all at 8 o’clock in the morning. All I had done was hold a door open for him as I went out of a coffee shop.
I’m sure everyone now is aware of just how bad the sexual harassment problem in Egypt is, but I just want to go on record as having said the following: it doesn’t matter what you wear, it doesn’t matter if you speak any Arabic, it doesn’t matter how many people you’re with, and it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. If you’re a woman in Cairo (particularly a Western woman), men will follow you, make comments, and call you a whore – and it has to stop.
Walking back from the shops along a busy main road in London I saw a man leering out of his van and wolf whistling at a girl in front of me. I walked right up to his van and gave him a sarcastic cheeky/flirty wave, then the middle finger which shut him up.
By coincidence when I got home I saw this article on the bbc news website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12771938
This bit in particular I thought was noteworthy.
“Not all men impose unwanted attention upon women, and Kearl agrees that it’s important for these men to join in the movement to stop street harassment.”
So as in my case today I think it’s important that men make those who indulge in street harassment aware that it’s not acceptable, preferably without endangering their own safety or that of others! I apologize if it’s wrong to take offence on behalf of a woman and appear to be playing the hero, but I find it extremely offensive myself, hate it when my girlfriend tells me she’s had a similar experience and hope that other guys would do the same as I did today if it was her that was being whistled at.