BY TANISHA L. RAMIREZ
Hollaback is a voice; it’s an opportunity to join a chorus of women speaking up against street harassment, in an effort not only to mute the various Psssts, Hey, Ma’s, and Hey, Girl’s that women are subjected to just about any time that they step out in public, but to bring awareness to the fact that these public come-ons are unwarranted, unwanted and unwelcome.
Cat-calls, or piropos as they are called in Spanish, have been a daily occurrence in my life since I was 12 years old. I remember the first time a man—yes, a man, not a boy!—wolf-whistled at me in the street. I was walking home from my ELEMENTARY school and a man in a blue jeep slowed his vehicle to a creepy crawl, hung out of his window and shouted, “Hey, Mamita! You need a ride home?” His eyes caressed the budding curves of my body and his lips shined with the spit deposited on them from a fresh lick. It was at that moment that I knew—just knew—that I was a piece of meat to this man. I went home feeling ashamed and dirty. I didn’t tell anyone about it or leave my home for days.
As got older the hollering became cruder and more frequent. What were excused as mere compliments and pleasantries regarding my body were hurled at me on an almost daily basis. My ass, my breasts, my hair, my hips, my waist and even my smile were up for public discussion. “Smile, Ma,” they’d say as they grinned at me, stupidly. Because, of course, most people go about gallivanting on the street with a big goofy smile on their faces. Thank you strange man for reminding that my “thighs be thick” and that I’ve forgotten to smile. It’s like I had a bevy of street harassers serving as my verbal mirror. I tried covering up my body in long coats and bulky sweaters. I zig-zagged across streets in order to avoid directly passing in front of groups of boys or men. I kept it all to myself, withdrawing further into my mind and into my home.
Then, one day, after a particularly awful day filled to the brim with crude remarks and one especially depraved individual requesting that I “bounce” on his lap, I’d had enough. At the time Facebook had just introduced the “Notes” app. I clicked on the app, and filled the empty page with the note that would not only ignite my blogging career, but introduced me to Hollaback. I wrote, “All you guys who feel compelled to say the nastiest, cheesiest and just ungodly things to young women walking down the street, you all need to SHUT THE *EXPLATIVE* UP… Don’t think that you are so important that girls and women must stop for you in the street, must run up to your car when you honk a horn, or blush just because you called them pretty… Ladies, you don’t need any validation from anyone, much less someone who doesn’t know you for who you really are—more than just a body…So, guys, just shut up! We just want to go about our day without being harassed by you on the street.”
What started out as just an opportunity to vent more than a decade-worth of being harassed on the street for no reason other than the fact that I walked outside while being an unaccompanied female, became an instant hit among my friends. Women and men commented on my post, with most of them expressing relief that someone finally put into words the frustration that they felt as a result of street harassment. One of the commentators wrote, “You’d love Hollaback! They are a hub for stories like yours.”
I visited iHollaback.org that very night. I spent countless hours clicking through women’s stories of street harassment. I’d always known that I wasn’t the only female to experience these piropos, these cat-calls, but at the time, visiting Hollaback for the first time, I felt that I’d found a community of women who were willing to finally talk about it, and holler back!
Hollaback has given me a voice with which I fight against street harassment. With Hollback, I’m able to track incidents of street harassment in my city, and sometimes read vivid descriptions of the perpetrators. I’m sure they don’t care for our detailed descriptions of their bodies—ha! Hollaback
has also given me the courage to literally talk back to the man who threatened to “fuck,” me “into submission” after I refused to speak to him or blush when he whistled at me. Hollaback makes me feel like every time that I step out in the world, I do so with thousands of Hollerbackers by my side. We are a chorus of women speaking up against piropos, cat-calls, wolf-whistles, come-ons, “compliments”, and hollers. Though I understand that street harassment may always be a part of my life, and that often times the men that we target are not interested in reading the blog, I’m comforted by the fact that when they holler at me, I’m willing and able to holler back.
In the lobby, a group of adults were walking past my group & one man and his wife who had obviously been drinking began to pester us to sing even tough we were under instruction to be quiet in the lobby of the club until our director arrived (as I informed him repeatedly). Blame it on the alcohol… either way he was rude & made me uncomfortable. A grown man who belongs to a country club should know better than to act like that to a group of teens even after a few drinks. Rich shouldn’t equal rude.
There are builders currently working on our campus, so my classmates and I frequently experience wolf whistling, being told to smile and shouts of “morning gorgeous” etc as we make out way to and from classes.
It isn’t much of a story, I was just hoping to take a little control back after the routine, lech-y verbal harassment that occurs in the not-so-nice part of my neighbourhood here in LA.
I was walking to the pet store to buy some dog food when a 50-something man started shouting sexual obscenities in my direction, entreating me to “come over to his car” to “get a better look”, blah blah. He was sitting in his BMW SUV in the Citibank parking lot, smoking a cigarette.
I looked over at him, he grinned and I quickly averted my gaze. As I was in the pet store, I was mad at myself for not staring him down, so on my way back, I held up my iPhone and conspicuously snapped a profile photo of him, then got a little closer to take a photo of his license plate. As he saw me taking the second picture, his grin turned to what seemed like a confused frown.
Here’s his car, and his license plate. He can go fuck himself.
This experience is a few years old, but I just came across this site after sharing the story a few days ago, so I thought I would share it here.
A few years ago I was visiting the Summer Solstice Festival in Greensboro, NC. It’s a wonderful festival that I enjoy very much, and usually the people there are awesome. I was with my husband (now my ex) and a couple friends — one of whom brought her children.
We agreed to meet up at the fire dancers, and with one thing and another I ended up in the middle of a tightly packed crowd, with an autistic little boy of five or so, with no way to track down the rest of my group or even get out of the crowd until the performance was done. It might not have been so difficult for another person, but I’m nightblind — I could see points of fire and tightly packed, shadowy bodies and nothing else. Still wouldn’t have been a problem, except that my young charge was both cranky and intent upon joining the fire dancers any way he could. He set up a screaming tantrum to rival the drums, struggled, kicked, bit, and pulled my hair in his flailing attempts to get away from me ( and in case you did not know, autistic kids are ridiculously strong).
A very kind older gentleman (perhaps forties or early fifties) was sitting next to me, and he offered to help me with my uncooperative charge. He helped me get the little boy restrained, then semi-calmed, and I was very grateful. And it didn’t bother me that the man sat close to me and put his arm around me either. He was inviting me to come take classes at his yoga studio.
That was when he groped me.
So here I am, still with a squirming child in my arms, and I’m terrified that without this man’s help I’ll lose my grip on the kid and he’ll go charging in amongst the torches and the gasoline. I can’t go anywhere — I’m sitting crosslegged with a kid in my lap, people pressed in on all sides, and I CANNOT SEE. And this man is talking about how he would really like to see me me again, with his arm wrapped around my shoulders and his hand on my breast.
I felt so helpless. I never expected it, not from an older man, not from one who was so soft spoken and helpful, not from a freaking YOGA TEACHER at an event where I was used to receiving a higher level of courtesy than usual. I didn’t feel like I could escape. I didn’t even feel like I could PROTEST, because his influence seemed to be the only thing keeping the kid beating the heck out of me and escaping. Don’t get me wrong, if this guy had touched the boy in any way that could have been considered inappropriate I’d have set up an unholy racket. But for myself? I sat there and took it.
I’m a braver person now. I’ve learned some tricks, and I’m not so helpless in the dark anymore. But I’m even more reluctant than ever to be left alone in any crowded place now.
I was walking and had 2 guys follow me in a car and said hey girl come here look at that ass, come here, show me your vagina. It was gross and made me feel awful.
On the local news I saw that there is a man that has flashed, I believe, 2 women in the downtown Corpus Christi area by Cole Park. It’s a popular jogging area. Police are urging that you report any and all suspicious activity in that area because they are very concerned by this kind of behavior as it can lead to a more dangerous crime as the flasher may get braver.
Welcome to our weekly update! This week, I was honored to be invited to give a talk at the TEDxWomen conference in Washington D.C. (Click here to view the talk.) We were invited to speak because we won the TED City 2.0 Prize ! The ten winners were awarded for “innovative ideas in urban transformation.” On Wednesday I went to Rutgers University in New Jersey to speak on a panel about the roles new technologies play in ending gender-based violence. Big thanks to the Center for Women’s Global Leadership for hosting this event. Also, Debjani, our Deputy Director spoke on a panel hosted by the UN Secretary General’s UNITE campaign, on the subject of youth engagement in combating gender based violence. Thanks to Jimmie Briggs of the Man Up Campaign for inviting us!
Here’s what our Hollaback sites have been up to this week:
Hollaback Croatia wants your street harassment slogans and images! They are holding a competition from 12/1-1/31 for the best work in both categories. The winner gets cash and lots of Holla love. Check out their website for more details.
Hollaback Baltimore‘s Shawna Potter was on a roll this week. First, she did a fantastic job as a panelist at George Washington University’s Global Women’s Institute event. Check her out starting at 24:35. She was also interviewed on Escape Velocity Radio.
Hollaback Alberta is co-hosting the screening of The Invisible War, a documentary on sexual assault in the US military, at the University of Alberta.
Lastly, we are sad to announce that Justine Dowden, our International Movement Intern, completes her internship this week. Justine was critical in helping to compile these updates, and gathering news and information about our site leaders and the movement at large. We are grateful to her — and to all of you — for your incredible efforts to keep this movement moving.
HOLLA and out,
Guy walking by me on Fort Totten Metro platform: You are so pretty. You sexy too.
(I give him the stink-eye. He keeps walking.)
Harasser: I was just giving you a compliment.
Me: That’s not a compliment.
Harasser: I just said you’re pretty.
Me: That’s not a compliment.
Harasser (walks back over to me): I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful.
Me: When you comment on a woman’s looks without her asking you, it’s disrespectful.
Harasser: It was a compliment. You’re supposed to say, “thank you”.
Me: That’s not a compliment. When you comment on a woman’s looks without her asking, it’s disrespectful, it’s not a compliment.
Harasser: Where you from?
Me: I don’t have to talk to you.
Harasser: When someone gives you a compliment, you’re supposed to say “thank you”.
Me: That’s not a compliment when you comment on a woman’s body without her asking you.
Harasser: How many women you think ask “How do I look today?” Next time say thank you.
Me: No. It’s not a compliment.
(Harasser starts to walk away)
Harasser: Just because you pretty don’t mean you smart. Think before you speak next time. Dumb bitch.
I’ve been harassed on the street many, many times, and it felt good to respond in that moment. But he got the last word. Until now.