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.
My best friend and I were at Union Station taking photos for her school project when a man yelled across a large aisle to us, asking if we were photographers in an obviously mocking voice. We immediately became hesitant, but I answered and said we were just taking pictures for school. He then came closer and asked us if we’d take a picture of him, we told him some reason why we couldn’t and he followed us as we headed to the ballroom area, asking us questions the entire way. When we got back to ballroom entrance, we found that we were completely alone with the man, who was easily 4 years older than us and 50 pounds larger. He asked us if we had boyfriends, if we wanted to hang with him and his friends, have a drink, etc, and when we said no to all of it, he said something along the lines of “Y’all are good girls then, huh?” and stepped closer. I don’t remember what made him leave, but finally he wandered off. We haven’t been back there since, but if I do go back, at least now I’m old enough to carry the pepper spray that would have helped me feel safer in that situation.
BY RITA PASARELL
When I heard of Hollaback a few years ago, my first thought was: “finally!” I was so glad to see a place for people to share their stories and speak out against street harassment— a place where the issue was taken seriously.
I remember thinking back to when I was repeatedly, loudly,aggressively street harassed for almost two years by a neighbor who was more than twice my age. After many confrontations where I told him to leave me alone,I became so fed up that I decided to report him to the police.The first time I described his behavior, the police would not take a report. No crime had taken place, they said. I told the police how this man had pulled his rusty, broken-windowed van next to me as I walked down the sidewalk, shouting “get in!” after months of explicitly shouting comments about my body. I told them he had been harassing other women, that I was embarrassed to walk in my own neighborhood, and that I was worried he would escalate. Ok, but did he touch you, they wanted to know. He hadn’t. I went home.
It wasn’t until after my third visit to the police station, many months later, that this man was finally charged – with stalking. I had given the police detailed lists of the street harassment I’d experienced, and I remember thinking “it shouldn’t be this difficult.” The charge was ultimately dismissed.
Although I am frustrated that the legal system failed to hold a serial street harasser accountable for his inappropriate behavior, Hollaback’s work gives me hope that in speaking out against street harassment, our voices do have an impact, even if not immediately.Every shared story of street harassment says I do not accept this and joins with other stories to make it clear that street harassment will not be tolerated. Hollaback reminds us that we don’t have to be silent, that our experiences deserve to be taken seriously, and also reminds the world to listen.
In August of 2011, my city held a “clean commuting challenge” to encourage people to walk, bike, carpool, etc. to work. Having recently moved from a city where walking was very much a part of my lifestyle, I was excited for the opportunity to get into the habit again — exercise, fresh air, saving my gas money. So all week long, I walked the one mile each way to and from work. And I felt great.
But on Friday, everything changed.
I was about a third of the way home when I crossed the railroad tracks, and a young man came out of the barbershop nearby. He watched me pass, whistled, and said something derogatory. I ignored him and kept walking, as I always did in such instances. But this time was different. This time, he followed me, and continued to “talk” to me, with increasingly angry comments. “Too good for me huh,” “White girl with her nose in the air,” and some other, more personal things too profane to repeat here.
I was terrified. I didn’t know what to do. I had no mace, no self-defense training. Didn’t know anybody in the area yet. Cars zoomed by on Grand River Avenue, but nobody was paying any attention. I felt completely powerless.
Finally, he stopped talking. But he kept following me. I tried walking faster. He sped up, too. I tried slowing down to let him pass me. He slowed down, too. Finally I turned down my street, thinking he wouldn’t dare turn and follow me, not with an elementary school right there on the corner. But the schoolyard was empty, and no one was around on my street. And he kept following me.
A few doors down from my house, I walked up the driveway of a neighbor’s house and hid behind it, imagining that he would think this was my house and his little game would end there. I waited, watching the time. Five minutes passed. I peeked out from the side of the house — and there he was, standing on the sidewalk, arms folded. Watching me. Waiting.
I finally called 911 and when the police came, he tried to run away. They caught him and took him in, but had to let him go the next day. I was told I couldn’t press charges because he hadn’t actually done anything to me.
But he did do something to me.
I never walked to work again. I never felt safe in my neighborhood again, or even in my own house — as close as I was to the street, I kept imagining he, or someone like him, might be waiting outside for me.
Eventually, I moved to a different neighborhood. But I still don’t walk anywhere by myself. And I feel angry about it. A man can walk around practically anywhere he wants and have no fear. But a woman has to be told, has to feel, it’s not safe.
It’s not fair.
I was leaving a store, and I saw a man staring at me, sitting in his car parked next to mine. Then I realized he was masturbating. Called the police; by the time they got there he had stopped. They didn’t even file a report. I would have liked to press charges, but I don’t know who he was, and they didn’t bother to take down his info.
On the ground in New Your City, our International Movement Fellow Shahinaz led five workshops in NYC this week.
She worked with Young Democrats, We Act for Environmental Justice, Scenarios USA, Crime Victims Treatment Center, and Girls Inc. of NYC. On that note, we’re sad to say goodbye to Shahinaz as her fellowship comes to an end and she returns to her home country of Egypt. She has been an incredible asset to our program — and will definitely be missed.
Here’s what our site leaders have been up to world-wide:
Hollaback Alberta is supporting a locally developed documentary called “Who Cares?” about the abuse women who work in the sex industry face. They are setting up an info booth at the screening and site leaders have collaborated with a local stencil artist to create art pieces around the documentary’s themes.
Hollaback Berlin has had a busy week! First, site leader Julia Brilling was interviewed by the Der Freitag newspaper. German speakers be sure to check out the article here. Also, Julia created a video, along with fellow Hollaback activist Kristen, as part of the One Billion Rising project to end violence against women.
Hollaback Gent ladies were interviewed in the major newspaper Der Standaard. They also took part in a Chalk Walk where they wrote anti-street harassment slogans on the street in places where people have been harassed. Here’s the event description and some pics from the event.
Great work everyone!
HOLLA and Out,
I am a small town girl in texas. During the summers and winters i go down to mexico to visit family. Everytime i walk down the street i hear men whistling at me. My friends think its so cool to be recognized like that yet i feel threatend. One night coming out of a dance club( we did not drink) 4 men approached us asking for our number. We felt very uncomfortble so we started to walk off and they kept following us. My friends and i felt so threatend that we start to walk faster. Then i felt the man’s arm around me. Earlier that year at work this guy showed me a few self defence moves ( which i thought were useless because i never thought i would use them.) one of them was how to flip a person on their back (i felt like a spy when i learned it:)). I put my leg in between his and with all my might i flipped the guy on his back. The guy hit the pavement hard that he didnt get up. My friends and i ran straight home. Its been a year since that encounter. I think im still a little paranoid. All i have to say for my girls out there is that we are strong and no person will ever hurt me again!!
I have had so many instances of harassment its ridiculous. I’ve been asked, “Hey Slut how much?” while walking my dog and wearing sweatpants to having men twice my age yell, “nice tits!” at me to having a guy come up to me and tell me, “with boobs like that you have to be a porn star.” I naturally have a larger bust and I don’t want to feel like it automatically makes me a slut. It makes me feel powerless and angry. It got to the point where I started yelling back at men who screamed obscenities at me and they always respond with some horrible insult when I tell them to leave me alone. My friends and family have told me not to do so because the guys could retaliate and hurt me. I don’t think its fair that because I happen to be a women I have to let men harass me because they are physically stronger and bigger than me. Its gotten so bad sometimes that I dont even want to wear makeup or dress in a nice outfit when I am going to be walking because I dont want to be harassed. I take a lot of pride in my appearance and I dont want that to be taken from me but I dont want to draw attention to myself that will lead to harassment.
The worst incident occurred two Halloweens ago. I was out celebrating in costume with three friends. We were leaving a bar in Hollywood and walking to the lot where we parked the car. A group of five guys came up to us and started harassing us and telling us we should go home with them. We politely responded we were just going home and to have a nice night and they started calling us whores and one grabbed my friends butt. She told him to stop and he said he would “Do whatever the fuck he wanted.” I had a soda in my hand and I turned around and threw it at him. I kept walking when I realized one of my friend wasn’t with me. She was being punched and kicked by two of the guys. I ran over to help her and one of the other guys punched me in the chest and jaw and then started running away. I called 911 and chased the guy who hit me for four blocks. The other guys ran. The police pulled into the parking lot as one of the guys came back and was running into his car. He was arrested but they never found the other four guys. My friend had choke marks on her neck. One of the guys told her he would, “fucking kill her.” She was eight weeks pregnant at the time and suffered a miscarriage most likely due to the blows to her stomach. I was very afraid to go out at night for a long time because I was so scared of being assaulted again.
Since I was 12 and first started jogging on city streets, I’ve always encountered leers and comments. I’ve jogged in suburban neighborhoods of Silicon Valley, the capital of Costa Rica, Paris, San Diego CA, etc. As your research bears out, I perceive it to be a simple fact of life and my only response has either been retreat or anger. As a 12-16 year old, I would often yell back my age, hoping to expose to the adult male that he was my father’s age. My older brother believed I was exaggerating the extent of the staring and sexual comments, that perhaps I was flattering myself. Until, one day he ran with me. He was utterly shocked at how watched and violated he felt after experiencing the level of attention I received. He had an entirely new perspective on how poorly women and girls are treated in public, even with a chaperone. To this day, (25 years later), I will still reflexively flip off anyone who whistles or slows down to stare, etc. It sometimes makes me so angry I will chase after them and hit their car with my fists if they are forced to stop at an upcoming stoplight. I fully understand that some are raised to think that calling out sexual comments is a compliment, but I don’t think they’ve thought it through – to have every single moment on a public street be an invitation for being sexualized is simply not fun.