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I have a new job that I love with an incredibly chill, great boss. It’s customer service at a food joint and the vast majority of the customers I interact with daily are men and they’re perfectly polite, lovely people. My job is a small business, so my boss loves any regular customers and one in particular is so beloved, he get’s everything free. When I first started a few weeks ago, I enjoyed chatting and joking around with this (significantly older) man when he’d come by for his coffee and I had some downtime. I thought he seemed rather sweet.
I’ve mentioned the fact I’m in a long term relationship with my boyfriend numerous times, but somehow he used that subject the first time he said something that made me uncomfortable. I said something about how it sometimes irked me we always have to hang out at my place since I have the luxury of privacy while my boyfriend doesn’t and this customer said “Well, he always wants to hang out there so he can fuck you”. I quickly brushed it off with an awkward chuckle. Since then, he would make inappropriate comments regarding my sex life with my boyfriend from out of nowhere, but I continued to brush it off.
He started greeting me by calling me “Gorgeous” each time he came by for his daily coffee and, while at first I thought it was harmless, there’s a strong, flirtatious tone to his voice as he says it. Last week, I said something about having just turned 28 and he admitted he had thought I was much younger. I explained that I got that a lot from people, that I guess I must look closer to my early 20’s than almost 30, but despite being constantly carded for cigarettes, I doubt I pass for a teenager. His voice took on an even huskier, more flirtatious tone when he replied “No, you definitely look like a teenager, you could pass for 17, without a doubt!”…the way he said it was as if this was an incredible turn on for him and it absolutely made my skin crawl.
The next day as I was leaning over the counter, he abruptly pushed his face uncomfortably close to mine, as if he hoped to kiss me, but I quickly recoiled and just gave yet another awkward chuckle. By this point, I’m not trying to actively engage in conversation anymore, I’m just doing my best as my boss’s sole customer service rep to be friendly to the favorite regular. I use work I need to get done as an excuse to leave the conversations, but he still insists on hanging around the counter in silence, just watching me.
He’s even coming by without any interest in the promise of free coffee now, this man is swinging by more often and clearly just to visit me.
For work, my boss knows I’m an artist and asked me to draw something for the business and I happily complied; I drew a neo-traditional style pin-up girl who is wearing just a cook’s apron draped across her front, tied at the back with red high heels as she smiles and holds a tray of food. It is pretty racy, but the customers are not offended and I’m personally just a fan of old pin-up artwork. The other customers regularly compliment the drawing, telling me I should become a tattoo artist (something I’d once wanted to do, truthfully), but it stupidly hadn’t occurred to me the sexy nature of the pin-up girl drawing would make things worse with this one man.
Today, the man came by for his regular visit, right when he knows I have nothing to do for awhile, and despite my clear disinterest in chatting, he wouldn’t give up on trying to get his daily chat with me. I don’t even know what prompted him to say this, but he said “That drawing’s very good, you’re very talented. That’s a very sexy woman, she’s HOT…” and as I was about to give a lukewarm thank you, he continued with “I bet business would seriously pick up if YOU started coming into work dressed like that! Just an apron, nothin’ underneath!”. His tone and vibe were without a doubt in full on ‘hitting on you’ mode, this wasn’t a casual joke.
He’s expressed the fact he thinks I’m “gorgeous”, that I could pass for an underage girl (and that it’s ‘hot’), he’s made lewd comments about my boyfriend and I having sex and now he straight up tells me he wants to see me come to work in nothing but an apron and heels. I step away from the counter, give my now standard awkward chuckle and mutter “No, no, I’m good wearing dirty flannel shirts, jeans and boots…” and I quickly add, hoping he’ll finally get the hint, “Plus, it would really suck to come to work and get sexually harassed. I’m really not trying to have that.”
He just laughed, said something along the lines of “Oh c’mon, I think you’d look pretty hot” and “It’d be fun! For the business!”, but I was so uncomfortable and embarrassed that…I don’t know, my mind kind of blocked him out. I quickly excused myself, citing certain work that needed to be done and got away from the guy.
Tonight, I logged onto Facebook, see I have a friend request and, lo and behold, it’s him. I’m FB friend’s with my boss, he must have found me through his friend’s list. I’m deeply uncomfortable, I’m thoroughly creeped out, his behavior is just escalating despite how clearly NOT into it I am. I do NOT want him as a FB friend, god only knows why he thought it’d be appropriate to seek me out and send me the request, I just want the guy to go back to being a polite, friendly, chatty customer.
I’m afraid to complain to my boss because of this particular customer being one of his buddies and a respected regular. I’m also, frankly, embarrassed by the idea of creating ‘a scene’ if my boss did decide to confront this man and demand he cut out the gross behavior. I don’t know if it will be seen as me making a big deal out of nothing…I don’t want to mess up this job, I sincerely enjoy everything else about it. I don’t know how to handle this. Creeps on the street, you can tell them to f*ck right off. I can’t do that with this man.
Hollaback! is a movement to end harassment powered by a network of local activists. We work together to better understand harassment, raise awareness, and provide community-based solutions. We are coming together as a global community to publicly critique the discriminatory and offensive media coverage surrounding the attacks in Cologne.
In the face of increased public awareness and media attention in Europe as a result of the attacks in Cologne mostly, but from other German cities as well, it is important to take this moment to dismantle the harmful myths that circulate around street harassment and reaffirm the right to safe and equal public spaces for all.
Street harassment – “catcalling,” discriminatory/hate speech, groping, public masturbation, and stalking – is an everyday fact of life for many women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color. According to research from Cornell University, it can cause depression, anger, and fear. Street harassment limits our access to free and equal public spaces and reiterates existing power imbalances.
We support the individuals who have been the targets of this violence and street harassment – both in the recent attacks and throughout history. We hear you and we believe you.
However, we are disappointed and offended by how many media outlets are portraying the street harassment that occurred on New Year’s Eve in Cologne as a new phenomenon imported by “foreigners or migrants,” when the reality is that street harassment is an ongoing and pervasive issue: one that affects women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color the world over. Street harassment is not a new problem. To report about street harassment as if it was nonexistent before one highly publicized incident, or as if it is only an act perpetrated by migrants is incredibly problematic and frankly, wrong. Hollaback! has been collecting data on harassment worldwide for over ten years. To date, we have received over 9,000 stories of street harassment from around the world. That data is made available to the public through our websites and app, as well as through publications such as “Harassment Is: An exploration of identity and street harassment.” The data shows that street harassment is most prevalent in high-traffic areas, including public transportation and subway systems. Street harassment does not belong to a specific social category. As we’ve seen from the stories of harassment that we collect daily and from the emerging research, individuals who harass come from all racial and class backgrounds. Rather, street harassment is made possible by a society of inequality that determines the freedom of some to movement and safety, leading to unequal access to public spaces.
We refuse to allow an increased awareness of street harassment to be used as a tool for racist and xenophobic policies. What has to be reaffirmed throughout the narrative is the lack of freedoms of women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color in public space.
Just last year, Hollaback! held the largest ever global survey on street harassment with Cornell University. We found that over 84 percent of women globally had been harassed before the age of 18, and that over half of individuals responding reported being groped or fondled without their consent in the last year alone. What’s more, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights survey of 42,000 women throughout the EU, over 55% have experienced some form of sexual harassment since the age of 15. In Germany, where the events took place:
What we’ve seen from the overall qualitative and quantitative research so far is that street harassment disproportionately impacts young women and girls, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. Street harassment is an expression of interlocking and overlapping oppressions. It can be sexist, racist, transphobic, ableist, sizeist and/or classist. Individuals’ experiences of street harassment must be understood within the historical context, societal prejudices, and climates of inequality that inform it. Hollaback! believes that recognizing this intersection of identities and oppressions is key to implementing lasting social change. As such, we believe it is of pivotal importance to dismantle stereotypes of harassment and question media narratives that promote inequality.
Our Hollaback! Berlin site writes:
Since NYE and the subsequent undifferentiated media coverage, there seems to be a new interest in Germany regarding sexual violence. There have to our knowledge barely been that many reports on and discussions about sexualized violence, the issue or the roots of the problem are not being discussed. Rather the attacks in Cologne and other German cities leave many questions open. Up until today it is quite unclear what exactly happened there, by whom and how was that even possible?
How can in a situation with more than 1000 people present and obviously a large police force as well, how can women be groped, abused and violated without anyone – and that includes the police – intervening?
One answer to this is that German society does not have any strategies against sexualized violence. What these events brought to light is that German society, and that includes and its members and official bodies, does not know what to do against sexualized violence. The laws are inefficient and do not protect women from violence, as pointed out by several women’s rights organizations in Germany.
The same politicians that are now pretending to care about violence against women are instrumentalizing the events to pursue a racist agenda aimed at refugees.
We as Hollaback! have been working around the issues of sexualized violence for a long time and each and every story on our blogs proves that street harassment is an everyday issue – not only in Germany. Germany has a blatant sexism problem and with the ever growing openly racist movements, German society, media and lawmakers must not only learn to deal with sexualized violence, they must understand the intersections of sexism and racism.
Completely out of focus in the overtly racist and white male dominated discourse “after” Cologne are the victims of sexualized violence. Only few reports from women who were there NYE have been published. Barely no attention is given to the situation of refugee women either. The public discourse in Germany is not interested in actually dealing with sexualized violence. As a space of empowerment and community, Hollaback! invites all people facing sexualized violence to use their power and tell their stories.
What we need is not new asylum laws, what we need are safe spaces for ALL women. An open call to end violence and an effective law enforcement and support system for victims and survivors of sexualized violence.
When discussing both the realities of street harassment, as well as community-led solutions to the issue, we need to recognize the facts: street harassment is an ongoing and persistent issue that often targets individuals’ identities and it occurs most often (though by no means exclusively) in high traffic areas. It is perpetuated by individuals of all backgrounds and cultures. It is by no means a “city” problem or a “Cologne” problem — it is a global problem and it affects all of us.
We call on the public and on the media to challenge their narratives of what street harassment is and to dismantle harmful myths that promote further discrimination and inequality. We call on the public to join us during a day of action on street harassment this February 4th to chalk walk, share our stories, and map our harassment with #ourstreets. Together, we can change the narrative and ensure safe and equal access to public spaces for all.
We had a busy and exciting week here at Hollaback! HQ. This past Wednesday we launched HeartMob, our online platform to address online harassment with reporting, bystander reporting, and community building. If you’re interested in creating an account, click on the link above. We also welcomed another intern this week! Alexis will be our communications and social media intern this spring. Welcome, Alexis!
And at Hollaback! sites around the world:
Hollaback! Berlin site leader Julie was interviewed by ARD and Radio Eins on her experience with Street Harassment and Hollaback!’s mission.
Hollaback! Vegas held a Trafficking Awareness event in their Town Square and will be at Meadows Mall on Saturday, January 30th, informing everyone on what they can do to prevent human trafficking. Their teenage volunteers stood inside a life-size box that read “We are not objects for sale.”
Hollaback! Baltimore will be attending a talk with Sharon Cooper this Saturday at Red Emma’s. Sharon is the sister of the late Sandra Bland. They will also be holding a Street Harassment 101 workshop on February 6th. The event will be hosted by co-director Brittany Oliver. It will be an open discussion on street harassment, how to handle it and how to make your community a safer place.
Stay tuned for next week!
Holla and out!
BIG NEWS: HeartMob launches today and is ready to help you reclaim the internet! HeartMob is the first online platform to tackle online harassment by providing real-time support to individuals experiencing online harassment and gives bystanders concrete actions they can take to step in and save the day. With HeartMob, love and support is just one click away!
Watch this short video to see it in action!
Here’s how it works: Users who report harassment will have the option of keeping their report private and cataloguing it in case it escalates, or they can make the report public. If they choose to make it public, they will be able to choose from a menu of options on how they want bystanders to support them, take action, or intervene. Bystanders looking to provide support will receive public requests, along with chosen actions of support. You can “have someone’s back” and know that you’re helping them out in a time of need while directly contributing to safer spaces online!
The internet is the world’s largest public space, and just like in the streets, we ALL have the right to safety and respect. HeartMob is here to drown out the hate with lots of love and support by giving voice to people who experience online harassment, and tools to people like you who want to end it.
Check out HeartMob here, and get ready to reclaim your space on the internet!
We had a short week with a long weekend at Hollaback! HQ, but we were jam-packed in the office preparing for next week’s launch of HeartMob, our new online platform to address online harassment with reporting, bystander reporting, and community building. Follow the link to be the first to know when we launch on Wednesday! This week we also welcomed two new interns, Noelia and Rachel, who will be working on legislative advocacy and HeartMob. Welcome Noelia and Rachel!
And at Hollaback! sites around the world:
Hollaback Italy participated in #SvegliaItalia.
Hollaback! Atlanta partnered up with Hu-MAN Up, Men Stopping Violence, and One Billion Rising Atlanta to present a screening of The Mask You Live In, a powerful documentary that follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity.
Holla and out!
I was at the beach reading and a guy was sat 50ft away from me, after a while he came over and started chatting to me, I didn’t really want to be bothered so tried to be polite but kept my answers brief. He asked if he could come and sit by me so I said “you can if you want but I’m just reading my book” hoping he would take the hint. He came and sat by me and we chatted, my birthday was coming up and I said I wasn’t thrilled about it as I was turning 30 and he reached out and stroked my shoulder and said I didn’t look 30. I felt uncomfortable with it and know now I should have said something then but I didn’t as it was an isolated beach and we were the only people there, I wanted to make my excuses and leave as soon as possible. After a bit more chatting and obviously encouraged by me not saying anything when he first touched me he started stroking my waist and making comments, at this point I felt very uneasy and said “look just because I said you could come sit by me doesn’t mean you can touch me” he stopped and we sat awkwardly for a while then I said I had to go. When I got home I felt disgusting, stupid and vulnerable.
More press this week at Hollaback HQ! Our Executive Director Emily was featured in Marie Claire magazine’s genius profile! We also had some young feminists drop by from Soapbox to help out in the office. It’s always inspiring to have more young folk contributing to the movement! In not-so-fun news…over ten years ago, Dan Hoyt was photographed publicly masturbating by the woman he was trying to intimidate, Thao Nguyen. When she posted the photo on Flickr, news outlets across New York begin to report on the incident. This case was one of the inspiring motives to create Hollaback!, and over 10 years later, he’s back at it. This goes to show, we still have so much more to do.
And at our Hollaback! sites around the world:
A coalition of European Hollaback! sites and Hollaback! HQ are drafting a collective response to the incidents in Cologne condemning the assaults, victim blaming, racism, and xenophobia.
Hollaback! Amsterdam participated in a protest against victim blaming–the city government’s suggested that women dress conservatively to avoid rape, so they responded with an all gender, skirt-wearing action! How awesome is that?
Holla and out!
This creepy guy followed me on the street I live I get sexually harassed or followed from time to time this is ridiculous this needs to stop no woman should ever experience verbal sexual harassment or being followed from any guy no means no
Yes I was followed by a Creepy guy 2days ago on the street where I live he was in a suv I was with my mom he thought it was funny but clearly being sexually harassed or followed is not a laughing matter I seriously think this is a good forum for women to talk about this so we can put a end to it
I work in a supermarket, and this morning a decent sized group of builders from another city came in. You could hear them halfway across the store being loud. I was the only person down my aisle, and no managers were close enough to see what was happening. They walked by the end of the aisle and I heard one yell ‘ey let’s go down this one!! she’s fit!!!!’ – they all started cheering and came down, then said hey to me and they all started laughing about how I wouldn’t even smile at him.
I so wish I could’ve retaliated, shown him how what he’s doing sucks, but being an employee it’s my job to be nice to customers, and being a new starter I didn’t want to risk getting into trouble for it, so I had to just walk away.
I’ve had a lot of anxiety issues the past two years and although I know I could handle any situation and not be in harm, I was still shaky afterwards because it truly sickens me to know some people still behave in such a misogynistic, desperate way.