I was walking home alone, when a random dude told me that my body was looking good. When I said nothing, he told me say thank you. I just said no.
It was really a relatively minor offense, but the fact that he thought I owed him for this comment is so central to the problem of street harassment.
Today I was at a street festival on H Street in Washington, DC. As I was waiting for the bus to go home, I saw an elderly woman walk by, leaning on a cane for support. Suddenly, the guy who had been standing next to me walked up behind her and slapped her on the ass, then darted away into the crowd, pretending like it wasn’t him. I was shocked and disgusted. There was no goal in his action other than harassment and intimidation. She turned around and glared for a while, looking for the culprit, but no one did anything.
I wish so badly that I had yelled at the guy, or pointed him out afterwards, or gone over to the woman and told her how awful that was and shown my support. But I didn’t do anything, other than take a picture of this vile man after he had run away and crossed the street (he is the one in the striped shirt). I was surrounded by strangers, alone in a strange neighborhood. And it’s exactly this sense of making women feel like these are not their streets that is so awful and harmful. It literally affects how we feel every day when we walk down the street, whether victim or bystander. If I ever see something again, I will say something.
I was taking a walk on my lunchbreak when a man in his mid to late 50s inched near me at a crosswalk (I am 25). He was well dressed in business clothes. He asked “would i be annoying if i introduced myself?” I stared at him in shock and he repeated it.
Hey Hollabackers —
I had the honor of keynoting the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence‘s annual conference this week. Over 350 people were there — and the support for our work was overwhelming. I also got a great profile (and superhero photo) in Brooklyn Magazine this week. They listed me as one of the “Brooklyn 20.” All I can say is, WOW. But do you want to know what’s far more impressive than that? Check out what the rest of the HOLLAworld has been up to this week:
Hollaback Brussels is in ELLE magazine this month! As a result of their profile, they are collaborating ELLE Belgique on an upcoming anti-sexism campaign. Hollaback Brussels are also planning an upcoming sidewalk chalking event on October 6th. Their invite says, “We will stop at specific spots and write down strong chalk messages on the pavement, showing Brussels that street harassment, sexism, sexual violence are NOT OK & we do NOT tolerate them! Nor do we tolerate racism & homophobia!”
Hollaback Des Moines partners with a fraternity! Site leader Becca Lee spoke with 30+ members of a local campus fraternity about the importance of being male allies. This was the first all-male audience they’ve had, and they approached us about collaborating and have already raised $131 towards ending street harassment!
Hollaback Baltimore is tabling at two upcoming events! First, the 7th Annual Reservoir Hill Resource Festival. Tons of vendors, music, food and fun. From 11:00am-1:00pm on September 15th at the 2400 block of Linden Avenue, and second, the Punk Arts Activism with Gender Edge Collective. Come see bands, art, speakers and organizations all in support of the gender-queer/transgender community. Be an ally, promote tolerance, and see a good rock show (with drinks!) all at the same time. At Golden West Cafe, 10pm to 2am. You should also check out their recent press: The Evolution of Perspective (Listen here, their interview begins around the 30 minute mark), Indypendent Reader & ESPN Women.
Hollaback NYC holds a workshop for LGBTQ youth at Green Chimneys in the Bronx. This is one of the Hollaback workshop series, which are taking place this fall. The workshop discussed street harassment in details and introduced Hollaback international movement. The participants shared stories and explored different strategies and tips by acting out scenarios for responding to street harassment if they experience it or as witnesses.
Upcoming New York City Events! On September 21st, our big event at Cornell is happening — and Speaker Quinn and Councilmember Ferreras will be there! On September 22nd, join us at Stonewall for RIOT! A drag show and benefit for Hollaback!. On October 23rd I’ve been invited to speak on a panel hosted by the Center Against Domestic Violence. The panel will consist of advocates dedicated to stopping sexual assault, harassment and dating violence on campus. It takes place at the Harvard Club (fancy!) in New York City on October 23rd. You can find details for all these events on Hollaback NYC’s event page, here.
Hollaback Istanbul releases “Canimiz Sokakta” movie by male allies. The movie is a part of the bystander-intervention campaign called “I’ve Got Your Back!” (Arkani kolluyorum!) that is brought to you by Canimiz Sokakta and Green Dot. We chose men to perform in this movie to show that they could be a great force in helping end sexual harassment in public by disapproving of the harassers’ actions. All the stories told were submitted to Hollaback Istanbul. Trigger warning — this one made me cry a little bit — but mostly just because it’s so beautiful. Watch it here:
Lastly, by now many of you have heard about the terrifying incident of a 73-year-old woman who was brutally raped in Central Park this week. Our hearts go out to her and her family during this painful time, and we want to publicly commend her strength.
According to media reports, days prior to the rape the woman witnessed this man publicly masturbating while birdwatching. She took his picture and refused to give it to him. The public narrative, led my the media, has implied that by taking his picture she somehow “asked for it” to happen. We want to express a deep concern for this framing – not only because no woman ever asks to be raped – but also because it implicitly promotes silence as the ideal response. As we all know, silence does not prevent rape. It only works to perpetuate it. Check out my response to this case in The Guardian.
There is no right or wrong way to respond to street harassment. Our research shows that responding to harassment reduces the negative emotional impact of street harassment — but how you respond is your choice. Many people choose to take photographs in self-defense, like this woman. Others choose to start Hollaback sites, share their stories with friends and family, or confront the harasser directly. For details on how you can respond to harassment, click here.
HOLLA and out —
I was just coming home from school with my sister (a long commute from New Brunswick, NJ) and as we were walking up our front steps, two guys on bikes stopped just to leer at us as we walked into our house. I feel like I have to take a shower now just to wash off the feeling of their creepy smiles.
Some things I have learned about myself.
I am not:
An apple, waiting passively for someone to rescue me from the top of a tree.
A side of beef, to be poked at, prodded, jiggled, groped, or spoken about in terms of my juiciness, flavor, or firmness.
A dog, coming at your call.
A toy, to be used whenever and however you want.
A human being. A daughter, a sister, a friend. Someone of worth.
So I damn well better be treated like one.
I was without a lighter and walking with a cigarette in my hand, searching for somebody who was smoking, so they could lend me the fire.
As I passed by a car, a man inside it called me and asked me for my lighter. As I told him that I was also looking for one, he said: “Well, then help me pick up mine in here” as he was holding his dick on his open trouser masturbating.
I kept walking, didn’t say anything. He turned the car on and made the return on the street twice yelling things like “slut” “bitch” and “delicious”. I finally was over me and yelled him to f**k off.
When the days passed by, I could see his car on the street again, until I was alarmed enough to let the police know. I don’t know what they did, but he never came back.
I was walking west along West Grand Avenue, intending to turn left on Brush St to visit my friend’s new apartment. I was hyperaware that I was trying to walk aggressively, with my head up in confidence, to try and deter possible threats. Ahead on the sidewalk were two men, standing near the curb. I elected to not to cross to the other side of the street because at that point, West Grand Ave is six lanes of traffic separated by a median. I was trying to get to my friend’s as efficiently as possible because it was around 7:30pm and I knew it would be dark by eight. As I approached the men, one stepped back towards the building, forcing me to walk between them, or move off the sidewalk into the street. I did not break stride, but in my mind I was thinking, “Oh shit. Oh shit, are these guys going to try and f**k with me?” As I walked between them, the one that had moved towards the building stepped in front of me, grinning. Still not breaking stride, I altered my direction to go around him, and he blocked my path again. I had my head up the entire time, but now I made eye contact with him, thinking, “Are you seriously going to try and f**k with me?” I didn’t necessarily feel afraid at this moment, just incredibly angry that I had to deal with this. I like to think that this was apparent in my glare because the man broke eye contact with me and moved aside. I continued walking without looking back. The other man yelled something out at me, but I did not hear it.
I don’t know if it was my demeanor that made the men let me pass, or if their only intention was just to scare me, but I feel very lucky that I was not mugged/assaulted/groped/raped/kidnapped or any other number of possible outcomes of two men against a much smaller undefended female. I feel very lucky that my fight instinct kicked in instead of my flight instinct, and that I only felt scared by the incident several hours later.
As I was walking home from a party (note: I was very sober at the time) with three to four of my female friends, a group of about four or five (very drunk) males walked past us offering their hands up for high fives. I was in a good mood, so I obliged them, offering my hand in return. I go to a state university. This kind of exchange happens often, so I thought very little of returning their enthusiasm. After the first guy in the group high fived me, he swung his hand around and grabbed my ass. Dismayed, I started to retract my hand, only high fiving one more of his friends. His friend followed suit. Then, all three of the men I did not high five reached over and smacked my ass in turn. I was so shocked I didn’t know how to respond. None of my friends even witnessed it occurring. I was less than a block from home so I just kept walking. However, not being afraid to “hollaback” I lovingly blew them all a kiss and said “Fuck you very much!”
I’ve been continuously harassed by the same student at my four year university. I do not know this individual except as “creepystalker”.
This started three years ago, when I was walking with my boyfriend. Creepy wiggled his eyebrows dramatically and stuck his face close to my breasts. My boy and I laughed it off, until it happened a few days later, this time when I was alone. He stuck his face a few inches from my chest, and mumbled “mmm…boobies”. The following day, when he did it again, my boyfriend (a rather intimidating looking 6’3″, 225 lbs) was with me, and told the guy “hey man, you need to calm down and stop that”. I though that would be the end of it.
Since that day, I have encountered this man about 15 times, and each time he cuts across the hallway specifically to get close to me and my chest. One day, I was studying in the library, with a feeling of unease. I felt like someone was watching me. I turned around, and saw my harasser sitting across my desk. He had completely turned his chair around from the desk position so that he could watch me. I immediately packed up my things and walked out of the library, and he began to follow me. I started running out of the library, and he wasn’t able to keep up and instead stayed at the bottom floor and looked up my crotch as I climbed up the stairwell.
I always think about what I should say. I know that I need to tell this person off. I am graduating, and I know that I will feel uneasy for the rest of my life knowing that this individual is likely making other women feel this way. I have also seen him behaving in this manner towards other women, although usually it involves him glaring at her while she is walking away. I believe this man may be mentally or developmentally handicapped, and this has been one of a few reasons why I have not reported it to university authorities – out of guilt for his condition. But should it really matter?
As a strong feminist, I feel so disappointed that I don’t have the courage to confront this man. Whenever I think up the perfect thing to say, I see him walking towards me and my body starts sweating and shivering, and my mind gets all fuzzy. I can’t even react…I act like a deer in headlights and I am unable to say what I want or cover myself with my books like I planned.
Knowing that this is unfortunately all too common is a sad finding, but it gives me some solace to hear your stories and know that I am not alone in this struggle. I hope to work up the courage to confront him next time.