My sister and I were visiting our cousin and her boyfriend in D.C., and we were taking the metro back home around 10pm one evening. We are all in our mid- to late 20s. We had a fairly long ride so we were sitting and chatting, and the car was relatively quiet, with about 15 other people in the car with us. At some point I notice a fellow around our age, by himself, trying to get our attention. I can’t really understand what he’s saying but it’s clear that he’s a) drunk and b) only interested in us girls. My usual tactic in this type of situation is to just ignore – in most cases, people like this give up quickly. So I try to continue our conversation as normally as possible. However, the man gets more agitated and walks up to us, getting pushy and asking why we won’t talk to him. I respond by saying in a lighthearted but firm manner that he’s being annoying, and we’re just trying to have a conversation amongst ourselves. All the while, there is a middle-aged couple sitting in front of me with their heads down – literally (thanks a lot, guys!). The man becomes more aggressive, calling us bitches, remarking how white girls are all stuck up, telling us he wants to make a porno video with us, telling my cousin’s boyfriend that he “must be gay” and then takes out his smartphone and starts videotaping, shoving it in our faces and daring us to say something back to him. I am freaking outside because I am incredibly angry, not to mention going into Mama Bear mode because my younger sister and cousin are there and I am feeling overwhelmingly protective of them. I didn’t want to do anything stupid, but I hated the feeling that I was being pushed around. However, I’m in a city I’m not familiar with – don’t even know where the emergency stop button is, or if there is security on the train or the station. I just kept trying to convey strength through body language, without directly interacting him in the event that he was armed or otherwise dangerous.
I actually don’t even remember why he eventually left us alone, I think at one point he moved away and we moved further down the car. After the guy left, one of the other passengers came up to us and said (smiling) “Like, what did you guys do to him?” At the time he said it, I just wanted to shake the whole thing off, but afterwards I was so angry at that random guy – where was he when it was actually happening? What made him think that WE had done something to start it all? It was his attitude that upset me more than anything. I understand that the other passengers may have also been scared, but there were more of us than him. And I imagine most of the other people were DC natives and knew what security options there are on the metro. That’s why I chose to share this story – harassment is awful, but it’s just as awful (or maybe worse) when other people witness it and do absolutely nothing.
I’m seventeen years old, and these are the four times I’ve been harassed.
I was about eleven years old at the time, pre-puberty and I was wearing a top, a skirt and carrying a stuffed animal.
My grandmother and me were on our way to our cottage with a car and we stopped at a small diner to eat. After we were done, we walked back to the parking lot. There was small patio outside the diner with tables and chairs so you could eat there if you wanted to. There was three guys, all around their 30-40s drinking beer. We had to walk past them to get to our car. I had a bad feeling about them, but told myself they were probably harmless, squeezed my plushie tighter to my chest and walked after my grandmother past them. I was just about to breathe a sigh of relief when one of the guys whistles after me and others snigger. I turn back to stare at them in disbelief and my grandmother glares at them. I feel like crying, I’m so humiliated. When we’re at our car, only thing my grandmother says about is “He was drunk.” I don’t reply.
I was around 14 years old and I was waiting for mom to come pick me up after school. I’m wearing a loose hoodie with jeans and standing in a empty school yard.
The car is driving past me, but then suddenly slows down and a guy in the front seat roll his window down. He’s about eighteen years old. A lot older than I was, anyway. There’s another guy shotgunning, about the same age.
“Hey baby, need a ride?” Guy driving yells at me.
I ignore him completely and they drive away.
I’m walking home for school, through a forest. I’m wearing t-shirt and jeans and there’s no one around.
There’s small group of guys sitting in a blanket and drinking beer. As I walk past them, one says to me suggestively: “Hey, sit down with us for a sec.”
I ignore him and I hear them laugh and say crude comments about me.
I was fifteen years old and walking my dog. I’m wearing a sweatshirt and jeans.
A car slows down and a guy yells “Hey!” at me. I recognize him, I’ve seen him around school but never talked. There’s two other guys and girl in a car with them. When I don’t reply, they laugh and drive away.
When I go to school next day, I’m half-excepting there being mean rumors about me and people calling me slut. Luckily nothing (aside from my normal bullying) happens.
This afternoon in Istanbul while traveling on a very crowded subway with my husband (and trying to enjoy my honeymoon!), someone put their finger in my butt (over my skirt, thank goodness) and wiggled it around right before jumping off the train at their stop. Utterly disgusting and degrading.
To set the tone of this conflict, please know that I am a women with short hair. I was wearing a simple t-shirt and lounge style shorts.
I was walking late at night to do some laundry downtown in Reed City. As I was nearing the laundromat I noticed a group of men gathered outside the backdoor of a bar, at quite a distance as to obscure their features, who presumably were smoking cigarettes. I was a little nervous at this point. I became hyper aware of statistics of violence against women and felt that it might be reasonable to stop slouching. Perhaps if I look confident then I won’t get attacked, I thought.
The closer that I got to them the more nervous I felt. I began to tread quickly and quietly, while hoping for the best. There was no point in turning back as I was halfway there. Besides, what if I had it all wrong? Or what if I ignited an animal desire within them to pursue me?
Just after I crossed Old 131 & The Pere Marquette Trail, one of the men yelled “Hey, girl or guy?”. I instinctively ignored him and kept walking. This was not a battle worth engaging in despite my deep feelings about rigid gender roles and appearance. As they disappeared behind a set of buildings lining the block I heard him say, “Yep, guy.”
Thankfully nothing else happened. This may not seem like a big deal to some but I was scared that I was going to get assaulted for appearing differently than I should. It happens occasionally, especially to people who appear at all queer. I called a family member to give me a ride home after frantically texting a few people online for support. Those moments waiting for the arrival of my family member were frightening. I was seriously afraid for my safety, as the laundromat was deserted and the men were at a bar down the street.
All in all, I do feel like a dunce for walking so late at night alone. I likely won’t do such a thing again all though I already don’t. I just assumed that it would be safer since it was a small town and I needed to squeeze laundry in real quick before the next day.
I also feel conflicted about my appearance. I usually dress in a way that I find comfortable and admittedly don’t strive to appear like a woman “should”. The incident made me feel insecure about my appearance and whether I should change the way I present myself. I decided not to change anything, yet doubt still lingers about whether I should dress more feminine.
I feel that this incident has also changed the way that I feel about Reed City. I don’t feel like it would be safe to walk late at night around downtown anymore and I feel less welcome in the community even during the day. Rude people don’t disappear in the daylight.
I was interning at the Broward County Public Defender’s Office this summer and every day I would sit outside and wait for my aunt to pick me up (I’m 16, but I don’t have a car). Anyway, it was hot and sunny, so I took off my jacket, but I was wearing a conservative blouse and knee-length business skirt, so I figured it didn’t matter. I had some M&M’s in my hand and I was eating them one by one when a guy got really close to my face and said “Hey, baby, wanna give me some of your M&M’s?” The only thing I could say was “What?” I literally could not believe what just happened. The guy repeated himself, just to make sure I understood, and walked away. I was too scared to do anything, especially because we were in front of a courthouse and I thought he might be some sort of criminal. After that, I never took off my jacket again, no matter how hot it was.
My friends and I traveled down to Provi for some clubbing tonight. We found a paid parking lot just down the street. It was incredibly convenient, and we were able to run back for anything we needed. Around 12:30, decide it’s time for a cigarette break. Out of the four of us, only two smoke, so my friend and I decide to run back to the car (suv) for some water.
She and I are sitting in the backseat, and it’s hot as anything so, my door is open. This guy (probably 40’s, scruffy) squeezes by the door, so I pull it in and apologize. So he’s by the front of the car and is just kind of staring at me, making creepy eyes and smiling. I start talking to my friend as if we’re engrossed in a conversation, hoping he’ll just leave, when my friend noticed her started to come back to my door. I whip it shut, and then he stands at the front of the car again, looking in and being seriously f**king creepy. I kind of ducked behind the driver’s seat so he couldn’t really see me, and then he starts staring at my friend, and sloooooowly pacing back and forth, still with the f**king smile. At first I hoped he was waiting for someone, since it’s a parking lot and he was carrying a package or something, but he doesn’t stop staring, and looks like he might approach us again. As we went to lock the doors he walked away.. Slowly, of course, and he kept looking back at us with the same unnerving expression on his face. When he was far enough away, we locked up the car and power walked the f**k out of there.
This was probably about three minutes, but I have no clue what the f**k made him think that was okay to do.
A year ago, I was walking home from a convenience store a block away from my apartment. I didn’t notice the guy trying to get my attention until he had spiralled into rude words, and until he rode up next to me on a bike. He was insulting me and yelling at me for being ‘rude’ by not responding to his opening remarks and for not being willing to have a conversation with him at a bus stop some time previous. I tried apologizing, making excuses that I don’t like talking to strangers, etc. His responses were things like calling me stuck up, calling me a ‘b**ch*, and continually insulting me and yelling. He told me not to bother calling the police. He followed me all the way down the block. I was getting really frightened and had told him repeatedly to leave me alone. Finally, in my complex’s parking lot, he yelled that “people like me” should be “executed” or “sent to Mars”. I broke and ran at that point and took a circuitous route back to my apartment. Then I called a friend and the non-emergency police.
The officer told me that since the man hadn’t told me he would kill me, just that I should be killed, it didn’t constitute a threat.
I was too afraid to practice bike riding outside for a week and went into full panic mode when I had to go to that intersection again.
I didn’t drive or even bike at this point and lived alone.
Because of your ongoing support, we’ve had a rockin’ week! Here’s what’s new:
Street harassment expert Vicky Simister joins our team for the month! The UK Anti Street Harassment Campaign was founded in 2010 by Vicky after she was harassed and subsequently assaulted on a North London street. When the police were called, Vicky was told “boys will be boys” and that she had brought about her own assault by not accepting her harassers “compliments”. Since then she’s won tons of awards and has become a spokesperson against street harassment. She’s working with us this summer on our campaign against campus harassment, and we’re so honored to have her!
“A Shit Sandwich of Oppression.” On Wednesday, Vicky and I were interviewed by Kamau Bell for his new show on F/X called “Totally Biased.” After learning about the root causes of street harassment, Kamau responded, “so basically, it’s a shit sandwich of oppression.” Vicky and I fell immediately in love. A photo of the interview is above, and the show premiers on Thursday, August 9th.
Brooklyn Magazine thinks were “culture changers.” OH YES WE ARE. Brooklyn magazine is honoring us with a bunch of other artists and creative types, because like them, we’re changing the culture [that makes street harassment OK]. To celebrate our success, they dolled me up and put clothes on me that cost more than my monthly salary. Seriously.
Thanks for your ongoing support, and if you get a chance this weekend: tell someone about Hollaback. No one deserves to deal with street harassment alone.
HOLLA and out —
Cross-posted with permission from our friends at the HEALTHY MASCULINITY SUMMIT
The test of knowledge is not based on how much you know but on how you act when you don’t know. This is an idea based on writings by John Holt, an education scholar,. He wants to make sure that curiosity doesn’t disappear during teen and adult years, that as children age they hold onto their desire to ask questions.
The Healthy Masculinity Summit, taking place this October 17-19 in Washington, DC, will be a place for this approach to knowledge – for questions and curiosity. The summit kicks off the Healthy Masculinity Action Project (HMAP), a two-year initiative designed to raise the national visibility and value of healthy masculinity and support emerging male leaders taking sustained action in communities across the country.
Here’s a start to questions that can be asked: What does our experience of masculinity and the experiences of others tell us about unhealthy and healthy masculinity? Can healthy masculinity help men and boys understand the importance of stopping street harassment? Can healthy masculinity be about both safe streets and men and boys’ mental and physical health?
There are a lot more. So bring your questions to the summit and join Men Can Stop Rape, the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, Men Stopping Violence, Coach for America, Women of Color Network, and A CALL TO MEN in asking where healthy masculinity might take us.
Save money. Early bird registration for the summit ends August 17. www.healthymasculinity.org
Rikera interned with us this summer, and she was amazing. She wrote and published HOW-TO guides, added resources to our site, cleaned up our press section (which was overwhelming!) and garnered over 1000 new facebook fans and twitter followers. She also made this video, talking about her experience. Thank you for everything, Rikera! The movement to end street harassment is stronger because of your contributions.