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It was a balmy summer evening, and I was walking home from the subway along Flatbush Avenue. Just ahead of me was a girl in her early twenties in a pair of shorts. Men started hooting, and one of them began following her down the street and aggressively asking for her number, her name, and a date. She kept walking, and he kept following. I came up next to her and asked if she’d like a walk home. She quickly said yes, and I slid my arm into her’s and we walked together. The hooting kept up, but the stalking stopped. After a block I asked if she was ok, and she smiled and said yes.
As upset as I was (and still am), it feels good to be able to do something.
15 years ago, when I was 15 years old, I got off my school bus and was walking home with my saxophone case in one hand. A young adult man came up from behind me and lifted my school uniform skirt. He looked me in the eyes to see my reaction, and when I started to chase him he started running. I had no chance to catch up to him, but I still ran for blocks. It was humiliating. People around me stared.
Later that year I was walking home from school. An older gardener man came up from behind me in his bike and grabbed my butt and sped off. I had no chance to even react. I felt muted.
A couple of months ago, I posted a success story on here regarding harassment near my workplace. I’ve been reading everyone’s stories since, and sadly there are so few where the victims are able to feel powerful after an incident.
I’ve decided to make it a point to share any successful experiences that I have, to hopefully inspire others to keep going, speak up, and take action. I believe that we can make a world of difference together. We really can.
The most recent experience occurred yesterday. This one was pretty hilarious. I was jogging down a main street in Hayward, California. At one point, I was running on a slight incline, enjoying the focus and pace. I heard a bicycle approaching in the street, alongside the sidewalk where I was. I always look when I hear a bike, to make sure the person is paying attention, not attempting to assault me, etc.
When I looked at the rider, he looked back at me in acknowledgement. Then he looked back again. And again. At that point, I asked, “What?” Not in a confrontational way, but as if you had spinach in your teeth and someone continued to stare. The dialogue was as follows:
Me: “I don’t know, man. You’re making me uncomfortable right now.”
Him: *laughs* “What?”
Me: “Wow, this is really awkward, the way you’re looking at me.”
Him: “I’m just looking at you, looking to see who you are. This is how I look at all the girls!”
Me: “You know I’m only 16, right?”
Him: *pauses and looks back in a double-take* “…Woooow. Woo, oh boy! Oh…” *throws both hands up and starts riding away with increasing speed*
Me: *laughing* “Yeah that’s right, buddy, you just keep on riding!”
He hauled ass out of there like you wouldn’t believe. I wish I had recorded his reaction, or even taken a picture. One of the best ones I’ve seen. I could still hear him in the distance as he was riding away, shaking his head and “woo!”-ing in fear of being caught for his predatory actions. He didn’t look back at me once after that!
I had so much positive energy after the incident, that I was able to jog home in half the time it would normally take me. I went home smiling, laughing, in good spirits. Because I took the power back in the situation.
The funny thing is, I’m actually 25. I mean, I’ll take the compliment, but when a grown man refers to all human females as “girls” regardless of age, I automatically get the vibe that they’re a predator. It’s offensive and insulting to women, but in this instance, I used it to my advantage. I dared to be a woman who stepped outside of her house without a man next to her, and I walked away with the power.
This week, Hollaback! was featured in The Guardian, ArtInFact Magazine, USA Today, Free Press, SheWired, MSNBC, Yahoo! Shine, Upworthy, Slate, NBC San Diego, Spotlight Magazine, Irish Independent, and The Province.
We held our second annual HOLLA::Revolution which included our Site Leader Retreat (pictured here)!! Stay tuned for an upcoming Storify and event re-cap from the Team! We also said farewell to our amazing Spring Interns, Arielle Humphries and Emily Shown, and welcomed our Summer Interns, Rebecca Ponce de Leon and Jessica Alvarez, reppin’ Duke’s Moxie Program.
Here’s what HOLLAs around the world have been up to:
Hollaback! Des Moines presented at Central Iowa Friends of Planned Parenthood’s monthly Choice on Tap Happy Hour!
Hollaback! LA was on a show called ‘Your Call’ via KALW 91.7fm public radio in San Francisco.
Hollaback! Philly‘s petition to San Diego Comic Con was dismissed by the company thus silencing over 2,000 people who said they don’t feel safe or protected with their vague, unenforced anti-harassment policy. They’re hosting three events between now and the convention where they will continue to push the petition and the effort. You can join the conversation on various social media platforms using #SDCCFAIL and #SDCCHARASSMENT. Last but not least, they will be delivering the petition in person to San Diego Comic Con to demand they hear the voices of the people telling the con they don’t feel safe or protected. You go, HB! Philly!
Til next week-
HOLLA and out!
- The Hollaback! Team
Teenage boy reached out and grabbed my vagina as he was walking past me with four of his friends and then they ran away laughing and shouted, “shut the fuck up bitch!”
Walking home from the gym, man walks behind me, shouts “I like your hair,” and I ignore him. He repeats himself, I continue ignoring so he yells, “fuck you!” This sort of thing happens every day to me in Seattle.
My phone had died at work and I had limited time so I decided to go running without it…no harm, I could manage a few miles without music.
Halfway through my run a green Subaru passed me and yelled “nice pussy” or “I want that pussy” or something to that effect. Either way, I made no reply or physical response and ran on. He then came back, passed again, and yelled further disgusting profanities.
Needless to say, I am keeping my eyes open more often as I run now… and I’m never running without music again.
I never had too much of an issue with street harassment on my campus until I lived in one of the dorms along a busier street. As soon as the weather got warm, the harassment started. I would get annoyed and tell my friends about the instances, but then didn’t think too much about exactly how frequently this was happening. After telling a friend about one particular instance, her response was “AGAIN??!” And that’s when I started keeping count.
I was harassed every day that first warm week of spring. And then several random times outside of that, including a guy in a car turning onto my campus who yelled “fa****” at my friend and I just because we were standing and chatting on a street corner.
What’s almost worse than the harassment is the fact that I want to respond (and have studied how and done research projects on street harassment), but I’m always too afraid that the guys will retaliate physically. I end up feeling so frustrated and helpless in the face of this thing I want to help stop.
I was walking alone in broad daylight along a busy street in downtown Ottawa.
“If you help me out I’ll give you free movie passes for a year.” A man appeared out of nowhere at my side with these words. I tensed up and started walking faster.
“What are you, a nervous twit?” he said.
“If you’re going to talk to me like that, I’m not going to help you,” I replied with more rationality than was necessary. I picked up my pace.
“Look at you, you nervous twit! I’m going to get my girlfriend to bang your head in!” He was walking with me now, two meters to my side.
I was horrified and veered away from him. Other pedestrians were in sight now, so he started to turn down a corner. I flipped him off as I continued walking away from him.
“You’re fucking ugly!” he yelled. I held my gesture in place for him and the oncoming pedestrians to see as I walked, and as he retreated from our incident back into the rest of the world.
It was a beautiful sunny day in my beach town of Isla Vista, CA, and I decided to go tanning with my boyfriend at Sands Beach, which is a decent walk from our apartment and not actually a part of the town. The beach was nearly deserted, so we walked up into one of the secluded sand dunes to go tanning as we usually do. I took my top off because I hate tan lines and there were hardly any people in sight; also it is impossible for anyone walking on the beach to see what is happening up in the dunes.
After an hour or so of peacefully lying there, my boyfriend looked up to see a scary looking man in his 40s crouching in a bush in a nearby dune and taking pictures of me. He immediately sprung up and chased after the creep, who ran away but was finally caught up to. He claimed to be the neighborhood watch (there is no such thing in Isla Vista) and said he was taking pictures to collect “evidence” of my apparent crime of being topless (a common occurrence at Sands Beach) and when my boyfriend demanded he delete the pictures, the guy made hollow threats to call the cops, tried to run away, threatened my boyfriend, etc.
Finally, my boyfriend had intimidated this sicko enough to convince him to delete the pictures off the camera while he watched, so luckily I don’t have to worry about them showing up anywhere. This occurrence is especially unsettling to me after the tragic events that happened here last weekend, and as a women especially, I have never felt less safe in Isla Vista. I hope things get better here soon.