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When I was 13, and a nerdy bookish 7th grader, I was picked on by the other kids from my neighborhood because I was a) overweight, b) smart than them, and c) didn’t shave my legs yet. At one point, they called me “Congo” and told me to go shave my legs. This went on for about a year or so.
One day, a boy said, “You should shave your legs!”, and 14-year-old me looked him straight in the eye and, without missing a beat, said, “Why are you looking at my legs?”
They never bothered me again.
BY LAURA RUOCCO
As if there weren’t enough formulaic reality shows to choose from, London producers Marlon Okeowo & Ziakayah David present Tru Players, a street harassment reality game show! The premise is two dudes going to a busy UK shopping district an competing to see who can get the most phone numbers, and thus be awarded the title of “tru player”. Finally! A caricature of my daily struggle written by the men who perpetuate it!
As you may imagine, most of the women they approach are reluctant to give up their phone number to some rando on the street. The contestant’s tactics are described on the Tru Player You Tube page as “subtle”, though a more appropriate word might be “relentless”. It is painful to watch some of the women laugh nervously, clearly uncomfortable, as the men press them for their relationship status and phone number. The situation feels all too familiar, as I have found myself many times smiling at or telling my name to some strange guy that I wish would just go away. A few of the women do give out numbers, but one of them reveals in a separate interview at the end of the show that it was a fake. The cameras being clearly visible to the women likely factors in to any level of “success” the men achieve. It’s interesting to see the incongruity between the women’s reaction to the men and what they have to say in the private interviews, where many of the women are less forgiving.
The show, which is geared toward teenagers, is a perfect example of the way we are steeped in rape culture before we are even old enough to date. Case in point: the celebrity contestant episode featuring UK comedian Lil Mckell, who is TWELVE YEARS OLD!
In a perfect world, maybe it would be fine for people of all genders to compliment each other on the street and make dates with attractive strangers on the way to work. But alas, the world we live in is a patriarchal one in which the kind of daily street harassment documented on Hollaback sites worldwide is only the tip of the “shit women have to deal with” iceberg. I have often felt deeply bummed by my reaction of distrust to any sexual attention, as learned from years of dealing with street harassers and public masturbators. Potentially pleasant stranger conversations are avoided for fear of the seemingly inevitable “are you married?” or some other version of boundary-crossing. The Tru Player You Tube page suggests that male viewers might even learn some “clues and tricks on how to approach women”, but the reality is that these shmucks are just ruining it for all of the true “tru players”.
UGH!!!!!!!!!!!! Sitting on the porch smoking a cigarette only to look up and find a CREEP jerking off directly across the street from me under a street light! I told him “F*#$ off! I’m calling the cops!” Which I did. They didn’t find him.
In ‘Why Loiter?’ authors Shilpa Phadke, Sameera Khan, and Shilpa Ranade argue that though political and economic visibility has brought women increased access to urban public space, this has not automatically translated into a greater claim to public space. Based on more than three years of research, this book not only maps women’s exclusion from several public spaces, but also attempts to understand how women from different localities, classes and communities negotiate with real and implied risks of being in public everyday.
Visit Hollaback! Mumbai for an exclusive interview with the authors.
I’m 48 now, and I’ve been dealing with this crap for well over 30 years. So much so, that it’s become second nature to me. If I walk past a group of workmen, I automatically tense. I keep my eyes down as I walk past, I try to be invisible. It’s just ‘what we do’ right? But recently it was all brought home to me. The utter wrongness of this state of affairs, the injustice of it, the fact that in all my years in the women’s movement, many things have changed but this, this daily attack on our civil liberties, remains the same.
My then 12 year old daughter (now 13) came home from school one day complaining about “all the men who shout at me in the street”. At 12, TWELVE, she already deals with daily catcalls, car horns, leering looks and unwanted attention. And what could I tell her? Sorry honey, this is now a part of your life. You’re becoming a woman and, wherever you go in the world, whatever you do, however you look, there will be a certain type of guy who considers it ok to force his way into your personal space to tell you that you do/do not meet with his ‘approval’.
Do you know how that makes me feel, as a mother, to have to tell my beautiful, innocent daughter that this is the way the world works?
So I’m teaching her to hollaback (and how to do that and keep herself safe) and maybe her generation will do what mine failed to do, and make this shit unacceptable.
I’ve given her the link to this site and it’s inspired her. She’s even sent in her own story. So keep fighting the good fight.
Awesome name tag courtesy of Hollaback Buenos Aires!
When I was in high school (one of the many private, Catholic, single-sex high schools in Cincinnati), I was very involved in theatre. Our adult staff was on the small side, so we occasionally hired outside people to do additional music, tech work, etc. Several times a guy named Rick (who happened to be a friend of the director’s) was a guest musical director, and all the girls dreaded having to work with him. He very much gave off that creepy old man vibe and often made borderline inappropriate remarks. He was the kind of man other men brush off as “quirky,” but who women recognize immediately as being a threat- we could tell from the way he undressed us with his eyes. I tried to stay away from him as much as possible and to be cold if he ever tried to speak to me, so for awhile my experience was secondhand. That didn’t last.
He was walking by a group of us as we were listening intently to our director; it happened so fast I didn’t say anything, and I couldn’t leave to confront him without attracting attention. He “dropped” something on the floor next to me and, as he was bending over to pick it up, put his hand on my hip, letting it linger there for a few seconds after he’d already straightened up. Then he went on his way like it was nothing. I was so shocked- I had no idea what to do. As soon as I could I told a few people what had happened. They were sympathetic but thought that maybe he was just steadying himself so as not to fall over. Um, excuse me, he was NOT old enough to have to do that, and besides, that’s what walls and chairs and other OBJECTS are for, not people. Since I didn’t know how to respond, I just stayed away from him.
Later that day a friend told me she’d had a run-in with him too. She was standing backstage and could hear Rick and the director talking. He pointed to my friend (who has pretty large breasts) and said, obviously not thinking she could hear, “Girls like her are why I could never teach at this school.” That was enough to push me into taking action. I knew I couldn’t complain to the director about him- he responded to this remark with an awkward laugh and nothing more- so we went to the assistant director. He listened carefully and then told us that, while he shared our concern, we were a week away from opening the show and he couldn’t possibly find a new music director in time…. surely we understood his predicament. I was taken aback but asked him if that meant he would take it up with him, the director, and our principal after the show was over. He promised he would.
Almost four years later, he is still doing shows there.
That is what baffles me- that a man so universally unnerving, with a history of inappropriate remarks (and touching!), is allowed to stare at underage Catholic school girls to his heart’s content. If that isn’t a lawsuit in the making, I don’t know what is. How was that not taken more seriously?? I wish I had had the courage and foresight to take this further, to push until something happened to him, but I didn’t. He still does music directing and sound mixing for schools all over Ohio- if you happen to run into him, PLEASE report any inappropriate behavior so that it gets documented. He needs to not be allowed to be around underage girls.
One night I was walking home from the campus gym, caught up in my own head. As I hit the last sidewalk intersection on my way home I started hearing calls of “hey blue shorts…” the first three times I thought “god, I would be livid if someone was talking to me like that!” and looked in front of me for the blue shorts girl, but she wasn’t there. So I looked back, just a rowdy group of 6′ plus men hollering for Blue Shorts. Then it hit me. I looked down. My shorts were blue.
They kept it up, 5 and 6 times, calling out my hair style, asking if I was too good to talk to them, so I got pissed off. I spun around and let fly one of the nicest flows of cusswords I’ve ever made. I asked them how their mothers would feel, to know that their money was sending them to college so they could scare girls on the way home from the gym. I asked them if this was some f*cked up game to them, and then told them, with gusto to f*ck off. As I spun around they got irritated and told me that “bitch, I couldn’t talk to them like that” so I turned back and said “bitch yes I can! You yelled at me like a dog. I can say anything I like to you!” and stormed off to my dorm.
I was still terrified the whole last block, but I’ve never been harassed like that again.
Cab driver #640 picked me up, along the way he…
1) Waved his gun at me 2) Told me his “self help book” didn’t work, that he’d found it near impossible to in it’s suggestions to remain calm 3)Told me he “literally” wants to murder the next person to pay w/a credit card – in his shed, or he wants to put his pepper-spray in their mouth, lock them in the cab drive them to his house and kill them. 4) Told me I saved my own life by paying in cash, while his hand was cocked like a gun 5) Was twitching his head left & right because he’s crazy; while letting me know he wants to murder someone – while slamming the glass plate divider in anger 6) Told me Jesus wants him to kill people with credit cards – all the time 7) Told me his shed out in the suburbs tucks between his yard and the woods – so no on would see him kill 8) Told me “i don’t mean to scare you but…” followed by 5 minute rant about hurting people
Last weekend I was clubbing with friends and we decided to walk down the road to another club. As we left the club a man grabbed my wrist, spun me round to face him, and ground his crotch into my stomach, shouting all the while about how gorgeous I was and that I’m the perfect *size* for him. I just saw red. I shoved him and bit him and screamed bloody murder and my girlfriends joined in the attack. I struggled free and the bouncers outside the club made him step away. Dude proceeded to follow me and my girls most of the night still asking for my number.