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It has become a regular occurrence for me to get cat called as I walk to work, go home, or go about doing my business. I am a 29 year old Asian American woman who graduated from Columbia University with a Masters in Urban Planning. I find it deeply demeaning and offensive for men who are ignorant to call out to me in Chinese or some other Asian dialect, as if I don’t speak English. I hate being whistled at, called baby, being asked out jokingly on the street. It is disgusting, and there have been times that I have gotten hostile (throwing my ice cream at someone, or yelling at them) because their remarks just got to me so. How can I go about doing my work, when my day is interrupted by sexual hostility? This is a real problem, especially in a city where smart successful independent women are so visible. These cat calls need to stop. Men need to be made aware that this is an issue. It is not our culture here, and they need to know that what they do is abusive, and uncivilized. It is not enough that NYC is a hard place to find a good decent man to date, but that we have to be subjected to men we aren’t even dating as well?
Submitted by Diana
While walking to my car this morning a man who was driving slowed down his vehicle just to make “smooching” sounds to me. I gave him a disgusted look and got in my car. I sat in my car for a moment, and then realized that the man had driven back around and was sitting in his car, stopping traffic to stare at me. I was very scared because I was trapped between two cars, and him, and had no way of driving away. He eventually left, but it was not the best way to start my day.
Submitted by Desiree
He leered and hissed at me, and said inappropriate things. I asked if he did not have a sister…he was ashamed. I reminded him that God could see him…he averted his eyes. I chided him that his mother knew…and he was embarassed.
Do we really need a law regulating cat calls? Why don’t we as mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends help to teach both our daughters and sons, nieces and nephews to be respectful of themselves and others? To not be worried about saying “Stop!” To be empowered and emboldened to speak the truth, “The words and sounds coming out of your mouth make you sound like fool!” Carry pepper spray.
I live in a region where female circumcision, honor killings, and child brides are accepted, even if not legal. Catcalls are the least of my worries. A council’s decision will not carry as much weight as your own words and actions. If you want to help women, speak up for yourself and work to end domestic violence, female circumcision and honor killings, they all occur in your city of New York.
Submitted by GypsyRose
NOTE: Although it has been picked up in the press that we are looking for a “law” to end street harassment, that’s actually not what anyone at the hearing asked for. We asked for education, research, and police sensitivity, among other things. To read Hollaback!’s testimony, click here.
The description reads, “In this segment Sistah Girl and her friend Dante discuss the many reasons Black men give to justify their cat calls, profanity, physical assaults and verbal abuse of Black females on public transit and on the streets of cities across the U.S. Sistah Girl breaks down the behaviors and the sense of entitlement to women’s time, attention and bodies that Black men believe they deserve to have. From the creative mind of advice columnist Deborrah Cooper. Visit her blog at www.survivingdating.com.”
The computer voices are a little distracting, but the point that harassment hurts is well made. And although I don’t think this is the point the video is trying to make, I feel a need to point out that black men are statistically no more likely to harass than any other color or men. Like all forms of violence against women, street harassment crosses lines of race and class, and to call it a “cultural thing” minimizes the experiences of women of all colors and cultures who believe that street harassment is appalling and disgusting.
In addition to giving this testimony, Elizabeth also wrote the op-ed that inspired the hearing! Her op-ed was published in El Diario, but a reprint in English is here. Having had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth, I can also tell you that she is a true advocate in the fight against street harassment and an incredible, gifted woman. Her leadership in this movement couldn’t come at more important time.
p.s. thanks for the link, NewBlackMan!
I met the AHAlife team at an 85broads event. At the end of her speech, their founder and CEO Shauna Mei quoted Madeline Albright who famously said: “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”
Now that’s my kinda woman.
This is a constant occurrence on the A train at the Rockaway Boulevard Train Station in Ozone Park Queens (At least for me). I enter the station and head for the Manhattan-bound A train side of the platform. My entrance is the one at the front of the train and I usually walk to the middle area of the platform and wait for the train. This morning, reminiscent of many others, there was a man already waiting for the train on the platform close to the top of the stairs.
I passed him on my way to my waiting area. When I got to where I usually wait, he was right behind me, casually reading his paper. I felt awkward and walked down to the area about ¾ of the way to the end of the platform. When I turned around to check, the man had followed me down and was half a car-length away from me. The train started pulling into the station, so I walked down the platform some more to make sure there was a car and half between me and him.
I got on thinking he would be in the other car that pulled up right in front of him, but then saw him getting into the same car, one door away from me. So I sat in the seat facing the back of the train, with my back toward the door he was standing at. Two stops later, he moves to the door that my seat is facing and is casually reading the paper and stealing glances at me.
At this point, I’m disgusted because he’s not the first guy that’s followed me down the platform, but was definitely the first to follow me all the way down, into the car I was in, and into my face. That’s when I took the first picture of the creep. He spent the whole ride (from Rockaway Boulevard to Fulton Street) creeping me out with his looks. I was sure he was waiting for me to get up and follow me off the train. He stopped reading his newspaper after Jay Street and was just staring at me the rest of the way.
I was pretending to doze off as I waited for the train to let a bit more of the crowd off at Fulton Street. At Fulton Street, I had had it with the creep staring me down. He had no intention to get off while the crowd was unloading so I pulled out my camera and snapped a picture of him with the flash on. The crowd around me looked confused but didn’t question my extremely disgruntled face as I took the picture of him. The shot shows the guilt on his face and surprise that I would actually take his picture. He disappeared into the crowd (or ran off right before the doors closed) right after my picture.
If there’s anything that gets me upset, it’s disrespectful creeps on the train. Don’t follow me, ESPECIALLY at 8:30AM when I’m half asleep. Had I been awake, I would have caused a stir on the train. Though I think my quiet decision to shame him with a flash photo in front of a crowd worked too. He wasn’t there to follow me off the train. I don’t appreciate creeps pretending to casually stand around after they follow me.
Even if this post doesn’t cause the creep to get arrested, at least I feel better that I made him nervous by taking his picture. It would be really nice to not be followed by douchebags.
Submitted by Maria
The story today on page 19 in the New York Post made me think of a business trip I made this summer with a female co-worker. Me, a male co-worker, and a female co-worker were walking to the train after our meeting. A police officer paused and leered at her as we walked by and he said, “How are YOU doing today?”
It sounds innocent, but the tone and the way he was looking at her was pretty obviously a weak come on. It was like out a 1950s movie. Very creepy. No wonder people don’t make eye contact or smile in the city. Very sad. Thanks for calling wanted attention to it.
Submitted Chris, Plantsville, CT
1. For New Yorkers: contacting your city councilmember to let them know that you believe street harassment is an issue that needs to be addressed by the council; encourage them to read the testimony and support Julissa Ferreras and actually get something done. Find out who your councilmember is here.
2. For people outside New York, call your local councilmember and let them know what happened here in NYC and suggest that they call similar hearings.
3. I’ve been noticing that a lot of the commentary in response to articles on the hearing is really negative and reactionary and sexist. I’d love for people to get on there, make positive comments about the hearing and fight back so that it’s not all obnoxious men calling us feminazis out there!!! A good place to start is here.
My name is Emily May, and I am the executive director of Hollaback!, an organization that has been working to end street harassment since 2005. I want to thank Councilmember Julissa Ferreras and the entire Committee on Women’s Issues for coordinating this hearing. While street harassment has probably existed in our city since the advent of streets, this is the first ever hearing to specifically address this pervasive issue. It’s a historic occasion, thank you.
Hollaback! is an international movement to end street harassment that started right here in New York City. It began because myself and a few friends were getting street harassed three or four times daily. When we walked on, we felt weak. When we yelled at the guys, the situation escalated, and the police didn’t care. The most common suggestion for dealing with it was to plug our heads with earphones and pretend it wasn’t happening. But something inside us told us this wasn’t enough—we wanted to share our stories, and to get our fellow New Yorker’s to share theirs. Five years later, over 1000 bold women and LGBTQ New Yorkers have told their stories of street harassment. Their stories have inspired Hollaback!s to launch in an additional 20 cities worldwide including London, Israel, Berlin, and Buenos Aires. Within the next couple of weeks we will launch an iPhone and a Droid app, making it even easier to Hollaback! and giving the public the real-time data on this pervasive problem.
At Hollaback!, we’ve heard stories of women leaving their jobs, or breaking their lease, because their commute involved too much street harassment. We’ve heard stories from girls skipping school to avoid harassment. And we’ve heard a surprising number of stories from women who moved out of New York City because they just couldn’t take it anymore. These stories come from women and girls in all five boroughs, and represent every ethnicity, from the ages of 10 to 75.
Too commonly, street harassment is believed to be the “price women pay” for living in New York City. But we’re not buying it. Taxes are the price we pay for living in this city, not street harassment.
Just this week I had the opportunity to speak with young women at Barnard and the Little Red School House. Of these 150 young women, 100% of them had experienced street harassment according to our anonymous survey tool. As frustrated as each of them was about street harassment, they were inspired to hear that the New York City Council was listening. Many of them are submitting testimony today.
We have heard from New York City’s women and girls. We know this is a problem. But who we haven’t heard from is our legislators. Until now.
We have an historic opportunity to do something about this. Street harassment is poised to be the next big women’s issue of this decade, in the same way that workplace harassment was in the 1980s. It is a gateway crime, creating a culture in our city that makes other forms of violence against women OK. And the New York City council is well placed to lead the charge, just like they have with so many battles that have come before it.
I know what you’re thinking – that this is issue is going to be tough to legislate. We could choose to ignore it—after all, this is what we have done for a very long time. But I propose an alternative–we could choose to work together and take action—and for it to work, we need to move quickly.
Our ten-year plan is to build a world where all the baby girls in strollers today will never have to experience street harassment the way that girls today have. Today, on this most historic occasion, I’d like to invite you to join us.
Here are three initial first steps:
1. We need a citywide study on the impact of street harassment on women and girls, including recommendations for next steps;
2. We need a citywide public information campaign that teaches women, girls, men, and boys that street harassment is not OK; and
3. We need to establish harassment-free zones around our schools, similar to the drug-free zones that exist today.
New York City’s women and girls deserve the freedom to walk down the streets of New York safely and confidently, without being the object of some creep’s fantasy. And you have the power to change that. You have the power to rewrite history for New York City’s tiniest.
So let’s do it. Let’s make today the day that New York City boldly decided to end street harassment. The women and girls of New York City are counting on us.