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BY NANCY A. DAVIS
It was just another typical Tuesday. I was in the Port Authority Bus Terminal waiting for the A train. All I wanted to do was get downtown. I waited by a pillar, minding my own business. I felt someone staring at me, but brushed it off as paranoia. I looked around and saw him – he was checking me out all right. He gave me one of those head-to-toe looks, that just makes me cringe. I slid back behind the pillar, hoping the A train would arrive soon.
I hopped on the train, and found a spot to plant my feet. I took a deep breath and thought He’s gone. I then felt a pair of eyes upon me again. It was him, and he was still staring and making obscene gestures. I moved to another part of the car to stand when some other passengers exited the train. He moved with me. I turned around, not looking him in the face. I could hear his heavy breathing behind me. My skin was crawling from being stared at like that.
I then moved to another car and he followed me there too. Now I was really freaked. I am a small woman. No way would I be able to fight this person off if he acted up. The sad part is, no one even noticed or said anything about him staring straight at me or about him following me to the next car. No one.
We should not have to be subjected to this. This is why I donated. Some people think it is acceptable to speak to anyone in a suggestive manner, or that staring for a long time is acceptable. It is not okay. We need help. We need you. Please donate to Hollaback! and let women not just here in the United States, but Worldwide know – that you have their back.
I have so many other stories of harassment. For instance, when I was seventeen (years ago), a friend and I were followed out to my car by a man working at Home Depot (who had approached us in the store, and checked us out back by the tires away from everyone else….. already creepy. He was much older and way bigger). He asked how old we were, we answered 17, and he then asked when our birthdays were. When we told him we had just turned 17, he paused and said, “Well…. I mean, if you girls ever want to hang out, just holler at me.”
Things like that happen a lot. And lesser incidents like being whistled or kissed at from a moving car (whether or not I’m walking with a group or a boyfriend, regardless of dress) happen even more often (just last night, actually).
But what made me want to post was a conversation I had with my current boyfriend tonight. We were at a pizza place and I went to go to the bathroom. While passing the men’s room, I heard two guys talking. “Aw man, the line is longer than the women’s room!” “Well, men are smarter than women, so…” I missed the rest, and I may be overreacting but the tone of his voice… it sounded like he meant it. And whether he did or not, it reminded me that there are men who truly believe that they are more intelligent than all women simply by the virtue of their penis. It bothered me, and when I told my boyfriend about it, he sort of blew me off and dismissed it. “I’m sure he was just joking,” etc.
Later, he asked what was wrong and I explained that it seemed that every time I bring up an instance of sexism or objectification, he doesn’t take me seriously and seems to think I’m making it up (this has happened before). I assured him that I wasn’t. And actually, he understood and apologized. We continued talking and I said, “I have had hatred thrown my way before, but most of what I have to deal with is the kind of sexism that is patronizing, objectifying, dismissive, perv bullshit. But the thing about that is… It’s a weird thing – trying to be tough and strong while knowing that there are men twice my size who, if they wanted to, could throw me across a room or punch me out and take advantage of me. And I can fight, and I would, but I can’t deny the difference in physical strength. And when I am objectified, it disturbs me. If they don’t see me as human, what’s to stop them from doing those things?”
(sidetrack: I just caught myself thinking, “If I were stronger, I guess I wouldn’t have to worry as much.” WTF!? I am 5’0″ and around 110 lbs. I’m in pretty good shape, and I’m fairly muscular. Still, there is only so much I can do for my size. But what bothers me about my thought is the whole “might makes right” mentality that I was JUST guilty of, even though I’m so opposed to it. “Oh, if I were stronger, I’d be safe.” As if we’re animals. Just because a man is stronger than me, that does not give him the right to use that against me. It shouldn’t be about me fending a man off, it shouldn’t even be an issue in the first place. Why is he bothering me at all? You can’t logically promote the idea that men are more intelligent/rational/capable than women (you know us gals and our periods) and then at the same time suggest that they (men) are so overcome by their irrational, savage, animal instincts at the sight of a woman’s [insert body part, depending where you are] that they can’t help but commit a rape. Not only is it misogynist, it lacks consistency and just doesn’t even make any fucking sense. Anyway…)
I think tonight helped him get a better idea of why I take things like this seriously. He’s a good guy and I know he wants to treat others with the respect they deserve. He just needed to hear me articulate what bothered me. I know a lot of men like this – men who just need to hear the women in their lives explain why sexism/objectification is so disturbing to us. Thank you, Hollaback, for providing a venue.
We are so strong. Let’s use our strength to build a world where we don’t need physical strength to feel safe. Donate to our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign today.
Due to my working late, and smoking habit that I can’t seem to drop, I am kind of the de facto neighborhood watch. It is a relatively safe neighborhood, but I’ve heard some weird stuff here and there. I’ve called 911 before when I heard a woman screaming. It turned out to be a drunken domestic dispute (but happening in the middle of the street). I do have a bit of hyper-vigilance, so I tend to mistake the sounds of drunken carousing with something much worse at times, but I figure embarrassment is better than serious danger.
I called the police again 2 nights ago. I saw a woman, who was screaming, be picked up by two men. I ran inside, grabbed my phone, and by the time I got a hold of someone, they were gone. I went close to the area that they were at, but there weren’t any signs of where they had gone, and I was reluctant to investigate it too much, because I didn’t want to get surprised if they were in a spot where they could see me. I also didn’t know if they were armed.
The police came in about 10 minutes, and checked the area. I have no idea if they found anything. I also have no idea of what I saw. It was dark, far away, maybe this was drunken carousing, maybe I gave her time and space to get away if it was as bad as it looked.
In short, between running to where they were to directly see what was happening and help, and grabbing my phone to call the police, I chose the second option. This has left me with very little information, and a sickening feeling that I am a coward and should have done more. I hope that everything worked out, or it wasn’t what it looked like, but I’ll never know.
To find out more about the “I’ve got your back” campaign or to donate, click here.
I was visiting my friend a University of Missouri and we went to a party. Me and my friends were pretty much the only ones dancing so when a strange girl came up and started dancing with me, I was happy that she was joining us. However, she then proceeded to bite me on my neck. Very hard. Shocked I just walked away. I told my friends and they thought it was just as weird as I did and we all kind of laughed at it. Later, I was standing against the walk talking to my boyfriend when she came up to me again. I said to her in a light but firm way “Don’t bite me again, because that really hurt!” She, of course, bit me again. I then tried to slink away but she had me pinned against the wall and started drunkenly pressing herself into me. She touched my breasts. My boyfriend then grabbed my armed and pulled me away.
It was such a weird thing and only now, reading this site, do I realize I totally underreacted. Of course, if a man had done this to me, not only would I have fought back, but my boyfriend would defended me. I was so worried about not hurting her feelings or making it seem like a big deal that I forgot about my self respect. This will never happen again, whether by a man or a woman.
Hollaback! Baltimore shares why the “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign is so important. We’ve only got 7 days to go and over $15,000 to reach our goal! And the absolute truth is that we can’t do this without you. Please donate so that none of us ever has to Hollaback alone.
Developed by our friends at Blank Noise Project, in India.
This video was created by the Safe Horizon Safe Harbor Student Leaders, who, after hearing that the city was considering a public service announcement campaign about street harassment, decided they would show the city what could be most effective.
In this tight budget year, funding from the city wasn’t available for a PSA campaign, but the council was able to support an initiative that will allow the city to collect more data on street harassment and provide a real-time response to it (more details to be released in the coming months).
A special thank you goes to Councilmember Christine Quinn, Councilmember Julissa Ferraras, and Councilmember Brad Lander for their bold vision and support of Hollaback! and the movement to end street harassment! We are so proud that NYC as boldly taken on this important issue that effects our community and our city.
We’d also like to thank the Safe Horizon Safe Harbor Student Leaders for bravely speaking out about their right to feel safe on the streets (and a special thanks to Rachel Henes and Rebecca Forlenza for helping them to share their voices).
Recently, I was able to use Hollaback!’s Web site as an educational, inspirational and cross-generational tool of empowerment. And they said the Internet wouldn’t last.
The conversation in question happened between a 19-year-old college student and me, her 30-something cousin. I listened as she described street harassment she receives almost daily — at her campus, near her home, in all sorts of public spaces that should be rightfully hers.
She’s already learning that they’re not.
She was asking me how to avoid such situations. How to stave off the “catcalls” and creepers. What to wear. What NOT to wear. Where to go. How to get there. How to come back.
My young, idealistic cousin is already learning that her public world will be a maze of constant avoidance, broken by gauntlets of abuse.
Simply because she’s a woman.
And she wants to walk outside.
And it fucking breaks my heart.
I couldn’t tell my cousin not to worry, that such harassment won’t happen too much — because I know it probably will. I know by the time she’s my age — or much sooner — she might have learned to see every man on the street as a threat, lost count of the times she’s been verbally harassed or worse, and feel an extra stress every time she’s simply walking alone.
I couldn’t tell her these things wouldn’t happen. But I could tell her how to confront them. I could tell her how to HOLLABACK!
So, instead of telling my cousin to ignore street harassment — which is the advice I got at her age — I talked with her about WHY some men harass women on the street, why our culture tolerates it and ways to safely confront the behavior.
Hollaback! gave me the tools to have this conversation. I was able to reference the Web site — which my cousin now reads — as well as email her several street harassment articles I’ve found online, through Hollaback! or on my own.
I think the conversation helped her.
I hope so anyway.
I know it helped me. I know it made me feel better that I had something other to say than “Well honey you just gotta deal with that cause it’s just the lot of women, us givers of life and the heart of societies. Random strangers get to harass us on the street! ”
I think too many women were told such things in the past. They were taught to be passive, how to play defense in a never-ending game. But a new generation of women are taking the offensive, speaking up, and unafraid to fight this war.
Women like my cousin.
She called me the other night with a proud tale of how she’d silenced a harasser on the street.
Yep, that’s my girl.
Not a victim. Not an object. Not a passive, pretty little thing.
But a newly minted foot-soldier with the weapons to HOLLABACK!
To help build a world where every girl learns at a young age that they don’t just have to “take it,” donate to our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Only 8 days to go!
This happened a long time ago. I grew up in a pretty, quiet middle-class neighborhood in the middle of the Bible belt. My mom was always watchful. My best friend and I rarely played in our front yard, but this one day we took our dolls out front like this once in our whole childhood. Usually my mom wouldn’t let us play alone out front. A jeep drove up with a slightly built youngish white guy who asked us if we’d seen his puppy, and if we wanted to go help him find it. We were terrified and right away ran into the house. But DEAR GOD!!!! He could have put his car in park and thrown one of us into the back seat, but luckily, he sped off. We never saw him again. That’s one brush with a rapist that I hope I never have again.
The second creepy incident happened at a park with my mom. My mom was walking the track around the small park as me and the same friend played. This was a very hot summer day. We noticed a guy get out of his car, and smoke. He stared at us intently and he was wearing a thick black coat, and black boots. And it was hot outside. He smoked a few cigarettes. He had dark sunglasses on. He watched us. My mom noticed and decided to sit in her car, which was next to hers, and she started it. He had no children with him. He left as soon as my mom got in her car. He left.
Third story. And these are all true, and luckily for us end happily. This SAME friend and I were at her house and went to a park. Alone. Her mom let us go. Stupid, don’t let your kids go to parks alone. These boys that were 12 or so said really gross sexual things to us, but never attacked us physically. We escaped, mostly unscathed.
I just don’t get it. Why are there so many creepy, evil and sick men out there???????? WHAT THE FUCK? It’s so sad. It makes me so angry. So women let’s get angry, fight back and shame the assholes!!!
To help build a world where street harassment is unacceptable behavior, donate to our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Only 8 days to go!
My friend and I were eating at Java House, on the corner of Queen west and Augusta Ave. in Toronto and my friend noticed a guy taking a picture on his cell of a woman walking a few paces ahead of him. We watched as the woman went into a Second Cup coffee place on the other side of augusta and he seemed to watch her go in and wait outside. He paced around and tried to act like he was about to cross the street but when the light turned green he just looked around. Then he looked inside the second cup again and walked on past it further East on Queen.
After dinner my friend and I walked East on Queen and my friend went to catch a street car going East from Queen and Spadina. The man got on the same street car as her and looked around. The woman was on the same street car too and when the man saw her, he sat down beside her. It was obvious they didn’t know each other. When the street car reached College they both got off at the same stop. She started to walk down the street and he ducked into a convenience store. My friend stayed on the streetcar and then texted me about what she’d seen. I suggested she try to report the incident to the police. She called and got the brush off. The police officer said ” we can’t do anything about it now. Next time call when it’s happening” She refused to let my friend file a report or to call a cop car out to that area to see what was going on.
For the record, the stalker was a man about 6’2, average weight for his height, and had ear length wavy hair and kind of a square jaw line. He also had a short goatee or a beard and appeared to be in his early 30s. The woman appeared to be 20s or 30s, with long brown hair down her back, wearing a black tank top, dark knee-length pants, a black shoulder bag and sunglasses on.
I just really wanted to document this since the police took no interest and this guy will probably do something like this again. Makes me feel sick and helpless.
To help build a world where street harassment is unacceptable behavior, donate to our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Only 8 days to go!