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BY YASHAR, cross posted from the current conscience
The other day, my friend Dina was talking about her experiences of being catcalled—street harassment is a more accurate term—while walking around the streets of New York.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about the epidemic of street harassment. Many of my women friends have remarked about experiencing and dealing with this kind of harassment and how unsafe it makes them feel.
For Dina, one particular instance of harassment on the streets of New York was cemented in her memory. She was walking alone, during the day, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, when she heard a man taunt her, “Hey baby, you’re lookin’ good…”
“Don’t call me baby,” she responded.
He looked her up and down and said, “…fucking dyke.”
For the record, Dina is straight—not that it would have been okay if she weren’t.
This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time Dina faces street harassment. She has been harassed in public places, and on a number of occasions, followed by men. Many studies indicate that almost 100 percent of women will face some sort of street harassment at one point in their lives.
Most men don’t even realize street harassment exists as a very real, serious problem. Yet, many women see this kind of harassment as part of daily life. For the few men who are aware of it, they assume the extent of street harassment is something akin to harmless, or at worst, annoying flirting, which still problematic if that attention is unwelcome.
The reality of street harassment is far worse than what most men think or believe. In cities large and small, women have to contend with comments that range from the mildly offensive to the disgusting. Beyond being verbally harassed, many women are followed and some women are even forced to deal with the same harasser on a daily basis. And for some women, this “harmless” harassment leads to assault.
But I realized, as Dina was telling me her story, that I have never actually been witness to the kind of street harassment my women friends tell me about. If a woman is walking down the street with me, other men generally won’t engage in any kind of harassing behavior towards her because street harassment, like all forms of harassment, is about attacking the vulnerable.
And despite what some readers of this column may think about my gender, I will never know what it feels like for a woman to walk down the street alone. How am I to fully relate to the pain, fear, and humiliation of street harassment when I have never witnessed its full form and lack the the personal experience of being harassed on the street?
Street harassment is simply one issue that plagues women in their everyday life. They are constantly barraged with discriminatory obstacles that we don’t even see as obstacles.
To read the rest the of the article, click here.
A new t-shirt marketed to tweens and teens contains this message:
“I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.”
Hey, JC Penny: It’s 2011. Your sexist t-shirt messaging sucks. Big time.
That’s right, let’s keep telling young women that their looks are more important than their brains or than doing homework. Maybe they’ll just start believing it.
Sign the Change.org petition to let JC Penny CEO Mike Ullman III know that his paying customers don’t appreciate being disrespected like this and that our daughters will not be wearing sexist propaganda. Ask your friends to do the same.
Thanks to your quick response, JC Penny has pulled the offensive t-shirt from their website and issued this statement:
jcpenney is committed to being America’s destination for great style and great value for the whole family. We agree that the “Too pretty” t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale. Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad customer base, not to offend them. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.
A stranger grabbed my crotch on the metro today. and then tried to deny it and get away from me when I started screaming at him. eventually he mumbled ‘sorry’ and walked away and i didn’t have the energy to keep following him. but i’m proud of myself for yelling: you can’t treat women like that! you are disgusting! you should be ashamed of yourself! that is unacceptable! next time i’ll be mentally prepared to take the next step and report it.
Unfortunately I’m no stranger with harassment on the streets, having lived in Sydney and small country towns before Newcastle, I mean as appearances go I don’t consider myself unattractive, I’m not by any means thin, or conventional, but I take pride in myself and am careful to dress appropriately.
However the intensity and consistency of verbal and physical attacks since living here have been unprecedented, from having drinks thrown at me in bars, creeps asking incredibly personal things, even having my hair sniffed while walking the streets.
Mostly I try not to take too much notice, my long term boyfriend having even bought me a tazer to make me feel safer when I am out, and though it does its incredibly heartbreaking that it should come to that.
But rather to the point, I only just discovered this website and felt that I should share my most recent, and probably the most hurtful of experiences, being a late Sunday night, my boyfriend and I went for a walk to the 24hr grocery store to pick up some things so I could bake him some treats before he had to head home for work (he works rather odd houred shifts)
In my year of living here I was somewhat surprised to see the local club was going and quite lively, being familiar with the rather unkind crowd we opted to keep our distance and went on to do our shopping, however on our return as we took the same back streets avoiding the drunken crowds a car drove by slowly, a man leaning out the window screaming “fat slut!” at me as I stood there right next to my boyfriend, I felt completely humiliated, and angry for being judged at such a stupid hour on a Sunday night, I felt I had a right to be a little haggard, but I couldn’t dare even express the pain to my boyfriend as he silently ignored it, walking back home all I could do was try not to cry.
All I could ask myself was, “What kind of man would insult a woman, a complete stranger, in such a way? Why should anyone ever have to put up with such a public humiliation?”
I yet to understand, but I certainly found some solace in this site, I’m glad to not feel completely alone.
Walking toward my house, I made eye contact with a guy walking the opposite way on the other side of the street. I looked away. He did not. He kept staring at me, slowly turning his head a full 180 to keep staring at me as I walked up my driveway. It was completely silent, less than 30 seconds, and he was pretty far away from me, but I still felt shaken and threatened, and at the same time silly for feeling so threatened when nothing “really” happened, and angry that something so small means so much.
I had never lived in a city before this summer, and it took a while for me to get used to the unending comments I heard on the street. They always made me feel uncomfortable, and I found listening to music protected me the most on my walk to work.
My last week of summer work, I had run out of power to listen to my music so I was walking around without my usual guard up. I started to notice someone yelling, “Bitch!” at me as I was walking. At first I ignored it, but the yelling got worse when I turned around.
When I got to the cross walk and it looked like me and the man who was yelling at me would be standing together, I decided to walk off to the side and stand by a populated bus stop until he passed. As he walked across the street, he hatefully spewed, “bitch,” and “white cunt” with “privileged pussy” my way.
I didn’t know what to do; I just wanted to go home. After I crossed the street, he turned around to see me again. He stopped dead in his tracks and threatened me until I crossed the street again to walk on the other side.
I was wearing sunglasses, so no one could see me cry on my way home. I don’t let anyone talk to me like that, but he was so much bigger and filled with so much anger. I felt so powerless and so small.
Saturday night at about 8pm I parked on Little Raven street, at the far end of the mall from the Denver Library, where I was heading to drop off some books in the drop box. I made it to the library and successfully dropped off my books in about fifteen minutes. Walking back from the library to the mall (which involves walking down the street between a city park and the Denver capital lawn), a man started following me. I sped up, he did too. First, he just tried talking to me, to get me to stop. I responded, but kept walking. Then he asked me if I could sell him a bowl. I said no and kept walking. After crossing Colfax, I was passing the bus station when he angled his walking and tried to cut me off against the wall.
I ran into the bus station and went straight to the security guard. He followed me into the bus station, and the security guard made him go away for me. After I watched him go out of view, I walked out of the bus station to catch the Free Mall Ride down 16th street mall. A stop later, he got on the mall ride and started staring at me. I work on the mall at a place in which my coworkers are predominantly males, so I got off the ride and went to my work with the hope of losing him based on the intimidation factor of other males.
I waited 15 minutes, then tried to leave. I was partway down the block when he walked up next to me and said “hi”. I turned around and went back to work and waited for them to finish closing so I wouldn’t be walking alone. I didn’t get to my car till past 11pm.
My three friends and I took a weekend vacation up to the Adirondacks in Upstate New York this past month. We are all 20 years old. One afternoon, the 4 of us took a canoe out to a popular canoe/kayak/swimming spot. It was extremely hot out, so all of us were in our bathing suits. On our way back to the shore, we noticed a strange man, alone, standing in the water watching us. Staring. He stared at us the entire time it took us to pass by him in the canoe. At first we thought nothing of it, but about 2 minutes later, I looked behind us and realized that he had followed us. Still, staring at us silently standing waist deep in the water. I yelled “Can I help you?”. No response. We were all extremely creeped out. This continued for about ten minutes, as the man followed us to the shore. He proceeded to follow us all to our car in the parking lot, and stand with his hands on his hips staring at us while we struggled to put the canoe on top of the car. It was at this point that my one friend, Paige, had enough. As we were driving out of the parking lot, she rolled down the window, the man still watching us, and flipped him off. He stared back, and she yelled” YEAH, THAT’S FOR YOU CREEP!”. If I had known about this site at the time, I would have easily been able to snap a picture of this guy. Sexual harassment doesn’t always have to be verbal!
I was 17 and had traveled to Boston from South America with a couple of friends to learn English. My language school was near Cambridge square, and we had class until 1pm, and then we had an hour or so to have lunch before classes resumed.
One day I decided to go to some random restaurant because I wanted to eat something different, my friends didn’t want to come with me so I went there by myself.
I sat at a table, and after I ordered. A guy sitting at a different table started to talk to me. He said “how come such a lovely lady is eating all by herself?” I was very naive then and didn’t expect sexual harassment to take place in the U.S. (little did I know), so I just answered his question and explained that my friends didn’t want to come with me. I still answered with a particular tone to show that I was uncomfortable and would rather not talk.
The guy later asked me if I liked my food, I said it was alright and then I took some random thing from my bag to pretend I was reading so he wouldn’t talk to me. He had a strange look, the kind of look that makes you feel you’d rather be somewhere else.
He kept talking to me, and I told him that I was sorry, that I couldn’t understand what he was saying because I was still learning English. I thought that would be a good thing to say to end the conversation.
I asked the waitress to bring the bill, and she said the guy had paid for what I had ordered. I wasn’t sure I had understood what had happened, I was nervous and wanted to leave, so I asked again, and she said the guy had payed my bill. Confused, I asked her why??? She said she didn’t know why but he had indeed payed my bill. She gave me a piece of paper that the guy had sent to me, which said something like I was beautiful or something. Then she said, “apparently he likes you”.
I asked the waitress if I could leave, she said yes. The guy was staring at me. I (sigh…) said “Thank you”, then left the restaurant and staring running towards the language school. My heart was pounding, I was terrified and wondered if the guy would be following me. I thought that was unlikely because I was running really fast.
I was very annoyed and confused. One thing that bothered me was the lack of female solidarity, if I had been the waitress, I wouldn’t have let a random guy in his fifties pay the bill of a 17 year old without asking her first.
I never ate alone again during the rest of my stay.
I am 22 years old and have, like most women, been verbally harassed since I hit puberty. When I hear a “God damn you’re hot,” or a whistle, or even a simple “Hey” from men, I sometimes smile, always feel awkward, and continue on like it didn’t happen. But today, I was walking the block from the lot I park in to where I work in Detroit and had to pass by a construction crew. I couldn’t see the men. Perhaps they were behind a large green plastic sheet that blocked my view or standing within the building on which they worked. But I heard them. They whistled, and yelled. I felt uncomfortable, they could see it in my movements, my lowered head, and quickened pace, and then they laughed. It was the laughing at my obvious discomfort that I find the most disturbing and that I can’t stop thinking about.