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I go to a very small school of only 100 kids, so I feel very awkward and nervous submitting this. But then I remember what a parent said to me 3 nights ago and I reconfirm the inappropriateness of the comment and feel the need to share.
My school puts on a production called, “scene night” in which the advanced theater class does individual scenes rather than a whole play. So each student gets their own scene. I chose a scene that was beautifully written and funny, hoping to explore comedic theater a little more and show my acting dexterity. I memorized for days, and determined the perfect blocking and finally got to preform my scene. It went smashingly. I was a playing the part of a reference librarian that was defending her career choice. She was trying to explain that reference librarians were not bland people as the status quo might say, and were instead romantic intellectuals. There was one part where I climbed on top of my reference desk, explaining my ‘fantasy’ while talking to an imaginary patron. It was somewhat about seduction but not about sex. After the performance, which I was immensely proud of (it was my final performance at the school before I graduated) while we were all schmoozing about with the audience, one of the other kid’s parents came up to me very close and introduced himself as, “Mr. X’s Dad” and then said, “You looked so sexy up there..I mean really sexy.” Put on the spot I said something like “Thank you, I had a good time.” And turned away looking for someone to talk to. But I really wanted to tell him not to stand so close to me, and that his comment was really inappropriate. He was just nearly pressed against me, and I could smell his breath! And it wasn’t like he was complimenting my performance..he was telling me I looked appealing to him. Why do I care what you think of me, Mr. X? I’m not trying to turn you on! I know he didn’t mean to be offensive and probably thought I’d be flattered by the comment but I was creeped out and told my mom as soon as I was far enough away. My mom responded with, “You know I’ve always gotten a creepy vibe from him…I think he just doesn’t know how to be social though.” She moved on from it an encouraged me to do the same but all I’ve felt since the comment is I must not have portrayed my character well. I must have made it too sexual. But my mom is also consequently my director and had seen me rehearse it nearly 20 times. She wouldn’t have let me continue with the monologue if it was too sex-riddled. She would definitely have said something. I just wish my experience wasn’t tainted by this man’s comment and that it didn’t make me feel like the one time I really extended my comfort zone, I was mis-percieved by people.
New Yorkers United Against Sexual Violence is campaigning to ensure funding for sexual violence prevention and treatment programs. Please sign this petition to help the all of the programs throughout NYC keep working toward a city free of sexual violence.
From their website:
Sexual violence affects all New Yorkers, regardless of class, race, gender expression, sexual orientation or age. It is estimated that in a city of 8 million residents, that over 1.2 million women and 200,000 men have been sexually assaulted in their life. Anti-sexual violence programs work tirelessly to help survivors heal and to develop safer communities.
In 2011, organizations doing crucial anti-sexual violence work in New York City are woefully underfunded. The limited funding available to these organizations makes victims of sexual violence in New York City a truly underserved population. We urge the City Council to stand with us against sexual violence and support the city wide Sexual Assault Initiative for $720,000 in the 2012 budget.
Video cross-posted from Hollaback Mumbai
“I enjoy eve teasing, but when someone ‘teases’ my girlfriend, mother or my sister, I feel hurt. That is when I realize it is wrong to eve-tease.”
‘Eve teasing’ is the gentle ‘boys will be boys’-type term given to street harassment in India, much like ‘cat calling’ in the United States—terms that downplay the severity of the issue. This 4-minute film by Akshara, a leading women’s organization founded in Mumbai in 1986, features interviews with ‘eve teasers’ and the women they harass; set to music.
Dear Hollaback! Readers,
My name is Nicola Briggs, and many of you may have heard of me from this website. In late November of 2010, a video of me confronting a sexual predator on the subway was posted on YouTube, and Hollaback! published this video, which has now been seen by well over one million people. This recording, made by an anonymous bystander, was of a very intense and difficult moment for me. I had just realized that a man standing behind me had been trying to rub himself against me, and when I turned around, I saw that he was completely exposed, wearing a condom. At first, I thought I was seeing things, it was so surreal. “Could this stranger really be standing in front of me like that? This can’t be happening to me…” Then the creep tried to cover himself up with his messenger bag, but I needed to make sure I wasn’t going bonkers ~ so I grabbed the strap of his bag, and yanked it away from his body, and there it was again, in all it’s little glory.
When the perpetrator saw the expression on my face, he knew it was on, and hastily mumbled “I’m sorry.” But his sociopathic reaction, which showed no understanding whatsoever of the gravity of his actions, was the final catalyst for me to respond in the way I did. As many of you saw from the video, I announced to the entire subway car what he’d been doing, and let him know that he wouldn’t get away with it, and was going to prison. (Insert numerous expletives.) I also enlisted the support of other passengers to help me detain him, and shame him, all of us taking pictures with our cell phones. Upon exiting the train, the perpetrator was immediately arrested by transit police. He was then convicted, is now a registered sex offender for life, and was also deported at the end of his all-too-brief prison term.
Oh yes, oh fucking yes.
It’s about time that we show the sexual predators of the world that we will not accept “business as usual” anymore, and that we refuse to sit in silence and pain any longer, as we are victimized just because of our sex. When a woman is faced with someone trying to violate her personal boundaries, it is completely appropriate that she raise her voice and GET LOUD. In fact, her physical, psychological, and spiritual survival depend upon it. I’m writing you now to encourage you on that path ~ and to let you know that I’d like to share alternative ways of successfully defending yourself, if and when the need arises. I’ll be writing a weekly column, called Nicola’s Got Nerve, which will be a frank discussion of street harassment, dominance, awareness, and methods of self-defense for women in public. It will be a supportive forum where you can ask me questions, and where I will address your concerns about traveling through the city in safety and with confidence. My years as a Tai Chi instructor, and the fact that I’m only 5’ tall (and won’t take crap from anybody!) have prepared me well for this moment in my life. I hope to share with you what I’ve learned on my own journey, to make yours easier, and look forward to getting to know you!
Peace and Balance,
To submit a question to Nicola for next Monday’s post, please email it to her here.
On Thursday, I had planned to go to a cheap taco place, go meet up with friends for dessert at Junior’s, and have an enjoyable day.
This group of teens has said things to me on and off in my area for a year and a half. I’ve tried everything – calling 311, calling the local precinct, attempting to reason with the ringleader after separating him from his friend, calling the local precinct, videotaping an incident, and calling the precinct a third time.
When I saw a group of young men out, I put my point and shoot in video mode and turned it on in my bag. When one of them yelled to me, I pulled the camera out and got a shot at their faces. They taunted me more, and I was set to walk away and bring my videos to the precinct the next day, though lord knows bringing anything sexual to the police is a gamble. One of them pulled down his pants and showed me his (surprisingly hairless) ass, to which I yelled without thinking “OH HELL NO, I’M FROM BROOKLYN, YOU BETTER KILL ME OR LEAVE ME ALONE.” One of them threw his cigarette at me, and said, “You better leave before we decide to kill you.”
I called 911 this time, and the officers tried to be nice, but they were too slow to respond, and the butt-flasher and cigarette-thrower had gone. Their friend got a summons for being aggressive and spitting, but that doesn’t exactly help.
Jesus fucking Christ, I just wanted a taco. Whenever a man on the street says something too vile or personal to ignore, I get this intense adrenaline rush that would probably enable me to pick a car up off my foot. It’s really uncomfortable – my heart starts beating so fast, I shake slightly, and I’m just so angry I can’t think straight. How dare someone say that to me, treat me like I’m public property because I’m a woman, and truly believe they are entitled to my time, my response, their satisfaction. I shouldn’t need to feel prepared to die to run errands in my neighborhood in broad daylight. I’d rather die than live in fear, but I wish I didn’t even have to think that way.
I know I didn’t handle this in the best way possible, but it isn’t my job to respond well to groups of men who intimidate me – I didn’t choose to be their target. They were wrong to target me.
Everyone I told this story to has said I’m so brave, but I couldn’t leave the house on Friday because I felt so fatigued after all of that adrenaline the day before. I went out with my boyfriend on Saturday, but I’m having a panic attack over the thought of going outside alone today, even if I avoid the area. If it’s not these guys, it will be others, and if it’s not today, it will be this week. I’m afraid of what I’ll have to do next time, especially if the police respond so slowly. I’m afraid of dealing with being treated like public property for the rest of my life, no matter how I carry myself or respond. I’m afraid of what I’ll have to do next time to survive, and what that’s going to do to me.
A friend of mine and I decided to grab some McDonalds after a part at approximately 3am in the morning. It was a place that was nearby and was convenient for both of us to get home.
We cruised on in and ordered our meals. We were soon approached by a man who said that we had to meet his friends. We obliged because he asked nicely and we’re the adventurous, outgoing sort. We met his friends/family, and chatted while we waited for our meal.
Once we had our food we sat down kind of near them because of the size of the restaurant, but indicated no interest. For a majority of our meal we enjoyed solitude recanting our individual evenings.
About 3/4 of the way through my big mac one of the guys walks over and starts talking us up, soon after his cousin comes up afterwards and joins in. Both of them are nice enough, so we don’t mind chatting a bit as we end our post festivity meal. But as we near the end they ask us out, ask us what we’re up to, and for our numbers.
We tell them we are done for the evening, have to be up early, and don’t wish to give our number out.
The first guy that approached us walked away and said, “Fuck those fat bitches.”
And I was not having it.
I followed him to his table and confronted him, asking what he’d said. His friend tried to ‘calm me down’ but I told them that I was well within my rights to cause a scene. Quickly the whole McDonalds was cheering me on as I told him that I had no responsibility or obligation to give him my number. That I had been nothing but a lady, and had acted with only respect until he decided that he was too good for basic respect.
All the while he was giving me the finger.
I kept going, and I asked the crowd that was watching. ‘Am I a fat bitch?’ and they said, ‘HELL NO!’ I told him that I was a woman, and a lady. That I had acted with respect, and it would have been my preference to walk out that door without this nonsense. But I was not the kind of person to take that kind of disrespect, and that he had a thing or two to learn about women of substance.
Last year I moved to Granville Island in Vancouver to go to school at the nearby art university. Close to my house there’s a convenience store and a Starbucks, near the intersection where the big neon “Granville Island” sign is.
On nights when I had a lot of studying to do I would go to the convenience store and pick up snacks, but the male clerk always seemed overly friendly and creeped me out a little. He would often probe too much into my life, asking me where I lived, how I was, what I was doing later… sounds friendly, but it wasn’t. Also, every time I came in he would ask me if I was old enough to drink, if I liked drinking, and if I had girlfriends that I drank with.
Finally after enough times going there, he worked up enough nerve to “ask me out”, if you can call it that. In the span of about 45 seconds he shot a bunch of questions at me rapid-fire; he asked me if he could take me shopping, buy me clothes, take me to the beach, take me to a movie, take me back to his house or buy me liquor. It was clear that he thought I was underage and that getting a boot for alcohol would not only pique my interest, but would make it easier for him to potentially date rape me. This man was probably around 30 – I’m 19 but look about 15. I’d also like to note that I never bothered to wear makeup when I went to that convenience store, and I usually wore my boyfriend’s baggy hoodies since it was cold and I didn’t plan on being out long – I mention this because some people seem to believe that harassment is based on looks. It’s not.
Anyway, I never went back there again. Luckily there’s another convenience store close by that’s run by a very sweet middle-aged man, but his store doesn’t stock toiletries like shampoo and deodorant, so when I need those things I now need to make a half hour walk to the drug store (instead of the five minute walk I used to make to the Island Market convenience store).
I don’t have a picture or the name of this man, but he was in his thirties, somewhat short, and had a pock-marked face. He works at the market all week round. I’m including a picture of the place I grabbed off Google street viewer – none of the people visible in the photo are the harasser. NOTE: This is not in the Granville Island Farmer’s Market. It is a separate convenience store simply named “Island Market”.
This story happened quite some time ago, but when I think of stories apropos to Hollaback, it is these that jump out at me:
Three summers ago, I was living in Brooklyn with my boyfriend at the time. I am from a fairly small town; I’d certainly encountered my fair share of street harassment there, but nothing compared to the huge volume I encountered every day in NY during my commute to work. I would complain about it to my boyfriend and he would brush it aside with comments like, “well, you’re hot, baby,” and, “that’s just the city.” One day, on the way to work, a man I walked past growled, “I would ride that.” I told my boyfriend about it, and he turned it around later that day and used it as a joke, yelling it to me out the window of a car when his friend picked him up.
That same friend of his and I got into an argument another day about street harassment. He said that the catcalls, etc. were compliments and I shouldn’t feel threatened or stereotyped. “Being hot is not a BAD stereotype,” he informed me. “I’m Puerto Rican, and if someone yelled at me, ‘hey, you must play really great baseball,’ I would say, ‘thank you, yes I do.'” My boyfriend thought this was hilarious.
I should note that the boyfriend was NOT an asshole or a bad boyfriend or in any way abusive to me or disrespectful of me otherwise. He was and still is a caring kind and smart person who I genuinely respect. I would say the same of his friend. But they could not understand the feeling of violation that came with street harassment, and in not understanding, they invalidated the anger and fright and disgust I felt on a DAILY BASIS. To them, that was simply New York, and it was a part of the city that came along with all the rest of it. And who, after all, was I to try and question the norms of a city that wasn’t my own? I just had to learn, like all the rest of the women there, to deal with it.
I did learn to deal with it. The sexual slurs rolled off me like water by the end of my summer there. Or so I told myself. But then came one morning in August, by which point I felt myself much better suited to the city (I could not only navigate the trains, I could give directions). I was headed to work at about 7 AM, walking to the F train on Second Ave. The LES in the mornings is a very different place than the LES at night; rather than loud pretty twenty-somethings, the streets are filled only with the homeless who slept there the night before. I was walking past many groups of homeless men and was otherwise entirely alone on the street. Then I saw one homeless guy lumbering towards me. Here we go, I thought, preparing myself for an unpleasant encounter, kicking myself for never having bought the pepper spray I’d promised my mom I’d get back in June. The man got to about a foot in front of me, raised his head, looked me right in the face, and said, “Well at least somebody’s beautiful this morning, and it sure ain’t me!” He laughed, and I laughed from relief, and he went on his way, wishing me a nice day. I laughed at myself the whole day, thinking how paranoid I’d been and how prejudiced it was for me to assume that a homeless guy was inevitably going to harass me. The thing this made me realize, though, is that my prejudice was borne of a larger fear. The silence around street harassment DOES contribute to prejudice, and it contributes, too, to an overall feeling of worry, shame, and fear that had me walking to work in a paranoid state. And though the man did comment on my appearance, I was GRATEFUL for it because I had been so sure that what was coming would be explicit or a threat.
Looking back on this time now, I realize I was deeply misinformed and unsure in regard to street harassment. I am moving back to New York in a couple of months, and thanks in part to Hollaback, I am doing so with more confidence and feelings of empowerment than I otherwise may have. Had I known about this site three years ago, that summer could have been more golden than it was.
I’m only fifteen but these kinds of things happen to me and my friends all the time, from older men and from boys our age. Last summer I remember walking to the beach with my friend, we were both wearing shorts and t-shirt and bikini’s, and a car full of boys, at least in their twenties were screaming at us as they drove past, and they drove past more than once. I mean, we should be allowed to wear summer clothes without feeling we’re asking for it! We don’t get a lot of nice weather here so when we do, we should feel alright to wear whatever we want without people harrassing us.
Another night, we were standing outside a video stop when a car pulled into the parking lot, rolled down it’s windows and started shouting at us. We got quite scared and went back inside the shop but they drove right up outside it and it looked like they were waiting for us to come out. Luckily, my friends mom came to pick us up in time.
And more recently, I was at a teen disco when a group of boys came up behind me and smacked my ass. It was not only painful and embarrassing, but they then kept asking me to get off with one of them. I tried to give them a piece of my mind but they just seemed to think it was funny.
The thing I find worst about the harrassment is that young boys, my age do it too so that’s means it’s getting passed on to new generations. I think they should teach more respect in schools, so that men can be more respectful in the future and that girls can learn to respect themselves and stand up for themselves.