Several years ago, I only had a bike to get to and from my job. The ride was five miles each way, and in no time at all, I was in pretty good shape.
One afternoon, after finishing my shift, I had just crossed an incredibly busy intersection and was coasting down the sidewalk when out of nowhere, these guys started catcalling me. I don’t remember exactly how many there where, but they were saying things along the lines of “Yeah baby! Looking good!”
Tired, cranky and now pissed off, I slammed my brakes on, located the direction of the catcalls (a dark green pickup about fifteen feet away from me), and in front of the entire waiting line of traffic, I flipped the guys off with both hands, screaming at the top of my lungs “DON’T EVER CALL ME THAT AGAIN!”
Not waiting for their response, I got back on my bike and pedaled home.
When I related the story to my mother later that night, she expressed her disappointment in my “unladylike” behavior and that the guys were only “trying to compliment” me.
That night, I wasn’t sure who I was more upset with: the truck full of guys who catcalled me or the mom who didn’t seem to understand that I was defending myself against street harassment.
I’ve always been a bit spacey and slow on the uptake when it comes to conversation, so I often don’t realize I’ve been flirted with or hit on during the day until I’m going through my day right before I fall asleep. This usually isn’t too much of a problem for me, but it’s thanks to a certain brave woman that it didn’t lead me to some dangerous consequences when I faced a harasser a few months ago.
I was taking the bus back from the airport, and a female passenger struck up a conversation about the luggage I was using. We chatted a bit, and eventually a man sitting behind me joined in on the conversation. The woman got off at the bus stop and the conversation continued, and because I thought he was just being casually friendly I didn’t notice that he was persistently casing me out for personal details – where I was going, what college I was going to, where I was staying, etc. stuff that I didn’t think twice about when telling him because I didn’t realize that’s what he was doing, or that he was showing non-platonic interest in me,
Then, a woman sitting across from me turned, looked at me and him, and loudly and pointedly told me that she would be watching what stop I was getting off at in case he decided to follow me. Suddenly, I realized the situation I was in, and what possible danger I was getting into. He confirmed that suspicion by getting angry and turned to verbally abusing her, trying to tell me that she was just jealous because he wasn’t hitting on her and forcefully insisting I tell him my name. She wouldn’t take that kind of behavior and started telling him off, and they started arguing. All I could do was keep silent – I’d never been in this kind of situation before. Eventually, he got off and I thanked the woman for cluing me in.
When I got off, I was shaken. I felt stupid that I’d let myself get duped so easily, angry that he would think it was okay to treat me like that in the first place, but above all else, I was grateful that someone had stepped in to help someone else who was unknowingly being placed in a dangerous situation and defend them from a harasser. I don’t know your name, woman on the bus, but I’d like to thank you again for your altruism and your bravery.
I was on post at my job when an middle-aged gentleman proceeded to take his rolled up race program and slap my left buttcheek with it. Earlier in the day, he grabbed my wrist to look at my tattoo but I thought nothing of it at the time. I just dismissed him as another drunk patron.
But after the newspaper incident, I immediately reported him to my supervisor who took over 40 minutes to return with a security guard. The guard went over to the man (who was kicking back, drinking beer in his lawn chair next to his wife) and asked him his side of the story. I then watched the security guard and the man exchange laughter/guffaws while looking in my direction.
I took my break to calm down and came back to my post to hear from my co-worker that the gentleman in question came over to apologize to me. He also informed my co-worker that he was an off-duty police officer.
I had to let him through my turnstile for the rest of my shift whilst being subjected to his leers. We don’t have HR on site where we work, so my complaint is lost in translation with our NYC office. In order to pay my bills, I have to be subjected to this patron for the rest of the season.
My friend and I went to the U2 concert. At the concert there was an inner ring that was pretty crowded and sort of like a mosh pit. My friend and I, being the stupid 16 year olds we are, decide that we just wanted to walk through from one end to the other to see if it was worth standing in there. It was really crowded and we quickly decided that once we found our way out of the ring we would not come back. But as we were walking through we pushed past three boys that were probably about 17. My friend was walking first so she didn’t see it but all three of the boys stared at us in a really creepy way that made me feel uneasy. Then as I was getting past the last boy he grabbed his crotch and gave me this look as I stared at him in repulsion. Needless to say I pushed my friend a little faster and said KEEP GOING when she tried to stop right after we passed them. The three boys heard me say this and started laughing like it was all some big joke. I felt like crying. What gives them the right to make me feel uncomfortable just because I’m a girl? I wish someone would have seen and done something. I wish I would have done something. Because that was no joke and it was not okay.
I was walking from my car to campus with two friends when I saw about 4 men fixing a roof nearby. Not long after, we began hearing things like, “hey ladies”, “Heeeey mama!” and the like. I used it as an opportunity to tell my friends about Hollaback! (they hadn’t heard of it). It was a great way to avoid the situation AND educate a few more people about this amazing site.
Walking back home through the park at 6pm, with my 2 year old daughter, a group of men between 20 and 40- 4 in total sat drinking on a bench. One waved at me, then they began to shout at me ‘Slag’, ‘Slut’, ‘fat bitch’, ‘fucking slut’ etc. It would have been bad enough alone, but I was with my little girl. I didn’t respond, just ushered her out of the park with a heart heavy with the knowledge that this will no doubt happen to her some time in the future.
BY CARA COURCHESNE, cross posted from her blog quarter.life.crisis
Yesterday, I was in a meeting where the topic of street harassment came up. The only man in the meeting asked me (sincerely and without being an asshole) the difference between someone who is genuinely trying to compliment a woman and someone who is actively engaging in harassment-like behavior.
A basic “what not to do” list is what I came up with.
1.) I am at work and you think it’s perfectly appropriate to comment on (any part of) my body, my tattoos, or my clothing. I used to be a waitress and one of the worst things – besides having a serve screaming toddlers – was having to deal with men who thought that because I was bringing their sandwich to their table, I wanted to be a part of their sandwich.
I do not want to be part of your sandwich. I smiled at you BECAUSE IT IS MY FUCKING JOB AND I AM BEING PAID TO BE NICE TO PEOPLE.
Generally, your waitress does not find it attractive when you lean in and make a comment about her “really, really, really nice hands” while your wife is in the bathroom (true story); when you put your phone number on the check (this screams that you’re terrified of me and/or you realize that you being a dick); when you ask if I want to sit down and have a drink (I’m at work, you tool); or when you decide to ask me really probing questions about various aspects of my physical appearance: “Is that hair real?” No, it’s fake and I reattach it every morning. “What does your tattoo mean?” Fuck off – in Dutch.
2.) You are at work and you think it’s appropriate to comment on (any part of) my body, my tattoos, or my clothing: When I’m in line getting my coffee in the morning; when I’m walking by your construction site; when I’m going to a meeting at your place of employment; when I am walking on the sidewalk and you lean out of the restaurant where you’re some sort of middle management to tell me that you would tap my ass; or really anyplace where I can call your boss and say, “Hey, Employee Douchebag is, well, being a douchebag on work time, and I’m not so sure that’s what you’re paying him to do,” is probably when you don’t want to engage in sexually harassing me. I will call you on that shit.
3.) I am walking my dog and you are driving by. I have a few reasons why I walk my dog. They are pretty simple. She has to pee/poop/needs exercise or it’s a nice day. That’s really about it. I’m not walking my dog because I feel like listening to your asshole comments about my breasts, because I enjoy hearing you yell “I want you to suck my dick!!!” out of your car window, or because I want you to ask me how old my dog is as a roundabout way of talking about numbers so you can get mine (true story). Chances are, I have thrown on the clothes I wore yesterday or I’m still wearing what I wore to bed, I haven’t had coffee, and I don’t want to talk to you. I want to scoop the dog’s poop and go back home. Don’t pull up next to me to talk to me unless you’re asking for directions. Fran will go Cujo on your shit. Really.
4.) At the gym. I hate going to the gym with a strong, burning passion that rivals little else. So, first of all, I’m not in a good mood when I’m there. Second of all, I want to leave as quickly as possible. I’m not there for social hour. This means that I don’t want you to come over and strike up a conversation about my glutes, and I don’t want to hear you muttering comments to your friends about my…workout style. And if you’re one of those guys who walks around the gym talking on his cell phone, that goes double for you.
5.) Really, anywhere. I have a right to be anywhere I need/want to be without having to listen to individual men or groups of men comment on anything about me – my hands, my hair, my glasses, my tattoos, my breasts, and my ass. I have a nice ass, I have awesome hair. I know that. I don’t need you to tell me.
The answer to the question, “How do I make sure that a woman knows that I’m making a genuinely nice comment and not being a street-harassing jerk?” is actually a simple one. If you think that you might be overstepping a boundary, you probably are. If you are taken aback by a woman who responds “negatively” to you when you were “just trying to be nice”, remember that she has a right to respond to you however she chooses and chances are, she has just had enough with comments directed at her physical appearance. Take it from me – it gets exhausting and actually makes me feel unsafe when there are multiple comments directed at my business.
And if you have a “poor little you, you’re so attractive, it must be so hard to be so attractive” response, then you need some serious education about your ignorant shit.
This is the worst that has happened to me, (I seem to be a constant target of catcalls, and I don’t even dress sexy, like that should matter, just a shirt and jeans) and this happened to me 2 yrs ago at a bus stop. My car was not working at the time and was taking the bus. A drunk was walking towards the bus stop and I saw his lips move as trying to say something and I of course ignored him as I always do (since I have my headphones on) but this time this man had the audacity to stop in front of me to continue to try and talk to me while he touched & massaged his “baggage.” I had a long coat on, sunglasses, and headphones. Shocked and disgusted as he was only 2 feet away from me I immediately shoved him with the umbrella I was carrying as there was a possibility of rain that day…Looking back I wished I would have pushed him harder onto the street to make him fall onto oncoming traffic or hit his “baggage” with the umbrella to make him fall into fetal position. I was so embarrassed and humiliated because no one around me did anything and the one lady that was also waiting for the bus just 6ft away from me look up and down on me as if I did something wrong.
BY EMILY MAY
This sign was found by Blank Noise Project, an amazing anti-street-harassment project in India. The sign looks like progress, but is it really?
Let’s talk a look at the language. You might already know that “eve-teasing” in India is similar to “catcalling” in English, or “piropos” in Spanish. But “misbehaving” also has a double meaning. In the blog’s comments Pranavi writes, “”Misbehaving” […] not only pertains to sexual harassment but also “obscene behaviour” by couples. Thus the [sign] effectively encourages moral policing along with warning against sexual harassment of women.” An alternative translation to the sign: no PDA’s and no street harassment.
But what does it mean when we conflate consensual sexual behavior (like PDA’s) with non consensual behavior (like street harassment)? Back in the 1920’s there was an anti-street harassment club called the Anti-Flirt club. The name makes me cringe today (because flirting rocks!) but the term “street harassment” didn’t come about until 1981, so flirting was the only option. But today’s translation misses the mark.
In my mind, a world without street harassment is, to put it bluntly, a sexier world. It’s a world where everyone has the right to be who they are. That day. That minute. That hour. And let’s face it: we’re a lot of things. On any given day we can be happy or sad, bundled-up or sun-kissed, shy or sexy. And that’s what makes us awesome. And we should have the right to be who we are, and feel what we feel, without comments from the peanut gallery.
As countries around the world seek to address street harassment through public service announcements, what phrases would you recommend they use?