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Although our site focuses on women and LGBTQ folks experiences of street harassment, the reverberations of street harassment impact us all. Hollaback! was co-founded by three men (and four women) and over the years we have seen some tremendous contributions to the movement on behalf of men. This is one of them.
My name is Tom; I am 30 and a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. I grew up in Phoenix and have been stationed in Texas, Utah, and New Mexico. I have had a few uncomfortable confirmations with strangers over the years, but nothing like what you see on this site, until…
My boss and I went to a conference in Reston VA, a small suburb of Washington D.C. The conference lasted only two days, so we had one night to see the town and enjoy ourselves. The only thing to see in Reston is the Town Center; a nice, but small, outdoor shopping/commercial district.
After dinner and a little shopping, I recommended that we find a grocery store so we could buy a few snacks and some bottled water. We walked about 1 mile north of the Town Center to the nearest Harris Teeter’s. On the way we took some shortcuts through bushes and side streets. My boss said that she was worried because there was no one around and it was late at night in strange city.
I told her that of all the places I had been, sober or drunk, I had never felt safer. We did our shopping at the grocery store. It was one of the nicest grocery stores I have been to, by south Texas standards, and I felt completely safe waiting out front for the hotel shuttle.
Everyone we had seen up until this point had been well dressed and friendly. While we were waiting in front of the grocery store, a man between 25 and 35, wearing dirty clothes and a two day old bread walked by us and said “hey beautiful!” to my boss.
While she is one of the nicest and open people I have ever met, she is very uncomfortable around strangers. I could feel her awkwardness. We said nothing. As he continued to walk towards the store entrance he said “What, too good to talk to me?”
At this point I was a little shaken, but the incident seemed to be over, so we continued to wait for the hotel shuttle. About 15 minutes later he came back out of the grocery store with a 12 pack of beer in a bag.
I am 6’ 3” and 260 lbs, people rarely mess with me; but I hate confrontation, and I am terrified of strangers. When I saw him coming towards us I was afraid he would say something else. As he started walking by us he turned towards my boss and said “Hi, I’m Bill” and held out his hand towards my boss. She looked away and I said “We don’t want any trouble, please keep walking”. He said “I just want to say hi, who are you, her boyfriend?” He was not being friendly. I did not know what to do.
I felt that, as the man, I had to defend my boss. I know that sounds sexist, and until that moment I had never thought that way. I knew she was as scared as I was and I felt a sudden need to protect her.
Directly to our right was a large pet shop. I said: “look we’ll just go in here and wait until our bus comes” pointing towards the pet shop. As we started to get our bags together to walk inside, he backed off and just walked away.
I have told this story many times, and it always gets a lot of laughs because just minutes after I say “this is the safest place I have been, nothing will happen to us” we have a confrontation.
This was 2 years ago, and I have always felt ashamed that I did not stand up enough for myself and my boss. I feel that I backed down when I should have been in his face, and threatened to kick his ass. I am much bigger than he was and could have easily taken him, but that is just not who I am. In the end, nothing happened and I should be proud, but still I am ashamed because I let him make me feel fear.
Submitted by Tom
This is written by Anna, who plans to start a Hollaback in France!
I’m very sorry for what happened to Sabriya. I’m a French woman who has lived one year in New York City. I don’t live in Paris, but I have to say that I’ve felt much more relax and safe during my staying in NYC that I had in my hometown. Maybe NYC is such a huge city that everyone is more or less anonymous: no one really cares about how the others are dressed, or how they behave. You don’t have time to look at a stranger who looks unusual in the street and wonder “what do I think about this?” At least, it is the feeling I had.
I don’t want to talk about a cultural difference between our countries as street harassment exists everywhere around the world. I’ve been street harassed in NYC a few times. Two men gave me the “Hey cutie”, others the kissing noise, one put his hand into his pant and smiled when I walked by him, a truck driver honked at me and my girls friends, and, the most disgusting, a man masturbated in front of me in Coney Island.
From my experience, street harassment in France is more intrusive and happens more often. I mean men often come closer, engage a conversation with you. And they stay, they don’t just pass by.
Unfortunately, I have very little information on street harassment in France, we actually don’t even use the terms “street harassment”! The newspapers articles that I found treated it as a game or as a form of flirting. As for the forums/websites, they’re often full of racist comments. That’s one of the reasons I decided to start a Hollaback France. Here are the links of two articles (here and here) written by sociologists (in French) about violence in public spaces and women’s fears.
I live in Richmond,Indiana. My name is Shannon Harding and people in cars love to shout,honk and even pretend to try to hit me with cars a couple of times.
I already have an anxiety disorder and this treatment is just causing me to feel lots of anxiety and anger.
Just yesterday, I was walking to the corner convenience store. A guy leans out a white truck and yells “I want to kiss you on your ****”(I didn’t hear the last word)
I flipped him off.
The vehicles mostly drive so fast I can’t get license numbers or anything else. I do not dress in a way that could be rationalized as ‘the reason to yell’ I often wear glasses and no make-up. I don’t know what to do- I keep being told to ‘Ignore it’
Yet the whole situation is just causing me so much stress and anger.
Submitted by Shannon
We are proud to welcome HollabackPGH to the scene! HollabackPGH is run by two smart, energetic, and dynamic organizers. In their introductory post they wrote:
“We hope that one day, everyone will be free from street harassment, whether it stems from your gender, race, sexual orientation, or anything else. We dream of a world where people don’t have to worry that others will harass them based on their appearance or identity when they’re just trying to get to work or to a party, and where everyone feels safe to walk alone and take public transportation without hearing phrases like “Hey baby, nice ass,” or experiencing the horror of being followed home or groped. We want to be a part of a movement that says that this is NOT OK, and we hope that HollabackPGH! can serve as a rallying point to fight back!”
Let your friends in Pittsburgh know, it’s time to stop walking on and start holla’ing back!
I was very interested in the post submitted by Sabriya regarding street harassment in France. A year and a half ago I lived in Paris for 4 months, and it was the first time I had ever experienced street harassment. The stopping an staring, the groping, the crude comments–I was shocked by the extent to which this harassment culture characterized the Parisian men. I am not a woman of color like Sabriya (quite the opposite actually). I am very very fair with very blonde hair, and I stuck out from the crowd all the time. People would ask me where I was from all the time without me opening my mouth. After spending time in other European cities as well as Moscow (and having experience less harassment in these cities), I would say that street harassment in Paris (and the rest of France) affects all women, and it is a constant and sometimes frightening nuisance.
Some links to interesting articles regarding this topic:
Senior aide to French President Nicolas Sarkozy writes book about how to pick up women.
Le sport national français: (in english)
Submitted by Lauren
I’m a New Yorker living in France and I was wondering if you had any information/statistics/articles on street harassment in France. The reason I’m inquiring is because, yes, obviously as a woman (of color) I’ve experienced this type of thing everywhere, but I’ve seriously never experienced it to the degree that I do in France and I’m wondering what is up. Just today, during my 1.5 hour trip grocery shopping, I was followed by a guy who kept telling me I was elegant, a guy stopped dead in his tracks to watch me walk by, a guy yelled from across the street that I was “ravishing”, a guy purposely (and obviously) went out of his way to brush up against me while with his WIFE in the pasta aisle, and the finale: a man waiting at a stop light in his car psssssssssst-ed and called me over.. as if!! I’m tired of people telling me I should feel complimented or that it’s because I’m attractive or because of what I’m wearing. I hadn’t showered, had no make up on, had my hair up and was wearing a T-shirt, cardigan, jeans, flats. It’s seriously at the point where I HATE leaving my house and it doesn’t help that a month ago a guy in a secluded area of a park approached me and lifted up my skirt. I’ve started warning friends that I can’t stay out past dark bc I already know I WILL BE harassed by someone on my way home. I want to think that there’s no difference in male privilege/entitlement between the two countries, but my experience is telling me otherwise. I have never felt so intimidated by this type of harassment.
Submitted by Sabriya
EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t speak french, but if you know of any resources please send them to us and we’ll pass them along to Sabriya.
September 14, 2010
This letter is in response to your Officer inquiry dated September 7, 2010 regarding sexual harassment by a postal employee.
The issue you raise about employee behavior is one that concerns every postal manager. Postmaster General John Potter has continually stressed the seriousness of sexual harassment against or by any employee.
Every customers should immediately report such incident of unacceptable behavior immediately to a supervisor, station manager, or a postal official that is on the premises who can promptly address the issue, such as you have done. The manager has taken the appropriate action to ensure that this employee’s behavior is corrected.
If you experience such an incident in the future, please do not hesitate to contact the to ensure that immediate action is taken.
Please accept our apologies for having to endure such unacceptable behavior.
Submitted by Raven
EDITOR’S NOTE: When you experience harassment by someone working for a company that you can hold accountable – by all means do so! We’ve had a lot of success with that on the site – and this is another great example of it.
I was sitting on the 2 train at approximately 8:45 pm tonight. This man very purposefully stood above me, though it wasn’t a crowded train at all. He had his hand in his pocket, and was clearly touching himself while staring at me. He was holding honda 3-d glasses. I don’t know why. I took this picture of his face and said “excuse me pervert” and got up and off the train. I am still nearly hyperventilating. Please post this. I don’t want anyone else to feel this way.
Submitted by Annie