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I thought I’d submit this because it happened a few days ago and I’m still pissed off about it. I wish I knew what I could have done to make it better. I don’t know if you’ll be able to use this or not, but here goes.
My three roommates and I are coming back from a wonderful late dinner. We’re all girls in our early twenties. I keep writing defensive sentences about our appearance (“we weren’t dressed as clubgoers, we’re all pretty average schlumpy nerds actually”) and I really hate that I feel the need to do that, but anyway. As one of us is getting out her keys to get into the building, some scrawny young dude in a white t-shirt walks up to us, alone. “Hey. Hey. Hi. Hi. Hello, girls. Hi.”
There goes the residual happiness from our awesome dinner out! We all do the classic ‘oh fuck’ maneuver of putting our heads down, turning away, ignoring every word and hoping the unwanted stranger goes away. A sick feeling of tension spreads through the group because we are awkward and afraid. I get so ANGRY, though. I am FURIOUS. If we’d had even one guy with us, I bet this scrawny fuck wouldn’t be talking shit because he’d be scared, but a group of four girls is nothing, right? (Even though we could so take him. I bet we could so take him.) But to him we’re nothing, and the fact that there is zero conceivable reason that four young women would want to communicate with some random strange guy at midnight on the Upper East Side just hasn’t penetrated this fellow’s thick cranium. What the hell doesn’t he get? Why does he think this is okay? Does he get off on knowing he frightens and alarms us? (Yeah, probably.)
And this always happens. You always shut up because you don’t want to say anything just in case you’re talking to some crazy dangerous guy who’ll flip out. You don’t want to cause a scene, you don’t want to embarrass anybody, you don’t want your attempt at defending yourself to backfire. You want to close your eyes and for the issue to go away and then later you think, “I wish I would have said something. I could have said something.”
Well FUCK THAT. I’m so SICK of shutting up all the time, and I want him to know that his actions are bloody unwelcome, so I DO say something. “It is midnight, and we are trying to get into our apartment. Nobody wants to talk to you. Go away,” I snap at him furiously. My friends are all still quiet as the one roommate fumbles her keys in her nervousness. No one backs me up.
“Aw, now how you gonna talk to me like that? What if I was crazy and had a gun or a knife? What if I was one of them crazy guys that would just go all crazy on you?”
So many responses spring to mind (“Yeah, you wanna be crazy around the corner from a packed bar? You wanna act crazy in the middle of the street? You wanna watch me dial three crazy numbers on my crazy cell phone, idiot? Yeah, if you had that shit, wouldn’t you have used it by now?”), but the tension is so thick and sour in my throat. I don’t want to give credence to this fool’s statement by engaging him in conversation. He isn’t worth any of my time. He’s obviously not there for any reasonable reason. No debate will register with this one, no argument will work. I don’t want to act sweet or nice. I want to be that one mean-faced Bronx bitch you don’t fuck with ’cause she’s obviously crazy (read: can and will defend herself). But the roommate finally gets the keys to work, and we pile inside, shutting the door behind his insipid questions and implicit threats.
None of us bring this up ever again. It was our last night at the apartment, by the way, and our last dinner as a group, because the lease expired and we were going our separate ways. And it was one of the girl’s birthdays, to boot. She turned 20. I still wish I could have said or done something that shut his cravenly, smug face up and make him rethink EVER harassing ANY female EVER again. FUCK him.
Submitted by Nathalie
I was walking to the office, minding my own business, and two guys from the other side of the street look at me. One of them yells, “Hey there lady!”
They were out of sight by the time I pulled out my camera.
Submitted by K.
This happened to me when I went high school on the lower east side. I must have been about 13 or 14 and had a habit of wearing very short skirts to school with some striped or sparkly stockings and a t-shirt. At school, it didn’t seem like a big deal because many students wore crazy outfits and I always felt confident and happy in my ensembles. One day after school I was walking along 14th street around 6th avenue in an extremely short denim skirt. It’s not a skirt I would ever wear now, but at the time my pre-pubescent stick like body made the skirt more fashionable than sexy. Or so I thought. This tall man came right up to me as I walked past him and whispered very softly in my ear, “I like your skirt.” It was so quiet and abrupt and awful. It made me feel disgusting and sad. How had he gotten close enough to whisper in my ear? I hadn’t given the skirt a second thought and all of a sudden it felt dirty. That experience scarred me for a long time. I don’t remember exactly, but I doubt I wore that skirt again. Whispering dirty comments to a 13 year old on the street, good job street harasser!
Another point I wanted to mention is that although I only get harassed occasionally, seeing the women around get harassed perpetually makes me so angry. I often can’t contain myself and end up flipping them the bird or saying something like, “Have some respect!”. I always feel bad about flipping the bird, but the, “Have some respect!” line seems to make me feel better.
Submitted by Eve
I have been harassed lots of times but the time that sticks out the most happened a couple of months ago.
I was sitting at the bus stop waiting for my bus when I noticed a skinny man in his 30’s walking towards me. The entire time he was walking towards me he was staring at my legs. At this point I already felt suspicious of him, but chose to ignore him when he sat down next to me. For the next ten minutes, while waiting for the bus, he would alternatively stare at my face and then my legs. A couple times he even got up and walked around me, as if inspecting me from all angles. I was freaked out, but still felt a little unsure. When my bus came, I kept sitting and waited for the other passengers to get on first. I wanted to see if he was going to get on. When he didn’t move I was relieved and assumed it wasn’t his bus. However when I got up to get on the bus he immediately darted from his seat and followed me on the bus.
I went to the back of the bus (stupid me, should have stayed near the driver). He sat in the same row, but on the other side of the aisle. I put in my earphones and started listening to music. I kept feeling weird about him but chose to ignore him. About 20 minutes into the ride I suddenly hear the sound of a camera taking a picture. I glance over at him and lo and behold he has his phone pointed straight at me and has just taken a picture. Now, there is no way he took a picture of anything else other than me. There was nobody else in that section of the bus. There was nothing near me or in my vicinity which could possibly have been something interesting to take a picture of. And in order to take a picture of me he had to shift his body sideways, which he had done. If he had by mistake just clicked the picture taking thing when doing something else on his phone he wouldn’t have been turned towards me. I was fuming angry. FUMING. And grossed out and pissed and angry to no extent. And what I can’t forgive myself for is what I did next: nothing. I literally just sat there in my seat pissed off and creeped out but didn’t want to cause a scene. And there was that tiny nagging voice in my head that said maybe I was wrong, maybe I was just imagining things.
What happened next wasn’t my imagination. When I got up to get off the bus, he also got up. I strategically placed myself behind him so that he would have to step off the bus first. That way, he would have to “choose” which direction to start walking in. He chose right, which would have been the direction I would have had to walk to get home, but no way was I going to walk behind him. So I turned left. I went into a little shop a little ways off from where I could still see him. He was back at the bus stop. And looking at the bus schedule. So clearly, he had only gotten off because I was getting off. If he had gotten off because he lived there he wouldn’t have stayed at the bus stop. I waited until the next bus, going back to town, came. He got on. Then I went home, annoyed and frustrated. I don’t even want to imagine what he did with that picture he took of me.
Submitted by Sonja
I was 40 years old living in Encinitas, CA and I had a one year old daughter who was born with GERD. We had to go to the doctor frequently for check-ups and follow-ups and constant ear/sinus infections for her. Her pediatrician was a founding member of an 8 doctor pediatric practice. He complimented me on how I looked every time he saw me but I put it down to being friendly. Then one visit he had me holding my daughter in my lap while he looked into her ears. He straddled my leg to get in close to her and I started to feel uncomfortable. He then started slowly stroking his crotch across my thigh. He spent a long!! time!! looking in one ear!! He then looked in the other ear without straddling my other leg. I was so shocked and disgusted and paralyzed.
My sister’s children had the same pediatrician and so I asked her if she had ever noticed anything weird about him. She then revealed to me that one time during an exam of her daughter he had “accidentally” caressed her breast while reaching for her daughter. She said “I felt weird about it at the time, but I didn’t really know whether it had happened or not”.
This gave me the courage to report it to the other founding member of the practice, a woman, who dismissed my concerns completely. Needless to say I switched doctors. The truth is I know what I know and what I know is that my genitals are never in contact with another person’s body without my knowledge/awareness.
I know it’s not a street harassment but I needed to Hollaback about it. The creepiness of it still bothers me and I wish I could have done more to protect the next woman.
Submitted by Valerie
This happened a few years ago before I knew of Holla Back. I live in California and a friend and I were taking a trip to a convention. Costumes were encouraged so I dressed up in a pirate costume.
I had a long sleeved shirt, a close to knee length skirt, high boots, and a hat. Not the best pirate costume but it was last minute.
To get back to her car to get home we had to take the bus. After getting on the bus two girls give us these weird looks and asked why I’m dressed up.
I’m about to explain why when I see a flash go off. I turn to see a middle aged man turn off his camera and pocket it.
My friend laughed and said “They only photograph the beautiful ones!”
I, on the other hand, am angry. I shouted at him “What the hell are you doing?!”
Both my friend and the girls were horrified at my behavior and chastised me for yelling at a stranger. My friend told me that I shouldn’t be upset because he “only photographs the beautiful ones.”
The stranger made no effort to answer me and acted as if I hadn’t said anything. He continued to stare at me until our bus stop. On the way out I flipped him the bird which thinking back probably wasn’t the best idea in the long run but I was furious. I had been harassed before by boys and it really does take away a sense of safety.
I still do wear skirts but haven’t worn that pirate costume since the incident.
Submitted by Erin
I was walking to my office when I passed a man sitting on the side of a pedestrian bridge. He seemed to be talking to himself. Then as soon as I passed, he said, “Want some dick?” I ignored him and kept walking, then he got louder: “Come on!” The further I walked, the less I heard, but he didn’t stop.
I filed a police report.
Submitted by K.
The other night I was walking into town and got beeped at 3 times within the space of a few seconds, one of them shouting out ‘YOU’RE GETTING FUCKED UP THE ASS TONIGHT!’
I actually burst into tears of anger.
Submitted by Nicky
When author Holly Kearl wrote her Master’s thesis on street harassment she had no idea it would develop into a book, let alone a career. Join us on Friday, September 10 in New York City as we celebrate the release of Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women, the first book ever to comprehensively address the pandemic street harassment plague that demoralizes women daily around the globe. It has been a long time coming.
Author Holly Kearl will be available to sign copies and activists from HollaBackNYC, RightRides for Women’s Safety, and Girls for Gender Equity will be there to help keep the celebration rolling. The event is free and open to the public.
Please join us to celebrate one of the movement’s first groundbreaking new developments and let us enjoy the good company of the men and women who have helped make this possible.
Who: This event is free and open to the public!
What: Book signing and release party
When: Friday, September 10, 2010; 7:00pm
I’ve been reading Hollaback and I’ve been holla-ing back daily at harassers for over a year now, but this is the first time I’ve written to tell my own experience.
Every morning on my way to work, I cut through the J. Hood Wright park on 173rd and Haven Ave to walk up to the GW Bridge to catch the bus. This morning, I was walking to work minding my own business through a mostly empty park, when two jerks sitting on a bench started yelling at me, “Hey baby, lookin good this morning” (or something to that effect). Without stopping, I shouted, “Don’t call me baby, asshole,” and continued walking through the park. The guys then started screaming things back at me such as, “You ugly bitch, fuck you! You need to go get fucked you stupid fucking bitch!” I never turned around, but gave it right back to them as I kept walking, telling them to F off.
I was coming home from work at 5PM, and I saw a large group of guys sitting on the same bench. Since I had never turned around this morning to look at the jerks, I couldn’t tell if they were the same guys. I was really, really hoping that they hadn’t actually sat on the bench all day, waiting for me to come back. But when I walked by, I heard one say, “I’m gonna fuck that bitch in the face,” but again I was just hoping they weren’t referring to me. Then after I left the park and was walking down 173rd street, I hear, “Hey bitch!” behind me. I turned around and this guy had followed me out of the park and was yelling, “Fuck you, bitch! If you ever disrespect me and my friend again, I’m gonna fuck you up!” I walked right up to him and took the photo below with my camera (sorry such bad quality – I have a really old phone so I had to take a picture of my phone with my boyfriend’s iPhone to get it on my computer). He then proceeded to say “Oh yeah? Why don’t you take a picture of this, bitch?” at which point he pulled his pants down, bent over, and mooned me.
At this point, I was beyond furious. I was so disgusted, I actually thought I might vomit. I had luckily seen a police van across the street, so I walked as fast as I could to get them. There were 3 cops (2 women and 1 man), who told me to get in the van, and drove me back to the park. We walked past the bench and around the area a little, but of course, the asshole was nowhere to be found. The cops were so amazingly understanding – they even drove me around the neighborhood for about 15 minutes looking for him. They told me if I saw him again, I could call 911 and he would be arrested. They drove me back to my apartment a few blocks away, and even walked me inside my building. I’m so thankful that they took me seriously and made sure I got home safely.
This experience today has left me very shaken up. Even though I know I can get him arrested if I see him, what if I don’t have that chance? What if he attacks me first? Street harassment is absolutely about exerting power over people. When I denied his advances this morning, this guy felt the need to wait for me all day long so that he could make sure I knew that he still had control over me. I can only hope that if his friends tell him that I came back to the park with the police, he will be scared enough not to mess with me again, instead of pissed off enough to mess with me even more.
Thank you so much, Hollaback, for providing this forum for us to tell our stories.
Submitted by Marianne