Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
I walk through what I call “the gauntlet” every day to and from work. It’s a stretch of Canal Street from the Canal Street N/Q stop West to the river. At night, it’s clogged with vendors hocking all manner of counterfeit goods and tourists getting duped. In the morning, it’s an eight block march of cat callers, each seemingly less original than the one before. I never wear headphones through this walk, since I’m constantly on alert for something that could constitute a threat. One morning, I was walking the gauntlet behind a very young woman apparently on her way to work, as she was dressed in a smart business suit. We reached the half way point, when a group of men who constantly give me trouble, started to yell out to her and move toward her on the sidewalk in a threatening manner. She put her head down and continued walking, but I stopped as I pulled up to them. I looked the ring leader in the eye, a older man, late 40’s, early 50’s around the same age as my father. And told him “have a little respect for her and for yourself. That’s not how you treat women.” He told me to “take a compliment” and that I was just jealous because I’m fat (which, for the record, I’m a size 8). I told him that despite his complete disrespect for women, I hoped his daughter and wife didn’t have to live with the daily fear of being sexually harassed by strangers on their way to work, or the movies or a date. I also explained that “it being part of the job” of a construction worker wouldn’t fly, considering my father is a construction worker and would fire and then beat the ass of any of his employees that behaved that way. His cohorts remained silent, but as I walked away, I could hear them all making fun of him by mocking me. I’ve never seen the men since and I always wondered if the woman in front of me called their employer.
This is (a sadly very blurry) photo of a subway masturbator I took on friday night at the Carroll street station. My friend (visiting from boston) and I were heading into the city to meet up with a group for drinks and dancing. Being a friday evening I knew the train would be a while so we sat down on the bench. Across the platform this man was also lounging on a bench. He had made himself comfortable- his bags were strewn around the bench and he was slouched across two seats. Upon seeing us he yelled across the platform “hello ladies” to which I gave him a nod as it had been relatively polite. As it turns out he had bothered my friend as she left the station earlier that evening- asking her where she was going, could he come along etc.
So we ignore him, talk about our new post grad lives blah blah when I hear a rustling which caused me to look at the tracks (I am terrified of getting rabies after a whole other story involving prospect park, a rabid bat and my friends vagina) to make sure nothing is climbing out (I’m aware this is crazy). As I look I notice the man across the platform masturbating furiously! I immediately blurted out, “He’s masturbating!” At first I didn’t think my friend believed me- so she looked over and I began rummaging for my phone. Of course he had heard me, and knew we saw him but it wasn’t until I got my phone out that he covered up! “No pictures” he smirked. To which I responded “no masturbating in public!”
It took me about a minute to even find the camera setting and the pictures aren’t good, but I wanted to freak him out. I then loudly told my friend about hollaback and how useful these pictures will be to the cops when I contact them. Seeing that my pictures were so bad she pulled out her own camera, snapped a few which she intends to touch up so they are more visible.
Thinking that was over, we started talking about street harassment. How common it was in the city. Her own terrifying experiences with men in cars. Then we heard some muttering and looked across the platform to find him at it again! Looking straight at us and mumbling “I like you both… Boobs… Bubble” (couldn’t really understand him). Again we yell at him- there are more people in the station now so I am hoping we can embarrass him. No such luck. We take out our cameras. He covers himself again. Still for the next 30 minutes that we wait for the train he keeps talking to us “I love you… Bubble.. Etc”. Now the normal thing would have been to move but I imagined that as backing down so we stayed, I yelled at him a few times, pretended to have reception and called the cops etc.
The train finally comes, we get to the city and I immediately try and report him. Of course no one is picking up and I keep mysteriously being redirected. My friend is on her phone trying to find the group we were meant to hang out with. It turns out that they had had to leave, as one girl had been roofied (she was thankfully with observant friends who took care of her).
Submitted by Kate
I thought I was wearing a particularly unflattering outfit to work that day, but apparently Mr. S. didn’t agree. He was sitting on a bench on the subway platform and slapped my ass as I walked past him on the subway platform. When I yelled at him, he jumped up and started screaming at me and saying he was going to throw me in front of the next train. All the men on the platform started to surround him, one woman grabbed me and pulled me back, and other passengers got two police officers. He was chasing after me screaming about how he was going to kill me when the police approached him from behind. He told the cops I was lying – why would he touch a woman he doesn’t even know? That’s a fantastic question, Mr. S.
This man will be going to the Criminal Court of the City of New York on charges of Forcible Touching (PL130.52), Sexual Abuse in the 3rd Degree (PL130.55) and Unlawful Possession of Marijuana (PL221.05).
A few months ago, I was riding my bike from my boyfriend’s house at the time in Bushwick, to my apartment in South Park Slope. We’d been packing up things in his place and it was during one of the first heat waves of the summer, so I was dripping with sweat by the time I finally climbed on my bike and headed back. It was still light out, as I won’t ride through that area at night by myself. I was pulling onto Franklin Avenue and noticed a black Cadillac SUV in front of me – all shiny and chrome and clearly not cheap. The street is wide, so I was able to pull ahead of it while it stopped for a red light and noticed two 30-ish men in the front seat. The light turned green and the SUV pulled in front. I then noticed the driver sticking his hand out of the window with a camera pointed at me. The flash flickered a few times in rapid succession while I tried to hide my face. The SUV hit another red light and I allowed my handlebars to scrape that beautiful, shiny chrome bumper while telling the drivers to “get f*cked.” The pair just laughed as I sprinted passed them and turned the corner.
Submitted by Erin
So this happened to me a couple of years ago, but it still bothers me so I felt like I should submit it. I was 17 at the time and walking down the street in my own neighborhood when two men in their mid thirties early forties pass by me and stop me. This was on a fairly crowded street during the daytime so I was a taken aback but not really scared. One of the men asks me how old I am, and without thinking I answer truthfully because I was so flustered by them stopping me. He then proceeds to say, “Oh man in a couple of months…” leers at me and walks away chuckling to his sidekick. I wish I had responded to him, and hadn’t treated it like a joke when I told people about it later. I had no clue what to do, I mean what did he think? That if I was 18 that I would magically be interested in him, go somewhere with him? Sleep with him? How is it that he thought it was acceptable to treat me like on object just because I walked by him? No one should treat another human being that way let alone someone who stated they were underage. I don’t walk on the streets for your pleasure, or dress for you, I don’t live for you so don’t interrupt my life because you feel you have the right to. If anything like that ever happens again to me that is what I hope I will say, followed by “You’re an asshole.”
Submitted by Shannon
I was walking home from work yesterday – in fact, on the very block on which I live in Astoria, Queens – when I felt a hard slap on my ass. Stunned, I watched a man whizz by me on his bike. I managed to sputter “fuck you,” but I was so shocked that it didn’t come out nearly as loudly or aggressively as I would have liked. He was on a bike, so I barely got a glimpse at him – although he did look back briefly and I flipped him off. I’ve been subject to catcalls before, but never had I been inappropriately touched by a stranger, not even on a crowded subway.
Later, I wished I’d cursed him out louder and with more anger, but I was too shocked at the time to form a coherent response. My first instinct was to just go home and lock the door against the outside world, but I realized that letting this man’s behavior affect my own wasn’t the answer. So I changed into my workout clothes and went to the gym like I’d planned, trying not to worry that another stranger would see my loose yoga pants and spandex top as an invitation to assault or harass me. I’m still furious that someone would touch me without my consent, but I’m not going to stop wearing what I like or worry about walking home by myself. I’m not the one who should have to change my behavior.
Submitted by Sara
Editor’s Note: Last summer, a man was convicted of a rash of “butt-slapping” (AKA assault) in the Crown Heights area. For more information, check out this and this. We’re hoping what happened with Sara is an isolated incident and the guy is not out and about again, but if you experience something similar please let us know.
I was sitting on the E train today, heading back to Queens from the city. I had a book out but I was taking a break from reading it. I was looking around the train and noticed this man mouthing “I love you” to me and then winking at me. I was pissed off from harassment my friend and I endured earlier in the day. So, I responded to him with a death stare. I had an angry, angry face that I made and I just kept staring at him for what felt like 10 minutes, meanwhile, he was still winking at me and mouthing “I love you”. I was completely creeped out because he’s old enough to be my father. I grimaced at tuned away from him and went back to my book. I took a quick picture of him when I left the train so I could hollaback.
Submitted by Mariya
Earlier this year on a chilly, windy day, I, a girl who had yet to turn 15, was walking through the parking lot of a store. I was wearing a dress and some thick tights but had no coat, so I walked fast to get to my car. As I am walking I hear a car slowly driving behind me but I think little of it, assuming that they only want the parking space that I am walking through. I notice that the car is still there but still don’t pay much attention. When I get to my car I turn around and see a van full of perverted men hanging out the windows ogling my butt. They start to drive away and I am so shocked that all I have time to do is give them an angry look. I wish I had done more but I was too embarrassed and angry to.
Submitted by Shelby
Recently I had the experience of traveling to Turkey with a university team. Being Canadian I was extremely excited for my first trip beyond North America. Overall it was a very pleasant adventure, and I could focus on one of the many positive memories that resulted, but there is another that always gets me.
Istanbul has a decent transit system, or at least the impression of one for tourists. After a day on the town we had accidentally timed our return on the train with rush hour. As warm bodies squeezed in, we huddled together as it can be uncomfortable isolated speaking only English and being the only white person to illicit stares. As the train started moving again I thought I felt something. I shrugged it off at first, with everything so packed the jostling can be confusing. Shortly after, my bum has been grabbed.
I was a little in shock. I moved quickly, to see an unassuming business man acting as if nothing has happened. The pervert just touched my ass! Not only that, he assaulted me in front of my friends AND boyfriend. I couldn’t believe it, told them in English, and everyone just stood confused. I wanted to punch him in the face, but by the time I had worked up the courage it was too late. If someone touches you and it is unwanted, that is physical assault, the end.
The worst part is that I started asking myself what I could have done differently. Knowing we were in a conservative country, we girls had dressed to show minimal (as in none) skin. I had a coat on at the time. Were my jeans too tight, was that asking for it in Turkey? I felt like it was my fault for trespassing with Western fashion in their country. Like the man just thought all white women were harlots. As if it was okay the man figured a woman should hide herself under swarths of cloth or be fair game for attack.
Even months afterward I still feel unsure of the incident. Am I bigoted for hating any Muslim stricture that has a line about being humble? I know that Islam is not exactly a feminist’s favourite religion, but we can’t liberalize such a widespread belief system by fighting it by banning minarets in Switzerland or whatever. But it feels right because I am so angry. All because some middle-aged pervert couldn’t keep his hands to himself, my views on so many issues have been changed.
That being said, I am thankful to be Canadian. There’s a long way to go, even here, but I can appreciate my daily commute far more now.
Nothing ruins a bike ride on a gorgeous summer day like creeps making sexual comments from the sidewalk. Harriet Walker discusses harassment and biking in London, and wonders why biking seems to draw harassers like a magnet.
Gawker posts their own hollaback, entitled “Have you seen this masturbating gentleman?”
The amazing Holly Kearl has an op-ed in the Huffington Post – check it out for a great introduction to the problem of street harassment.
One of the first questions people always ask me about Hollaback! is whether it is legal to take someone’s photo and post it online. Gizmodo reminds us that in public spaces, all photos are fair game. As anyone who has had a creepy guy with a camera phone take a pic of them knows, this can be a pain, but at least we can point a camera back at them. Let’s reclaim the gaze and Hollaback!