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Despite the fact that I don’t live anywhere near New York, I’d like to submit my experience;
I’m a young caucasian girl and pretty oblivious at times. It was dark and I was taking the city bus home from a peer-education group meeting. I nearly always sit in the back of the bus because the drivers like to talk to pretty young girls if they’re sitting close enough. My city is pretty racially segregated and I happen to live in the ‘black’ part of town that’s up at bat for gentrification. The racial tension in the neighborhood is hideous and, at times, I’m ashamed of the color of my skin. This bus was predominately occupied by african-americans. I was feeling eyes crawling on my stupid whit skin and I was trying not to look as uncomfortable or out of place as I felt. I was listening to my ipod and texting my friend and trying to feel ok when I noticed these two older guys looking at my chest. One of them had dreadlocks with a receding hairline and the other had a cigarette tucked behind his ear. About thirty seconds after I noticed them, they both pulled their sunglasses over their eyes. They were talking to each other but I couldn’t hear what they were saying so I casually turned the volume of my music all the way down. Then Mr. Dreads pulled out his phone and they started talking about the camera function. Mr. Cigarette was saying something to the effect of ‘Oh that’s nice! Look at that resolution!’ The camera lens was pointed at my chest. I didn’t want to say anything and I didn’t want to move. I know that if the guys had been my same race, I’d have felt confident enough to yell at them but because of the pre-existing tension, I was unsure of how to deal with them. I didn’t (and don’t) want to be painted as racist but I felt it then. I was a minority in the situation but those men would have claimed me to be the aggressor. After a bit of thinking I worked up the courage to zip up my sweatshirt and turn my body slightly away from them.
I haven’t seen them since and hopefully won’t again. I’ve never been so uncomfortable and unsure of myself. I couldn’t even tell my mom about it for fear she would revoke the little freedom she gives me.
Submitted by Casper
NOTE: As part of our anti-racism policy, we do not identify the race of the harassers in the post, unless the relevance to the story is “clearly and constructively” explained. We felt this was a good example of that.
After a short hiatus, ‘this week in street harassment’ is back with a whole bunch of updates.
First of all, we have two internship opportunities for anyone who is interested in getting more involved in the movement to end street harassment:
RightRides for Women’s Safety is currently looking for a Media and Outreach Intern. RightRides for Women’s Safety builds safer communities for women and LGBTQ individuals through community organizing, policy advocacy, direct service programs, and anti-violence education with the goal of fostering greater safety awareness and individual empowerment in New York City. The full job description is available here.
Check out this fantastic article on street harassment in London. This piece in The Guardian discusses how widespread street harassment is and the impact it has on women, as well as providing information about the anti-street harassment movement. Organizations like Hollaback! and the LASH campaign are leading the charge as women and LGBTQ folks speak out and the world starts to pay attention.
Also from the Guardian, some women, tired of being harassed while biking around the city, have started a Hollaback! style mapping project! Awesome. Also, why are there so many men out there who think that “hey- you should ride me” is a good line to use on cyclists???
Our own Emily May is interviewed at No Country for Young Women and reminds us that Hollaback! is all about creating a response. The situation can escalate if you yell and walking away gives you that horrible I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-internalize-this-crap-everyday feeling, but Hollaback gives you a way to respond and a community to support you!
This street harassment based webcomic could be my life on a bad day. Thank to the always entertaining and irreverent ladies at Jezebel for posting it – as they point out, having your experience dismissed and belittled can be as frustrating and painful as the original harassment.
Indonesia is the latest country to introduce women-only spaces on public transportation. While this obviously doesn’t do anything to address the larger issues that have made groping on trains such a problem (except perhaps for acknowledging that harassment is a serious and wide-spread issue that affects numerous women), it is a welcome relief in the mean time.
Finally, I know that this creep who has been walking around squirting semen on women is old news at this point, but on behalf of everyone here at Hollaback!, let me say EW.
I have a trick for you. Get a camcorder (I got a handheld mino camcorder) and when someone who is ON THE JOB, especially if it’s “drive by harassment” and they’re driving a company vehicle, take down the name (if possible) and license plate (definitely a must!) and report them! I have done it so many times (Well, not that many, lol) that I’ve gotten rid of some bad apples. Hell, the threat alone will scare them. AlSO, ALWAYS have a recording device. I do, and it scares them faster than a gun (especially if they’re job is on the line or they’re driving) I don’t know if it will work in NY, but I know it works in Cali like a charm and better than any gun or pepper spray! Below is my street harassment report by an employee and how I’m handling it.
Dear Sir or Madam:
I want to report sexual harassment and outrageous behavior by your employee, G***, while on the job. On September 1, 2010, between the hours of 6:48 pm and 7pm, I was driving down Whilshire, away from Santa Monica and headed towards Beverly Hills when I noticed that your employee, took my picture, while he was driving. I inquired G*** as to whether he did it or not. He proudly said, “Yes, I did take your picture,” with glee. When I started recording him, that is when he took off. I was able to get a pic of him and of his license plate, a Virginia license plate. I feel strongly that what he did was not only morally and ethically wrong and reflects badly of your company, but reflects an absolute disrespect for women and a perverted, predatory attitude towards us. Who knows how many women he has done this to as well as what he is doing with those pictures. Based on how G*** proudly proclaimed that he did it, it’s obvious that he has done this predatory behavior in the past and has gotten away with it, which is why he felt so comfortable admitting to this. Women are not objects and I want to see Gene strongly reprimanded so that he won’t do this behavior again or else the next time he does this, instead of the next victim reporting it, they’ll decide to sue. In attachments are two stills from the video I took. My name is Raven Williams and my phone number is (witheld). Thank you for taking the time out to read my complaint and please take this matter fastidiously.
Submitted by Raven Williams
This morning I was waiting at the bus stop, on my way to work, when a skeezy looking dude sat near me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that SOMETHING was going on. When I looked, he had everything out and was, shall we say, choking the chicken. I was the only person around. For a moment I was just shocked and didn’t know what to do, but then I remembered reading about street harassment and how important it is to react. So I did. I yelled and caused a scene. Sadly, no one else witnessed my brilliant display of swearing and gesticulating, but anyway, he left. I only wish I had said something clever about his pathetic willy.
I have had people yell out of car windows, make comments while walking next to me (‘do you like wearing g-strings?’ – I held eye contact and didn’t say a word until he freaked out and crossed the road) and all the rest of it happen to me, but I’ve never seen someone actually whip it out and give it a tug. Truly, what the hell?
Submitted by Sarah
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