SUBMITTED BY CARRIE DAVIDSON, reposted from Carried Away
There hasn’t been a single day when I’ve walked home this week and haven’t been catcalled at least once. For the first two days it was funny. By the third and fourth, it became expected.
Wait, expected? In what world is it okay to expect to be sexually harassed?
Yes, catcallers. Sexual harassment. You’re not being funny. You certainly aren’t being charming. There is nothing innocent about it.
What goes through the heads of these men? I don’t mean “I’m too good for them, so what are they thinking?” because, honestly, the guys in my age range are usually attractive. Until they open their mouths.
I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’d like to think that the thought process is something like, “My, that is a rather attractive young lady. I have taken an immediate fancy to her, and would like to get her attention. I’m going to approach her casually and strike up conversation.” But, because of some brain malfunction that’s attributed only to the Y chromosome, they accidentally say something like, “Yo, sexy! How you doin’?”
I figure it’s one of two options: A. They legitimately think that calling to a girl like she’s a dog will get them action or B. They like seeing young girls walking alone down the street look uncomfortable, because they think it’s funny.
There are so many things wrong with option B, so many ways that it contributes to the sexist attitudes of our current society, that I don’t even know where to start.
So don’t call me “Red.” Definitely don’t call me “white girl.” Let me walk the three minutes from the subway to my apartment in peace.
If, on the other hand, you’re actually an incredibly insecure boy who just doesn’t know how to handle a situation, here’s a tip. Walk up. Say “hello.” Ask my name. It’s not rocket science.
I was on my way to visit my boyfriend and stopped at a grocery store to pick us up some drinks as a surprise. It was warm out and I was feeling really good about myself that day. I was wearing a knee-length sundress with a denim vest over it and sandals with small heels.
As I was getting back into my car, a guy in an SUV pulled up behind me and called, “Excuse me, how much do you charge?” Furious, I ignored him and continued loading my things into my car. He persisted, calling, “Ma’am?”
I spun around, looked him in the eye, and yelled, “More than you could afford!” He looked sheepish and mumbled, “Oh…” before driving away.
It made me so furious. I was having such a nice day and was in a good mood and feeling good about myself, and in one fell swoop, some misogynist jerk decides to make me feel trashy? Where do people get off being so disrespectful? I’m glad I at least got a chance to put him in his place.
Check out this video from South Africa — bringing attention to street harassment, how it happens, and why it hurts. They creators also point out the links between street harassment and a culture of media and advertising that regularly objectifies women and treats them like objects. A culture that makes objectifying women OK is the gateway to a culture that makes violence against women OK.
REPOSTED FROM FEMINIST LETTERS
I am regularly inspired by the women involved in the Hollaback campaign. The work they do and the sites they run are amazing. I would recommend that every woman go onto their website, read a bit about what they do, submit your own stories of harassment (lets face it, we’ve ALL got them) and if you can, donate to help keep them going. They also have some great advice for dealing with harassers; here.
The Hollaback movement (combined with the recent warm weather – why are pervs more active in Summer?) has really brought to my attention just how regularly I experience this sort of thing. Many people say its ‘harmless’ or some sort of ‘compliment’ but I do believe that it has a real impact on women and the way they live their lives. So I wanted to start a little Hollaback diary of my own to try and keep track just how often these incidents occur.
I’m not sure if I experience this sort of harassment more or less than other women, but for me it feels like it happens bloody often.
1. Date: 8th May 2011. Time: approx 2 am. Place: City Centre, outside my girlfriends apartment building. Sleaze: As I kissed my girlfriend goodnight two men walking along the street stop and start yelling at us. Comments include I want to f*ck you two, can I join in, you’re so f*cking sexy etc etc. I hollaback (can’t help myself) and it turns really nasty. One of them starts calls us bitches etc and tells us all sorts of really disgusting things he is ‘going’ to do to us, including things I don’t want to think about, let alone write down.
2. Date: 12th May 2011. Time: 8:30 am. Place: City Centre, on the way to work. Sleaze: A small but regular occurrence when walking down the street. I walk past workmen of some sort and they stop what they are doing, collectively look at me for a moment as I approach and then say “Hi, Good Morning”. I know it sounds innocent, but in my head I am thinking; leave me the hell alone. I am walking here. Do you stop and greet everyone that goes past? How many men have you paused to greet this morning. I feel suddenly like I am no longer a person walking down the street, but a sexual object walking along.
3. Date: 20th May 2011. Time: approx 1:30 am. Place: City Centre, walking the 2 blocks from a friends party to my apartment. Sleaze: I walk out of the apartment building and onto the street. Unfortunately at the same time a group of about 5 men are also walking past. They stop, start making noises and cat calls then effectively surround me in a half circle blocking my movement. One of them moves towards me and shouts something I didnt quite catch, but that include the word ‘madame’. I stiffen, hold my head up high and push through, ignoring them as best I can. Despite having been at a great party for most of the night, by the time I get home I am so full of rage I cant sleep. (so I do some ranty writing and furious tweets.)
4. Date: 25th May 2011. Time: approx 10 am. Place: City Centre, walking along my street on the way to work. Sleaze: Another workman incident. Pretty similar to #2.
I will try and keep updating this as these events occur, which no doubt they will…
Unfortunately this is an all too regular occurrence here in Spain. On my way to work this morning, a taxi driver in a registered city cab slowed down to practically kerb crawl the pavement I was walking on and spout inappropriate sexual noises and comments at me. The street was ‘one way’ so I walked behind the cab, crossed the road and continued walking. He was going in the direction I was so he then waited higher up the road on a corner, stopping the cab to ogle me.
I showed him the middle finger as I passed behind his car again and continued with my journey walking away from him. He started shouting “Fea, fea!” (Ugly, ugly) out of his window and across the street at me. In the space of a minute I had gone from ‘sexy and gorgeous’ to ‘ugly’ in his eyes.
I shouted back that he was disgusting and had no respect.
This type of bullshit happens on pretty much a daily basis out here in Madrid and it usually comes from a generation above mine (40-60 year old men). In the last few months, I have decided to “hollaback”; inspired by the movement after an American friend of mine out here told me about it.
The last time I holla’d back before today I got called a c***. It seems you are expected to take this crap but should you even have the ‘audacity’ to respond negatively to these creeps, you get verbally abused.
I wished I had taken his photo and will do so the next time it happens. I will also report such events in the future.
yesterday i had to go to a 5 pm class, which really irritated me to no end,i just wasnt feeling very good with myself. to get to my school i have to walk like 7 minutes after i get off the bus, so i was walking on the sidewalk and i had my ipod on, because really is an off day when i dont get honked at or called at, its just freaking annoying and it makes me very angry. So im walking and 3 guys are walking towards me and i was in hurry so i was walking fast and after i walk by them one of them makes a hand movement as if he was going to touch me (but he didnt), all i could do was to raise my hand to stop his as i said asshole under my breath, one of the guys hears and laughs, which makes me mad, and it took everything in me to not turn around and yell like a maniac, so i continue walking and after i walked by a car wash where aproximately 4 guys were working they started to call me baby, mamacita and nasty stuff, i did hear them but really i had no energy to say anything(i usually turn around and start yelling at them or i tell them to fuck off or give them the finger or something, ANYTHING!) and when they didnt see any reaction from me they just yelled *you are fat* instantly my self steem was at the floor, i felt like crap, so much that i almost cried right then and there. After my class i walked to the bus stop and as im standing there waiting for it, a guy in a motorcycle passes by stares at me and i dont stare back and avert my eyes from his and when he passed right by my side he said *you are fat anyway* that day was awful i mean why do they think they have the right to say ANYTHING about a person’s body? and why do we let it affect us SO damn much?? why do we let men control us?
It’s 2:55pm and I’ve just gotten off the bus ready to get my son from school. I’m loaded down with shopping (board games in big, flat, colourful bags) and I’m clearly in a hurry.
I’m walking along in my typical “Leave me be” fashion – not making eye contact with anyone; keeping a fast, purposeful pace; trying to keep a look of determination on my face.
I pass a cook shop. There’s a guy in the doorway. “Good afternoon, Young Lady,” he says to me. Seems innocuous enough. For community’s sake, I reply “Hi” without slowing down. This was a mistake.
“Hey! Baby! Why so hurried! Get your ass back here, baby!”
I’m still processing this (In my mind, my cocky, confident persona is taking a bashing, “Does this guy know who he’s messing with?” I saying to myself in an Emergency Inner Pep Talk, “I’m going to ruin his ass come August”) as the guy immediately in front of me turns around to see what the first guy is yelling about. He stops right in front of me so suddenly I almost pile into the back of him.
Asshole #1 is still calling to me from his doorway. Asshole #2 decides to join in.
This is the first time in YEARS I’ve experienced a moment of panic; there’s no escape route. Major road to one side, buildings to my other. Harassing Guy #1 is behind and this other asshole is right in front of me. Better yet, I’m frozen in the spot wondering what the hell to do while Guy #2 is reaching his hand out toward me.
“Get the fuck away” I mumble. I move the shopping to my other hand, so it forms a barrier between me and his hand and push past him. Everything I’ve learned about rape and sexual assault is scrolling, Terminator-style, through my mind. My first thought isn’t to hurt him to defend myself; my only thought is to escape.
Five yards ahead is a shop where I go sometimes with my son. I fumble my way in there and stand with my back against the wall. Not quite sure what to do now, I wait a couple of beats while the guy behind the counter asks me if I’m okay. I am, I tell him so. I look at my watch – it’s almost time for my son to get collected.
It’s only this thought that gets me moving again. The truth is, I could have stayed in the shop for an hour, but my son needs me to be at school.
I step out, both assholes have gone: it’s just another rainy day in Bristol and while their days are continuing uninterrupted, mine has been marred. That same old feeling of powerlessness is back again, the “What Ifs” are playing in my head as I get to school and wait for my son to come out. Suddenly I can’t wait to get home, to log on and to Hollaback. And now I’ve written out what happened, I’m already feeling calmer and safer.
I’m starting a Hollaback in Bristol in August; I like to think I know enough about street harassment to remain cool and unflustered. Goes to show, you can never really be prepared – all the responses I’ve drilled in my head came to nothing. Now I’m home, fear has turned to fury – I find I’m blaming myself: did I overreact? Should I have answered the first guy? Did I really need to use that bus-stop instead of the next? Was I “asking for it” by reciprocating? Was my aggression really warranted?
The truth is, in that moment I was trapped between two guys who were giving me obviously unwanted advances: one was shouting for my attention, the other was making physical advances. I’m now feeling incredibly angry and more determined than ever to end this kind of culture that allows men to randomly surround a woman who clearly wasn’t interested in anything other than getting where she was going.
I’m more determined than ever to stop these assholes.
“I’m not your sweetheart.”
The other day, I got into a livery cab, which I often do when I travel from Washington Heights to go downtown. I indulge in this guilty pleasure especially when I’m going toward the East Side, which takes a monstrous amount of time to get to from the Heights. Typically, I do a “street hail,” because it seems to save time, as well as money. This means that I take certain precautions when getting in a cab, so that I don’t have any problems, which I’ll detail in another post. Well, this cab seemed alright, as in, the driver seemed courteous, and not creepy. So I got in and everything seemed to be going OK, when he decided to go a different way than the way that I had requested him to go, which unfortunately resulted in us missing several lights, getting caught in traffic etc. So I politely said that I really preferred to take the other route to the Harlem River Drive. He responded by calling me “sweetheart,” which, considering the circumstances, was pretty condescending.
I immediately said, “Don’t call me sweetheart!” He seemed very surprised, and perhaps had never received that response before. As an older man, I suspect that he probably had called young women that throughout his life, and was never called to task for it. And honestly, I’ve been called that so many times before by men of a certain age, that I thought I had almost become insensitive to it ~ the operative word here being “almost.” It’s so common, that it’s easy to tell yourself that “they don’t mean anything by it,” which is exactly the response I received when I spoke up to this cab driver. But just because something offensive/patronizing has become normalized, doesn’t make it in the least bit acceptable. And I don’t think I’m alone in this view.
When I told him not to call me that, I elaborated the reason ~ not with the obvious one, of him being condescending to me given the specific circumstances, but of the real reason. I told him that it was considered a term that should only be used between a husband and wife, and a boyfriend and girlfriend, and that it indicated that the man had a sexual relationship with the woman. This statement of course stopped him dead in his tracks, so to speak. Now, I know that parents sometimes call their son or daughters this as well, as a term of endearment, but I wanted to drive home to him the fact that it was a term only used between people who had an intimate relationship with one another, and that it wasn’t acceptable to use in other settings. Well, he got the message, and at that moment professed undying love to his dear wife, saying that he never meant to come on to me. It totally worked ~ he understood what I was trying to say, and did actually apologize.
When will men learn that calling women whom they’ve just met, “sweetheart” is not acceptable? When we start calling them on it, each clueless person at a time. And that’s how change works.
The long train journey was beginning to wear me off. I dosed at my seat only to wake up at some sounds by a man sitting in the opposite seat. I knew he didn’t have a ticket and must have persuaded other travelers to share their seat with him. He was staring at my chest. My dizziness left me that very instant and I started staring at him. He saw I was staring but it didn’t seem to perturb him. I told myself there’s no way I am letting this creep win this power game with me. I snapped my fingers in front of his face. He seemed surprised. I kept staring, anger in my eyes. After some moments of exchanging stares, he looked away. A vendor came by and he purchased some eatables. I kept staring. He could no longer maintain eye contact. He started stuffing them in his mouth while i started. He looked here and there as if wanting to escape. I bet his ego held him at his place. But as soon as his eatables were finished, he got up and left.
Moral of the story: Most people who tease are cowards. Challenge them and you’ll find their hollowness.
I don’t consider myself particularly hot or sexy. I am 15, 5’9″, and a size eleven. I am not curvaceous, at least not compared to some girls at my school. But still, I get holla’d at. During school. The first time it happened I was walking through the quad during break, and suddenly I hear “How you doin’ gurrrl, you lookin’ fine to-day!” I look up, confused, only to see a large boy, (He was probably 18, but can someone who has the nerve to holla at a girl publicly be called a man?). He stared right back, leering. I didn’t know what to do. At the time I was 14, I had never received this kind of attention. I responded, “I’m fine, and you?” and quickly walked past him. I was shocked. Not only had it happened in the center of the quad, surrounded by people, I was wearing sweatpants, a loose t shirt and no makeup. I couldn’t understand why he had singled me out. I was definitely not “looking’ fine to-day”. Nothing like that happened that year, and I eventually forgot about it.
Then only a week ago, I was called into the office during class to clear an absence. As I was about to open the door of the main building, I hear “How you doin’ guuurrrl?” through the glass. I see a group of about five boys, all seniors I believe, standing just inside the door. If I had been farther away I would have turned around, but I didn’t want to show that they had any power over me. I entered the building to a chorus of how-you-doin’s. Like before, I responded “I’m fine, and you?” Again I was dumbfounded. Why had they chosen me? I entered the building, and turned down the hallway. Unfortunately I was wearing a team t shirt for lacrosse, and it had my name on the back. They started down the hallway after me, now saying “How you doin’ Maureen?.” Although they stopped after a few steps, their voices followed me down the hallway. I was so afraid, probably unreasonably so. I entered the office, and cleared my absence. I didn’t say anything about the boys. I was hesitant to go back out into the hall, and when I finally did, they were gone. But just to be sure, I took the long way back to my classroom. Now everyday I see them sitting in front of the lunchroom as I go to buy lunch, and I pray they don’t remember my face.