This was the response a man gave to me on a Paris metro car, after I shouted at him, “Why are you bothering me?” For the past several minutes, he’d made sure to stand too close to me, causing me to move away from him twice, and put his hand on top of mine, while holding the support pole in the middle of the car. All threatening behavior ~ claiming space, pushing my boundaries, seeing how far he could go. I remember looking around, but no one else was in the car to see what was happening. It made me so angry and resentful to think that I would have to change cars and essentially run away from this creep, but I did.
At the time, I was just twenty years old, living abroad for my junior year in college. I had come from the protected and respectful environment of my college campus, Sarah Lawrence, and wasn’t used to this type of treatment at all.
However, it was his WORDS, perhaps even more than his actions that shocked the hell out of me. I’m embarrassed to say that instead of instantly recognizing his statement for what it was ~ a dangerous manipulation ~ I immediately took stock of what I was wearing, which I still remember to this day: black opaque stockings, black high-heeled Mary Janes, a black turtleneck with a cream-striped wool skirt with attached suspenders that my grandmother had made for me. It was above-the-knee, but I thought the sensibility was more cute than come-hither.
Now admit it, did you find yourself, even for just a second, evaluating the modesty of my outfit, even if it was to agree with me about the “un-sexiness” of it? If so, you are not alone, because it’s the tendency of every human being to wonder how WE could have controlled circumstances better, how WE could be less vulnerable to attack, and of course, to ask ourselves why WE were the unlucky target of a predator.
We, We, We, indeed.
We are assaulted in the street because we are women, not because we are “packaged” like women. Assault and harassment are about domination, not about sexual attraction, but it’s still so easy to fall into internalizing responsibility for an attack. One of the reasons that it’s so hard to get beyond this, is the fact that so many powerful segments of society still believe a woman can defend herself merely by putting on the “right” piece of clothing when she walks out the door.
Just this February, a member of the Toronto police force was censured for making the comment to Osgoode Hall Law School students that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” Yes, he really went there. Let’s take yet another ride on the victim-blaming carousel. This did not occur in some backwater, but on the campus of a major metropolitan center which had been the scene of violent sexual attacks in recent years.
Mistreating people, then informing them that it’s their fault are the actions of an abuser. This manipulation is designed to cause guilt, shame, and a sense of responsibility in the victim. If there are even small pockets of law enforcement that still feel the way this officer did, then we’ve got an entirely new class of abusers to deal with ~ the second tier, so to speak, which we’ve got to educate and at the same time, mentally steel ourselves against, if we are victims. This is imperative, because it’s clear that predators are just one link in the cycle of violence against women.
What will it take for us to wake up, to stop shifting responsibility away from predators? Perhaps a sense of empathy for others, and the certain knowledge that self-expression in the form of dress can never be an acceptable excuse to victimize someone, not in a truly free society.
Peace and Balance,
Hi. I am a pre-op transsexual woman, and I have lived in West Hartford for over 11.5 years. I have been ‘out’ since May of 2006, and have worn women’s clothing 100% of the time since then. My life has been about transition since coming out.
Some people read me as ‘guy wearing women’s clothing,’ and other people read me as ‘woman,’ or ‘girl,’ it is hard to tell.
I am writing because I read about this website in Marie Claire earlier this afternoon, and was catcalled at about 2:10 pm today not very far from where I live. The people who catcalled me were roofers working on someone’s house. I was walking down the street, which I do quite often, and I was starting to feel good on my walk. I had just passed a woman who was on a bicycle and she smiled and said hello to me. I started to feel better and was going over my thoughts in my head when I looked across the street to my right, and there was a man staring at me. I quickly looked away, but not before they had seen me and I heard a loud yell from one of the roofers on the roof, responding to me. I tried to get a gauge of the situation but I could not, there were three or four of them and I wanted to look away and get out of there. I felt lower energy after they catcalled me and had a frown on my face. Before they did that I was smiling and I felt good about myself. West Hartford is a very negative energy place, and there are lots of these types of people around here. I usually avoid them, but I cannot always.
I had an experience a week ago Friday, as well.
I was coming out of the salon, where I had just gotten my haircut, and I had had a very good appointment. I walked about 30 feet down the street and I heard someone from the corner of my awareness say ‘Hi Sweetheart.’ I knew immediately that it was a deadbeat in a truck, and so I didn’t look. He then moved his truck closer and I heard him say ‘Hi Sweetie.’ I looked, and he had his window rolled down and had slowed down to do this to me, and I gave him the finger. He seemed to feel some sense of fulfillment, then he went on his way.
I have been catcalled by young girls on that street, as well.
I have also had a young girl take my photo, as well.
I have had truckers honk their horns, a man shout from his pickup truck in a busy Blue Back Square, men who were working for the town whistle at me across the street, a man catching my attention to blow kisses at me from his pickup truck, and I have had a man stalking me in his van in Avon, CT.
These experiences leave me feeling unsafe, uncomfortable, nervous, frightened and scared, and I often will have difficulty sleeping at night after an experience like these, depending on the severity and the situation.
I rarely seek help with these experiences, although I do talk in therapy, and often will talk with friends about it.
I feel as though I cannot control what these people do, so I try to ignore it.
Today I wondered if those men who had catcalled felt better after doing it, or worse. I know that I would feel terrible if I did to someone what they did to me. I know that I felt slightly less after they did that to me than I did a split second before they did, so it confuses me as to why these men do this.
I can only hope that men like this will become obsolete over time, and have to either change their ways or be outcast themselves.
I would like to see catcalling, bullying, ridiculing or otherwise verbally harassing someone = mandatory 2 years in jail.
Thank you for the ability to write this information.
A white car stopped to let me cross the street at El Cerrito Plaza. Suddenly, I start to hear strange noises that sounded like animals. The animals were the two men in that white car who screamed aloud so that anybody in the street could notice I was the “cause” of all that noise (at least that’s how I felt). Then they said something about my ass.
I’m not American, English is not my mother tongue and I felt so desperate that I couldn’t find the words to respond to that assault. I just crossed the street as if nothing happened, as if no stupid animal full of testosterone was in that car.
I’m really only sharing this story for two reasons:
1. I said nothing at the time and venting about it here with be something of a catharsis.
2. My mom is an old-school feminist. For context, she joined the boy’s track team back in the day–despite hearty protests by parents and staff–in order to force the school system to instate female sports teams. In other words, my mom is awesome and I want to express why.
My home town is a pretty nice area, but it’s also the hub of a lot of tourist activity. My basic rule is to avoid downtown at all costs because while the locals are typically upstanding folk, the tourists we attract are usually… well…
My mom and I stopped off at a gas station the other day on our way to go shopping and when we were returning to our car we saw that a van of at least four guys had parked beside us.
I’ve had so many experiences with cat-callers that I was filled with dread at the very idea of walking by. The driver even had his door opened, blocking my way to the passenger door. “Oh great,” I thought. “Here we go.”
But before I even got close, he pulled his door closed and for a brief moment hope filled me. Perhaps this was not going to be yet another story I’d share with my friends to the tune of “Why in God’s name do men behave like–”
“HEY BABY! WHOOO!”
And it was not simply one of them, but all of them howling and shouting and trying to get my attention.
I ignored them, got in the car, and pulled the door shut.
But my Mom? She didn’t say anything. She never has to. She simply gave them one look–a look capable of melting steel–and IMMEDIATELY the abuse stopped. The driver even began to wave his hands in a way that highly resembled someone pleading to not be shot.
This is not the first time my mom has put an end to abuse without saying a single word. She is only 5’2 and 100lbs, but if you holla at her daughter, she will rock you with just one look.
By LAUREN ZINK
“…we need to highlight the fact that most men are not violent or abusive in their relationships. To these men I would say — speak out. Let it be known among your peers that you do not support or condone abuse. This is important, because men who use violence in their relationships often assume that the men they know do too. We need to change that belief system, and it’s other men who can most effectively get that message across. In some of the gang rapes we have heard about, many people knew what was happening, but chose not to intervene or get help. I know that it is not easy for men to step forward, but it can make a real difference.” – Lynn Rosenthal, first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women
Hollaback Atlanta’s Lauren Zink discusses the importance of male allies and responsible bystanders in the movement to end sexual violence: Let’s Hear it For the Boys
This neon blue ‘Help Point’ was spotted at a 6 train station, and the new subway announcement encouraging riders to ‘say something’ not only if they are the victims of unlawful sexual conduct but also if they see it has already gone into effect. Readers reported hearing it at the 49th St. subway station last Friday.
Use these blue help points to report creeps, wankers, gropers, and stalkers. We’ll be keeping our eye out for other possible improvements in the system, like respectful MTA and NYPD employees who respond appropriately to reports of abuse.
BY CAITLIN O’DONNELL
cross posted from The Times-Delphic
I’m not sure exactly how it became socially acceptable to honk and catcall at girls when you, see us walking around Des Moines, but I assure you it doesn’t turn us on. I promise I’m not jogging so that you can creepily watch me, and these Target gym shorts I’m wearing are not for your benefit.
Here are a few things that girls don’t think when you honk and/or catcall at them:
That boy must be hot and well-endowed.
Oh baby, I love being objectified.
Yes, in fact, I do want to get in your car with you.
Let me just start by informing you that I am not even a little bit attractive when I am jogging. I promise there is nothing about my appearance that could possibly entice you to honk at me. And if I’m wearing high heels and a skirt that goes up to Tahiti, it’s still creepy and misogynistic when you honk at me—I promise.
What exactly do you expect to come of your honking/objectifying slur encounter? I have no idea who you are, and since you’ve now insinuated that I’m a veritable piece of meat, I really don’t want to find out. I promise no level of “Hey girl, what you doing tonight?” will make me want to get into the back of your Corolla.
It does not make me feel excited that I’ve finally caught your attention, which I was so seeking, because I am not seeking your attention. Also, those girls walking a block ahead of me? They don’t want it either. Really. And when my friend flips you off and I yell, “hell, yeah, sexism!” this is not an invitation for you to come back and say “hi.”
When you honk and catcall at us, it may seem like innocent flirting to you. Perhaps you think you flatter us with your witty attention, or you’re showing off for the charming boys also residing in your car. I like to think that you honk because you’re compensating for something. Or maybe you’re chastising me for being a woman jogging at night, a reminder that the streets are not safe for us poor, fragile little girls. Because here’s what it feels like when you call out to me: a threat.
This is what actually goes through my head when you honk: What if he turns around and comes after me? Why does he automatically think he can intimidate and objectify me? Is ‘idiot’ contagious?
When you honk and yell demeaning things as I pass your car or house, it does not make me want to get to know you better. It actually makes me want to slap you.
This street is not yours and neither is any part of me you can see while I walk down University Avenue. It’s ridiculous that you can generally walk around without fear of harassment from passing cars, but for women, it’s expected that we suck it up and take it in stride every time we leave a building.
Weirdly enough, I have the right to walk somewhere without being called out to, honked at or leered at, no matter what time of day or type of attire, and just because you can’t meet girls in a normal context does not make it OK for you to be a jerk. Leave me alone, and take your sexist, drunken, creepy friends with you.
Want to speak up about street harassment and have your writing published on a website visited by thousands of people a year? Hollaback! is seeking submissions for our first ever essay contest! Winners will have their essays published in Sistersong’s “Collective Voices” and posted under the “resources” section of the site.
The subject of the essay contest is “Academic Discourse and Street Harassment: Where are we now, and where can we go from here?”
In order to answer this question, we are looking for students in all academic disciplines: if you’re a future law student, write us an essay on the legal issues pertaining to street harassment, the gaps in legislative protection and the possibilities for legal change. If you’re into feminist theory, write to us about how feminist movements have addressed this issue. If you’re interested in international affairs, tell us how different countries have challenged this issue. If you’re into math, submit a statistical analysis.
Any college or graduate students are eligible. The best articles will be published on the ihollaback.org website this summer, and will be judged on the basis of academic rigor, clarity, writing style, and their potential to advance the field of street harassment. Financial or other forms of compensation will not be provided, but you can rest assured that your efforts will make the world safer for everyone.
To be eligible, you must:
1) Be a currently enrolled college or graduate student.
2) Submit an unpublished academic work of 2000-6000 words on the topic provided.
3) Submit by August 1, 2011.
Please submit all essays to [email protected]
Entrees will be judged on a scale of 1-10 based on four criteria:
1) Writing skill: including clarity, articulation of arguments, etc.
a. Is the writing clear? Are the arguments presented in a straightforward and logical way?
2) Writing style:
a. Is the writing compelling? Does it engage the reader? Is the writing stylistic and imaginative?
3) Impact: The degree to which the essay contributes something new to the field in which the topic is situated.
a. Does the essay describe the ways in which it presents a unique contribution? Does the author situation him/herself in the context of current academic debates on the subject?
4) Relevance of topic and presentation: Does this topic matter to the work of hollaback?
a. Is there a need for the production of information on this topic at this time? Is it topical, relevant to the work of the movement to end street harassment? Does the article generate new knowledge? Is the information presented in a way that will have impact? (ie. are there analysis or guidelines or documentation that will be useful in furthering the work of an advocacy organization like hollaback, etc)
Walking, not having a good day, have my headphones in.
Some old guy loudly says hi, I mumble hi back and keep walking, he keeps shouting at me long after I have passed by.
I just ignored him so didn’t really hear what he was saying, but he was clearly pissed off that I didn’t stop to talk with him.
Guess what, folks? Sometimes people have bad days and are not going to be all smiles, and WOMEN ARE PEOPLE, TOO.
Some random stranger angrily shouting that I should smile more and pretty ladies should be friendlier isn’t going to make my bad day any better.
Dear Jackson Heights Chachi, internet troll, chicaschicas2, bungabunga, chaci1, genius at IP address 18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124 (did you move or get new internet service in December?)
While we realize that you’re probably very lonely and angry, we’re beginning to become a little concerned for your wellbeing.
Maybe you’re so wrapped up in trolling the internet and leaving insightful comments that you don’t realize it has become an obsession and it is probably eating away at your already diminished mental health.
Since December you’ve left close to 50 comments on various posts on our site, some of them only minutes apart, usually very late at night (but at all times of day, really) when you should be sleeping soundly or out having fun with friends. And while we have published none of them, you continue to leave them. They offer such contributions to society and progressive social thought as:
“I touched ma ass. I’m turning myself in. Where do I go to get my brain enema?”
“endonde esta el bathroom? I need to do caci! Muchas gracias!”
“Chicas? Where can I find Lulu’s international house of chicas?”
“someone touched my peepee on the train. can you help me?”
“Got my rub on with my cat. Pass it on. I look at a girl’s booty on the train and now I’m full of guilt and remorse so flagellated myself while at the same time passing gas. It was awful. Pass it on.”
“Men of America, if you’re not a buff and thick top man like myself and you can’t live without your fish, forget U.S. women, they are not worth all their bullshit. Go overseas asap. Trust me. Leave the women on these shores to bitch and moan with each other. Pass it on.”
“Don’t hate punk bitches. love, Don Juan poo poo pants.”
and of course, the Chachi classic:
“SAY NO TO FISH!”
We’ll be blocking your IP address so that even we can’t see your sweet sweet poetry (as you can understand, the redundancy is getting a little boring), but please seek help for yourself.
Thanks and good luck,
p.s. Say yes to fish!