Catherine’s story: Why is it just because we’re women, that we have to put up this?

Me and 2 friends were walking to a bar in Leeds about 10 o’clock at night, when we passed some guys hanging around by a car. As we walked passed we got catcalls like ‘oi love, how much?!’ and ‘phwoar I’d do you one!’. We weren’t scared as such, we just tried to ignore it walk away as quickly as possible. All the time I was thinking why? Why is it just because we’re women, that we have to put up this? Men don’t have this problem, it doesn’t make us feel ‘special’ or ‘complimented’ or ‘attractive’ it just makes us feel uneasy, embarrassed, and awkward.

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flashing, groping, Verbal

Ella’s story: Being a woman in Cairo

I was studying in Cairo for the summer, trying to improve my not-so-great Arabic. A few weeks into our time there, my roommate and I decided to go for a shop in the marketplace in the middle of the day.

Both of us had been making a conscious effort while in Egypt to dress conservatively – loose trousers, baggy shirts, nothing “provocative” by Egyptian standards. (Something that quite a few Western tourists never bother doing). In our naivety, we assumed that by dressing in a culturally respectful way, we would be treated respectfully.

Anyways, we were walking through the marketplace when this man began following us, muttering sexually suggestive phrases in Arabic at us (never imagining, I’m sure, that both of us understood full well what he was saying). We ignored him, darting in and out of shops to try and shake him off. He just hung around outside them, waiting for us to come out.

Eventually, he came up behind me and began rubbing his pelvis against me, and groping my butt. I managed to shake free of him, and then he did the same to my roommate. Unbelievably, he came up behind me AGAIN to try for another feel, at which point I elbowed him as hard as I could in the stomach. As I turned around, I saw him looking at me with this expression of mingled fury and hurt – as though somehow, he’d been doing me a tremendous favour, and I was the one behaving outrageously.

Another time, early in the morning, I had a guy follow me for about an hour. He followed me all the way to my classes, leering, catcalling, calling me a whore in Arabic – all at 8 o’clock in the morning. All I had done was hold a door open for him as I went out of a coffee shop.

I’m sure everyone now is aware of just how bad the sexual harassment problem in Egypt is, but I just want to go on record as having said the following: it doesn’t matter what you wear, it doesn’t matter if you speak any Arabic, it doesn’t matter how many people you’re with, and it doesn’t matter what time of day it is. If you’re a woman in Cairo (particularly a Western woman), men will follow you, make comments, and call you a whore – and it has to stop.

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The Movement

Tim’s story: Joining the movement!

Walking back from the shops along a busy main road in London I saw a man leering out of his van and wolf whistling at a girl in front of me. I walked right up to his van and gave him a sarcastic cheeky/flirty wave, then the middle finger which shut him up.

By coincidence when I got home I saw this article on the bbc news website

This bit in particular I thought was noteworthy.

“Not all men impose unwanted attention upon women, and Kearl agrees that it’s important for these men to join in the movement to stop street harassment.”

So as in my case today I think it’s important that men make those who indulge in street harassment aware that it’s not acceptable, preferably without endangering their own safety or that of others! I apologize if it’s wrong to take offence on behalf of a woman and appear to be playing the hero, but I find it extremely offensive myself, hate it when my girlfriend tells me she’s had a similar experience and hope that other guys would do the same as I did today if it was her that was being whistled at.

flashing, Verbal

Miriam’s story: What about this cardigan says “pull your penis out”?

I was walking along Greenwich High Road a couple of days ago, it was the hottest day of the year so far but I wasn’t wearing anything particularly revealing (jeans, t shirt and cardigan) when a guy stopped in front of me and said “Hey, sweet tits!” I ignored him and walked past. A couple of minutes later a different man, who was riding a bike on the other side of the road, cycled over to where I was, got his penis out and waved it at me, then cycled off (with it still flapping out!) I didn’t really know how on earth to react to that, quite honestly I was wondering how he managed to do that while cycling and imagined what what happen if he fell onto the crossbar which quite frankly I think he would deserve.

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Chloe’s story: Taking holiday to avoid harassment

So I come in to work one day prepared for a lot of builders to be hanging around as we were having a room refurbished. It was a really hot summer and I still wanted to wear a dress so I chose one that came just past my knees as I didn’t want to attract too much attention to myself. I feel it’s important to mention that I am only 18 and do look a lot younger.

As soon as I get in to work, one of the builders appears to ‘take a shine’ to me. He made a lot of small talk and being as polite as I am, I chatted along with him (trying to say as little as possible). There was something strange about it right from the beginning and I felt pretty uncomfortable.

Later that morning he said he was going to grab some snacks and wondered if I wanted to go with him. I told him I didn’t but it didn’t seem to knock his confidence and he just asked if I wanted anything fetching, to which I again said I didn’t.

Around lunch time he came in to my office covered in white paint. He made a jokey remark about how dodgey it must look that he’s coming in to see me with white stains around his crotch (I’m sure you know what I mean by this, hardly very amusing..). I just laughed nervously and he asked if I could show him where the cleaner’s room is to get some sheets to put on the floor. I went to show him where the cleaner’s room is (there’s barely enough room for one person to stand in there) and pointed to the sheets which were on a really high shelf. He said “Can you get them for me?” I was so freaked out, I didn’t know what to say, I just reached up and got them and he said “You know, you look incredible in that dress, the things I’d..” and I bravely stopped him there and said “I feel pretty uncomfortable now” and he apologised for making me feel uncomfortable but said he still meant it.

He then started to make more jokey comments towards my manager (she’s in her late 40s and hardly very attractive and he was only in his early 30s). She absolutely loved the attention and thought it was brilliant. She couldn’t shut up telling me about the things he’d said to her. I never told her what he’d said to me.

Later that day he asked what time I finished as they needed to know what time I leave. I told him and he asked if I’d be here by myself to which I stupidly replied “yes”. He asked me if I wanted to go out after work and I said that I had plans.

Now I always take a day’s holiday when I know he’s going to be in again. My manager on the other hand like to put on a bit of extra make up and wear her nice earrings…

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It was wet, and cold. I was carrying 20 lbs of cat food, and my cell phone was dying. I wanted to be off the bus and go home. Wet and rainy Los Angeles is a dismal place, everything misses the sun. As usual, I read Jezebel and Reddit for a bit on my phone till it died. I had ignored the other passengers until then, so when I put it away, I looked up. There, in front of me was a scene that made my skin crawl.

In two seater across from me was a young woman desperately looking out the window. Uncomfortable and visibly upset. The reason was obvious. A drunk man was whispering to her. His voice got louder and is words were clear.

“Oh? You can’t talk to me? You should talk to me. I don’t like white women. You’re pretty. I like black women. I’m just trying to talk to you before I go home to my black woman.”

He was touching her. Actually touching her.

“You should tell your boyfriend he’s messing up,” he said, ever closer.

I looked around to my fellow passengers, and many were upset. They weren’t doing anything though. No one was doing anything as the woman shrank into herself before my eyes. Smaller and Smaller. Bit by bit. Was no one going to help? Did anyone see?

I looked at him angrily. No, of course not. Everyone would hope she could handle herself. Don’t make waves, you could drown.

Well, fuck that nonsense.

I know how she felt. I know how you feel like if you just scrunch up and look unhappy, they’ll leave you alone. They won’t follow you home. They won’t hang outside the gate. I wished many times someone would stand up for me. The least I could do, was stand up for her. I wasn’t unafraid. He could have had a knife, but weapon or no weapon, I couldn’t sit there while she endured that.

“You got a problem, sister?”

He turned towards me, rheumy eyed. I felt bad for him in a small way, someone loved him once. I thought briefly of my family. Anger burned away that sympathetic comparison.

“I do,” I said in a tone I reserved for the three year olds I teach on a daily basis. “You’re making her uncomfortable. It’s not polite, to talk to people the way you’re talking to her.”

“Well, what-” he started.

“Well, nothing,” I finished, a familiar voice creeping into calmer tones. “She is very uncomfortable and you need to leave her alone. You are GOING to leave her alone. You have no right to talk to her like that.”

I heard my mother echo in my voice. The reproachfulness of my grandmother. Fear ebbed away, and adrenaline took its place.

“I’m going to let you finish,” he said, leaning towards me. As if that was a gift. Letting me finish. In the meantime the woman slid from her seat with the help of an older woman. She passed him with ease, because he had found a new target: Me.

“I AM finished. You needed to leave her alone. She was unhappy, and didn’t want to talk to you.” I turned and let her scoot past into an empty seat next to the driver. “Sit over there Momma and don’t worry about it.”

“Where you from?”

“New Jersey,” I replied easily. “Not that it matters, I barely got out.”

“New Jersey? FUCK New Jersey. I’m from Watts. I’m from Compton. You don’t know nothing. Let’s take this outside. Where’s your stop?”

Now I really was unafraid. He wanted to take this to the street, well, fine. “I don’t care where you’re from brother.” Now the tones I used were cold, and my eyes narrowed. I didn’t back down and I didn’t flinch. “You cannot talk to a young woman like that. You have no right to make her feel that way. You have no right to talk to her that way. And you certainly don’t have a right to talk to me. So you need to rethink what you’re saying. My Momma taught me manners, and so I’m not even going to answer you like that.”

“Hey, Jersey.” Beside me was a solid woman in fatigue pants and boots. She smiled down on me, and I knew her instantly. One of the owners of Panpipes. Her presence was an added boost.

He got up and moved to the front, cursing me out and telling me off as he went. He was going to do all sorts of horrible things to me.

Fuck him.

The bus driver tried to drive and tell him to calm down. It didn’t work. He got worse. I set down my bag. Clinched my fists. Wondered if someone would hold my earrings.

“You’re going to leave her alone,” the woman fatigues said. In one moment, there was a little bond, and it spread. We were ready for a fight. He was going to lose.

“Did I do something wrong?” The woman he had originally harassed looked unsure, guilty.

I smiled, “You didn’t do anything honey. He has no business touching you. He has no business talking to you like that. It isn’t right.”

At that he set off again, and the bus driver calmly said, “Sir, this is your stop.”

“No, it isn’t,” he replied, the slur in his voice gone due to anger.

“Oh. Yes. It. IS.” And off the bus he went.

He gave me the finger. We all waved.

Stand up for someone. Make waves. Someone else may help you swim.


Anonymous story: Well behaved women rarely make history

I live in a small “destination” neighborhood within my city that attracts visitors for recreation. One sunny day this past summer, as I was stepping foot into a crosswalk at a well-trafficked intersection in this neighborhood, a car that had the red light suddenly jerked forward. I stopped and looked up, thinking the driver hadn’t seen me or was having car trouble, just as I heard one of the gaggle of young men in the car call out, “Heeeeyy baaay-beee.” I tried to keep walking, but the driver jerked their car forward into the crosswalk a second time to keep me from moving!

Livid, I stuck my arm out perpendicular to my torso, hand toward their car, and flipped them the bird as I walked past, looking directly into the car the whole time. The car stayed put. I heard some murmuring as I went by, but nothing else yelled out to me.

When I got to the other side of the street, I started shaking. I struggled to make eye contact with other neighborhood residents who had witnessed the interaction from a bus stop. I felt no regret for what I’d done, but was deeply disturbed that the incident had occurred at all, and experienced that nagging feeling that the woman who displays confrontational behavior in such situations is viewed as the one “causing trouble,” and the harassers viewed as innocents just “trying to have a good time” (whether onlookers have this view, or the harassers themselves).

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Andrea’s story: Bystander success: thanks, Mr. Man!

I was walking to work (I have to park 4 blocks away) and passed by a small group of teenage boys sharing a pogo stick. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself because they looked way too big to be using a pogo stick. They must have noticed and got upset cause one asked ‘What are you laughing at white bitch?” and another yelled ‘We could rape your right now!” I didn’t want to say anything since there were 4 of them and it wasn’t my turf, but just then a man from the neighborhood that I’ve seen many times said ‘you better leave her alone, she comes here to help you idiots.” (I work in social service). This is the 2nd time that particular man has stood up for me and he’s stood up for those I work with countless times. Why can’t there be more men like him? And what makes a teenager yell to someone that he could rape them?!?

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Alice’s story: 100 years after women got the right to vote in the UK… this.

I was out cycling one day in my small rural village in Buckinghamshire. It was a hot day and so to be practical I was wearing a pair of mid-length denim shorts. As I was cycling, I passed a small group of teenage boys playing football. I was just passing them when one of them noticed me and immediately a torrent of verbal abuse was throne at me “Put it away!” yelled one of them along with jeers, swearing and laughing, one of them even called me a prostitute. I was shocked and disgusted that something like this would happen in such a quiet, peacful neighborhood such as mine. I also find it highly ironic that nearly 100 years after women got the right to vote in the UK, when a man wears shorts whilst cycling it is seen as athletic and acceptable whereas when a woman dresses like that she is seen as a slag.

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