This story happened quite some time ago, but when I think of stories apropos to Hollaback, it is these that jump out at me:
Three summers ago, I was living in Brooklyn with my boyfriend at the time. I am from a fairly small town; I’d certainly encountered my fair share of street harassment there, but nothing compared to the huge volume I encountered every day in NY during my commute to work. I would complain about it to my boyfriend and he would brush it aside with comments like, “well, you’re hot, baby,” and, “that’s just the city.” One day, on the way to work, a man I walked past growled, “I would ride that.” I told my boyfriend about it, and he turned it around later that day and used it as a joke, yelling it to me out the window of a car when his friend picked him up.
That same friend of his and I got into an argument another day about street harassment. He said that the catcalls, etc. were compliments and I shouldn’t feel threatened or stereotyped. “Being hot is not a BAD stereotype,” he informed me. “I’m Puerto Rican, and if someone yelled at me, ‘hey, you must play really great baseball,’ I would say, ‘thank you, yes I do.'” My boyfriend thought this was hilarious.
I should note that the boyfriend was NOT an asshole or a bad boyfriend or in any way abusive to me or disrespectful of me otherwise. He was and still is a caring kind and smart person who I genuinely respect. I would say the same of his friend. But they could not understand the feeling of violation that came with street harassment, and in not understanding, they invalidated the anger and fright and disgust I felt on a DAILY BASIS. To them, that was simply New York, and it was a part of the city that came along with all the rest of it. And who, after all, was I to try and question the norms of a city that wasn’t my own? I just had to learn, like all the rest of the women there, to deal with it.
I did learn to deal with it. The sexual slurs rolled off me like water by the end of my summer there. Or so I told myself. But then came one morning in August, by which point I felt myself much better suited to the city (I could not only navigate the trains, I could give directions). I was headed to work at about 7 AM, walking to the F train on Second Ave. The LES in the mornings is a very different place than the LES at night; rather than loud pretty twenty-somethings, the streets are filled only with the homeless who slept there the night before. I was walking past many groups of homeless men and was otherwise entirely alone on the street. Then I saw one homeless guy lumbering towards me. Here we go, I thought, preparing myself for an unpleasant encounter, kicking myself for never having bought the pepper spray I’d promised my mom I’d get back in June. The man got to about a foot in front of me, raised his head, looked me right in the face, and said, “Well at least somebody’s beautiful this morning, and it sure ain’t me!” He laughed, and I laughed from relief, and he went on his way, wishing me a nice day. I laughed at myself the whole day, thinking how paranoid I’d been and how prejudiced it was for me to assume that a homeless guy was inevitably going to harass me. The thing this made me realize, though, is that my prejudice was borne of a larger fear. The silence around street harassment DOES contribute to prejudice, and it contributes, too, to an overall feeling of worry, shame, and fear that had me walking to work in a paranoid state. And though the man did comment on my appearance, I was GRATEFUL for it because I had been so sure that what was coming would be explicit or a threat.
Looking back on this time now, I realize I was deeply misinformed and unsure in regard to street harassment. I am moving back to New York in a couple of months, and thanks in part to Hollaback, I am doing so with more confidence and feelings of empowerment than I otherwise may have. Had I known about this site three years ago, that summer could have been more golden than it was.
I’m only fifteen but these kinds of things happen to me and my friends all the time, from older men and from boys our age. Last summer I remember walking to the beach with my friend, we were both wearing shorts and t-shirt and bikini’s, and a car full of boys, at least in their twenties were screaming at us as they drove past, and they drove past more than once. I mean, we should be allowed to wear summer clothes without feeling we’re asking for it! We don’t get a lot of nice weather here so when we do, we should feel alright to wear whatever we want without people harrassing us.
Another night, we were standing outside a video stop when a car pulled into the parking lot, rolled down it’s windows and started shouting at us. We got quite scared and went back inside the shop but they drove right up outside it and it looked like they were waiting for us to come out. Luckily, my friends mom came to pick us up in time.
And more recently, I was at a teen disco when a group of boys came up behind me and smacked my ass. It was not only painful and embarrassing, but they then kept asking me to get off with one of them. I tried to give them a piece of my mind but they just seemed to think it was funny.
The thing I find worst about the harrassment is that young boys, my age do it too so that’s means it’s getting passed on to new generations. I think they should teach more respect in schools, so that men can be more respectful in the future and that girls can learn to respect themselves and stand up for themselves.
I was headed home to Brooklyn for the day at about 2:30 p.m. after finishing a final exam at school in Manhattan. I was listening to a podcast and briefly closed my eyes between Rector and Whitehall. When I opened my eyes, there was a man sitting directly across from me (no other passengers were seated in this section of the train) masturbating with his genitals completely outside of his pants. His eyes were nearly closed. I got up and got loud, shouting, “What the are you doing jerking off in front of me?! That’s disgusting!” He got up and headed to the door at the other end of the car. I was so glad that a large, middle-aged man near where I had walked to in the car looked at me and said he had seen what happened. I told the man I didn’t want to let the guy get away, and he offered to help me. We walked to where the perpetrator was standing and stood right behind him. As soon as the doors opened at Whitehall, the perp bolted, and the fellow commuter and I flew after him.
I reached the perp first and grabbed the sleeve of his sweatshirt, bringing him down on the stairs. Three men helped me detain him on the stairs until the transit cop FINALLY came 10 minutes later. During that 10 minutes, the perp pleaded with me to let him go and to think of his family, he also kept trying to get away, but he knew he was too outnumbered to really make a run for it. Once the cop came, the other men departed. After a few minutes, the perp tried to get away from the cop by jumping the turnstile. I ran after him and grabbed him from behind by the belt, bringing him down to the ground. He resisted arrest, but the cop was finally able to handcuff him and he was arrested and taken into custody for public drunkenness and lewdness and I gave a formal statement to the police at the nearest substation.
I felt so good about not just keeping my mouth shut and letting this pervert get away with it. Even if nothing much happens to him, I feel happy with my decision to take action. On a side note, it was completely ridiculous to have to wait for 10 minutes for the transit cop to arrive. I also had to clearly state to the cops that I wanted to press charges against the guy, rather than them just giving him a warning.
Last Friday after work I decided to go for a run, it was a cool evening and it was starting to rain, which quickly turned to sleet and then light snow. I was less than a 1/4 mile into my run when I heard yelling — my ipod was between songs, otherwise I might have missed the specifics of it. There was a guy (I am assuming high school age) leaning out the window of a car on the other side of the street who screamed out, “Nice ass………WHORE!!!!!!!!!” I have to be honest, it wasn’t just the words that upset me, it was also how he said it — there was anger in his tone, and it felt threatening.
I tried to shake it off as just a bunch of immature kids with poor judgment and kept running.
Maybe a mile later I was on Beacon St in Cambridge when the same car drove by me again with this guy again hanging out the window screaming at me — I had my ipod cranked up so I don’t know what he said but the tone was, again, unmistakably angry & threatening. I was freaked out that this was the 2nd time they’d driven by me, and I was getting into less residential neighborhoods where there were fewer people on the streets — I had visions of the next time they drove past me, what if they pulled over? got out of the car? pulled me into the car?? I decided to listen to my gut, cut my run short, and turn around & head back for more populated streets & home.
Unfortunately I was not wearing my glasses & did not get the license plate #. I am getting over this but had an anxiety dream about it Friday night that involved me being cornered by a large man and calling for help that never came. I remain disturbed by the fact that somewhere, somehow, the boys/men in that car learned that harassing & threatening a woman in this way is acceptable.
I was out on a date, and two men walking past us felt the need to yell ‘Lucky boy, lucky boy!’ I flipped them off and kept walking and they laughed. This is the kind of thing that makes me feel unsafe if I’m not wearing a pair of baggy jeans and a man’s t-shirt. It made me want to punch them, no one should have to put up with that shit. We didn’t even know them.
Bringing to two the number of advertisers who have agreed to pull funding from Argentina’s El Guardian, Fiat issued this Facebook post in response to campaign pressure:
“…we would like to make it clear that Fiat and all of its employees in any parts of the world condemn any form of violence – be it against women, children, ethnic or religious minorities, including any attitude inciting violence, as also set out in the “Pacto Global Compact”, of which Fiat is one of the signatories in Argentina. We are carefully evaluating the situation and we will keep you informed through our usual communication and conversation channels. In any case Fiat advertising campaign on El Guardian already terminated on April 7.”
El Guardian maintains innocence of wrongdoing and has refused to terminate its relationship with the journalist in question.
Rape-desirist Juan Terranova’s hateful writings have just cost his publisher, Argentina’s El Guardian magazine, major advertising dollars from Lacoste:
“Lacoste disassociates itself from the El Guardian journalist’s statements and more generally from any statement offensive to women and men. As we have already indicated, these statements go against our values.
We further confirm that we do not have any future advertising plan with this magazine.”
FIAT has not yet responded. Keep the pressure on:
In the summer before my senior year of High School, my mother decided to host a party for her coworkers. Myself and my brothers were there to help watch the younger children, grill the hamburgers and hotdogs and my mother enlisted me to be the official ‘bartender’. The party was in full swing and going well when one of the night-shift nurses showed up with her two daughters and her husband. She pulled me off to the side and asked me to make her husband something very strong as he didn’t want to be at the party. So I made him a drink and took it over to where he was sulking by the pool and told him to drink it, “orders from your wife”. He laughed a bit and every once and a while would come up and ask for a refill before going back to where he was sitting.
A little while later, one of my brothers and I were watching the kids while they swam and I was teaching his daughters how use pool noodles as squirt guns, etc. I noticed him staring, but I didn’t think much of it. After we tired the kids out, my brother made them popcorn and put on a movie for them. While I was in the kitchen getting a soda he came up behind me, brushed my hair over my shoulder and creepily whispered to me that I was “really good with his girls”. This made me extremely uncomfortable, and I just made some weird noises and muttered “thanks”. His family and him all left not long after that, but that was not the end of it.
Around midnight, when the only people left at the party were some of the younger hospital workers without kids, he turned up again. My oldest brother came to the backyard and told me that there was some guy outside asking for me. I was very confused and thought it might’ve been one of my friends, so I walked out to the front of the house. When I saw who it was, I immediately felt scared and uncomfortable, so I called to my brother and asked him to stay close before going outside. He had driven to our house and was very obviously drunk and reeked of weed. He came up to me, well within my personal bubble and seemed very happy to see me. I didn’t understand most of what he said because it was all drunken slurs, but I do know that at one point he pulled a pipe out of his pocket and asked me if I wanted to go toke up with him in his truck. At this point I was rather fed up and I could see my brother looking very angry in the doorway, so I very pointedly told him that he had a wife and two children waiting for him at home, and even if he didn’t I wouldn’t touch him with a 10 foot pole, and that he was far to drunk to drive and if he wanted me to call him a cab (all in a very sickly sweet voice). He got rather ticked off at my comment so he grabbed my arm and started to say something but my brother twisted his arm and threw him to the ground before he got anything out (my brother studies martial arts) and told the man to get “the fuck off our property before I blow a hole through you, and don’t touch my sister again”.
I later found out from my mother that he crashed on his way home and received a DUI, and he wife filed for a divorce not to long after (which I was very happy to hear, I didn’t think he belonged around children).
During that same summer I was driving one of my friends home late at night when some guys pulled up next to us. It was a hot night, so I had the windows rolled down, and they started to make rather lewd comments and gestures at us. The light turned green so I sped off and turned into a random neighborhood, but they followed us and honked their horn and flashed their lights at us constantly. I pulled back on to a main road and got stuck at another stop light when they pulled up next to us again and resumed yelling. So I switched the song and turned up my car speakers all the way and turned to them and began serenading them with this song (Another F.U. Song):
My friend burst out laughing and they tried to yell over the music, but I just turned it up more. They eventually gave up and sped off.
Lacoste responded to our petition yesterday calling for the withdrawal of their ad dollars from Argentinian smut publication El Guardian with this well-crafted paragraph:
Thank you for sharing your comments with us on this matter. Please be aware that the petition being circulated by Change.org wrongly associates the Lacoste brand and the offensive ideas expressed by a journalist in the Argentinian El Guardian Magazine. These ideas are contrary to the values of our brand. Lacoste has no advertising plan with this magazine.
But we found this:
If Lacoste has ‘no advertising plan with this magazine’ we will call this campaign a great success. We just want to make sure our supporters don’t doubt that Lacoste did in fact advertise in this magazine at one time. So here it is on the record.
The ball is in your court, Lacoste. We can forgive the past transgression with your promise of future civic responsibility.
And FIAT has not taken the time to respond to our requests yet, so while we’re at it, we’ll get their sleaziness on the record too (and we’ll promise not to call them sleazy again if they promise to stop funding El Guardian):
Every morning, I take the city bus to school. The bus terminal near my apartment is pretty busy and it’s not uncommon for me to get verbally harassed by men while I’m there waiting for my bus. Because of this, I was trying to mind my own business the other morning when a man approached me. I had my ipod in when I noticed him coming directly towards me. I avoided looking at him, hoping he would leave me alone, but no such luck. The next thing I knew, he was standing way too close to me and was talking to me. I turned my ipod off and asked him what he had said. He started asking me questions about my ipod and then asked me how old I was. I told him I was 20 and he looked me up and down and said “Some pretty for only 20…” I started to text my friend hoping that if I ignored him he’d move away, but he didn’t. Each time I stepped away from him, he’d step closer again.I was starting to feel threatened so I walked away to the other side of the terminal, pretending to look at the bus schedule. The man followed behind me without hesitation. As I was looking at the schedule he started asking me what bus I was taking, I ignored him and walked away again, back where I had come from. He continued following me. I walked into an area with a larger group of people and he still followed me. He was still standing too close, and was looking me up and down my body. I was so creeped out and my heart was beating so fast. He had this look in his eye that told me there was something not right with him. I wanted to tell him to get away from me, but at the time I was so scared. I was worried that if I told him to leave he may react badly, I didn’t want to escalate the situation.
After what felt like a lifetime, but was really a few minutes, his bus came and he left. Shortly after, a friend of mine arrived and we got on the bus to go to school. On the bus, I told her what had happened and we got to comparing stories about the various times that men have harassed us and about how generally messed up our society is. During this conversation, the man sitting in front of us kept peeking around and looking at us. It was clear that he was eavesdropping. When he got off the bus, he walked by our window and stared at us, then licked his lips and winked as we drove away. We were completely taken aback. After everything he had probably just heard us say, he had the nerve to do that!
I thought about that morning for the rest of the day. I was angry at myself for giving someone else the power to make me feel scared. I was angry at myself for not standing up when I should have. I am constantly being harassed by men, and ignoring it obviously is not working for me. I’m done with keeping my head down and my mouth shut. From now on I WILL hollaback!