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Got another one for you: Yesterday evening I was running some errands on Broadway in SoHo, dressed in a flowy skirt and my running sneakers, when out of nowhere a storm suddenly moved in and a strong wind started blowing. I moved quickly toward the nearest subway entrance to escape the storm, but as the wind blew harder and harder, I struggled with both hands to hold my skirt down while still attempting to walk and carry my bags. Marilyn Monroe I am not, and I had already been having a really terrible day, so having to deal with sudden wind gusts possibly exposing my underwear to the world was bringing me very close to the end of my rope. It was just then, of course, that a disgusting man who looked to be in his late 50s (older than my father!) turned around and started stalking behind me, shouting, “Blow wind, blow!” and, “Show me some of that ass!” along with other obscenities. Humiliated, creeped out, angry, and on the verge of tears, I found myself wishing so hard that I had a third hand available so that I could punch the perv right in the face. Alas, had to weather his harassment all the way down the block, and there was nothing I could do to stop him. I still feel gross thinking about it.
Submitted by Carey
Earlier this afternoon, I was working on my laptop at the Steven A. Schwarzman branch of the New York Public Library, when I noticed a man, seated one desk away across from me, staring at me. I tried to ignore it at first, but he kept staring even when I stared right back at him to let him know I was aware of what he was doing. I noticed he had one hand on the desk and the other one under the desk, and suspected he was up to mischief. However, since I couldn’t really see, I did not say anything. I did not want to change seats because I already switched seats earlier (another story). Besides, I did not want to be intimidated into moving. At some point, the guy got up from his seat and shifted some chairs around so that my line of vision to his legs were blocked. Moments later, he got up and moved the chairs around again to clear my line of vision and I knew something was up (no pun intended). A few minutes later, he was back in his chair, staring at me and masturbating.
I took out my iPhone to photograph him and he quickly shielded his face with his hand. He then got up to leave and all I got was a picture of him walking away, his face turned to the side. I followed him, knowing he would encounter a security check point. He walked through–the security guard seemed to recognize him and they exchanged goodbyes. I told the security guard what happened, who shook his head and said, “This is the third time someone has reported this about him.” WTF? I looked at him incredulously and asked why nothing was being done, why he didn’t go after the guy. He said he could not leave his station and shrugged. I insisted that he contacted some one through his radio–the man would have to go through another security checkpoint–which he finally did, but by that time, the guy–as I later learned–had already left the building.
I got my things and was escorted to the library’s security office to report the incident. Two men in suits came to speak to me. As I was explaining what happened, one of them began to defend the guard for not leaving his station and said that the perpetrator had likely left the building. Meanwhile, the other suit whisked away my phone to another office without asking me. I insisted on knowing what was going on and followed the man who took my phone; he had plugged it into his computer at his desk. I politely reminded him that he had not asked for my permission and he returned my phone without, I think, downloading any files. It was not that I did not want to share the photo but that no one was telling me what was going on. One of them instructs a guard to begin filing a report. “For sexual harassment?” the guard asks. “No, for public lewdness.”
The suits then asked if I wanted to talk to the police and press charges, and since I felt like I wasn’t sure what the library was going to do about the incident, I said yes. While waiting, one of the suits asks me to look at surveillance images of a library exit to identify the man (again, it was his profile image) and “as best as I could tell,” it was him. 35 minutes later, the police came. After hearing my story, they explained that there was nothing they could do; even if they had caught him, no charges could be pressed since he had not “indecently exposed” himself. In the presence of the police officers, one of the suits told me that he had seen the perp around before, recognized him and will “ban” him from the library the next time he comes by. One of the police officers then walked me to a subway stop and advised me on how to respond should I ever see the man at the library again.
Years ago as a teenager, I had been harassed and was paralyzed with shock, fear and self-doubt, unable to respond. I’m glad that I had the presence of mind to react this time and not be intimidated, but oh, I am so angry with that guy for being so demeaning and for stealing my precious writing time. What upsets me more is that I had to insist before the security staff took any action and, worse, the security staff seem to have had previous reports about this man but never ever followed up because who knows why. Is it really too much to ask to be taken seriously when reporting an incident of sexual harassment?
Submitted by Fiona
I went for a run this morning. I was walking to the park when two men in a van start yelling at me out their window. They were stopped at a light. They were yelling about my ass and how much they liked it. They were also saying something about how they wanted to “train me”. I have no idea what they meant but whatever it was, it was disgusting. They were really hollering and honking at me for quite a while, and I turned to look at them twice. When I did, they just cheered and yelled more. It was awful. I wanted to yell at them but was far too upset and felt powerless. I mean, I’ve been catcalled before- but they couldn’t even have defended these comments as compliments. They were just plain crude and perverse. I want to “train you”???? I am not a dog or your slave. I am a woman who deserves respect just like every other human being and animal on this planet. They thought they could yell at me because they were in a large moving vehicle and there were two of them. I wish I’d looked to see if it was a company vehicle, but I was way too upset.
Anyway, I felt like I wanted to cry, but I just kept walking on. I pass this fellow planting a tree outside an apartment building. He says, “Good morning pretty girl”. So immediately I turn around and start telling him off. He turned out to be actually an okay guy. So I ended up apologizing for snapping at him, but still told him to reconsider his catcalling ways. I told him that women don’t appreciate it, no matter how much of a compliment it is, and that he should think about what it’s like to be a woman, namely: scary and disempowered. To drive the point home I told him what the ASSHOLES said about “training me”, which made me immediately burst out crying. So then I ran off crying.
Great. Just how I want to spend one of my only mornings off from work.
Thank you Hollaback for being such an incredible organization.
Submitted by Eve
This creep and his friends have been bugging me for years. Calling the cops every time it happened worked briefly. I thought videotaping it would deter them, but clearly it didn’t.
Submitted by Sarah Liz
Although our site focuses on women and LGBTQ folks experiences of street harassment, the reverberations of street harassment impact us all. Hollaback! was co-founded by three men (and four women) and over the years we have seen some tremendous contributions to the movement on behalf of men. This is one of them.
My name is Tom; I am 30 and a Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force. I grew up in Phoenix and have been stationed in Texas, Utah, and New Mexico. I have had a few uncomfortable confirmations with strangers over the years, but nothing like what you see on this site, until…
My boss and I went to a conference in Reston VA, a small suburb of Washington D.C. The conference lasted only two days, so we had one night to see the town and enjoy ourselves. The only thing to see in Reston is the Town Center; a nice, but small, outdoor shopping/commercial district.
After dinner and a little shopping, I recommended that we find a grocery store so we could buy a few snacks and some bottled water. We walked about 1 mile north of the Town Center to the nearest Harris Teeter’s. On the way we took some shortcuts through bushes and side streets. My boss said that she was worried because there was no one around and it was late at night in strange city.
I told her that of all the places I had been, sober or drunk, I had never felt safer. We did our shopping at the grocery store. It was one of the nicest grocery stores I have been to, by south Texas standards, and I felt completely safe waiting out front for the hotel shuttle.
Everyone we had seen up until this point had been well dressed and friendly. While we were waiting in front of the grocery store, a man between 25 and 35, wearing dirty clothes and a two day old bread walked by us and said “hey beautiful!” to my boss.
While she is one of the nicest and open people I have ever met, she is very uncomfortable around strangers. I could feel her awkwardness. We said nothing. As he continued to walk towards the store entrance he said “What, too good to talk to me?”
At this point I was a little shaken, but the incident seemed to be over, so we continued to wait for the hotel shuttle. About 15 minutes later he came back out of the grocery store with a 12 pack of beer in a bag.
I am 6’ 3” and 260 lbs, people rarely mess with me; but I hate confrontation, and I am terrified of strangers. When I saw him coming towards us I was afraid he would say something else. As he started walking by us he turned towards my boss and said “Hi, I’m Bill” and held out his hand towards my boss. She looked away and I said “We don’t want any trouble, please keep walking”. He said “I just want to say hi, who are you, her boyfriend?” He was not being friendly. I did not know what to do.
I felt that, as the man, I had to defend my boss. I know that sounds sexist, and until that moment I had never thought that way. I knew she was as scared as I was and I felt a sudden need to protect her.
Directly to our right was a large pet shop. I said: “look we’ll just go in here and wait until our bus comes” pointing towards the pet shop. As we started to get our bags together to walk inside, he backed off and just walked away.
I have told this story many times, and it always gets a lot of laughs because just minutes after I say “this is the safest place I have been, nothing will happen to us” we have a confrontation.
This was 2 years ago, and I have always felt ashamed that I did not stand up enough for myself and my boss. I feel that I backed down when I should have been in his face, and threatened to kick his ass. I am much bigger than he was and could have easily taken him, but that is just not who I am. In the end, nothing happened and I should be proud, but still I am ashamed because I let him make me feel fear.
Submitted by Tom
This is written by Anna, who plans to start a Hollaback in France!
I’m very sorry for what happened to Sabriya. I’m a French woman who has lived one year in New York City. I don’t live in Paris, but I have to say that I’ve felt much more relax and safe during my staying in NYC that I had in my hometown. Maybe NYC is such a huge city that everyone is more or less anonymous: no one really cares about how the others are dressed, or how they behave. You don’t have time to look at a stranger who looks unusual in the street and wonder “what do I think about this?” At least, it is the feeling I had.
I don’t want to talk about a cultural difference between our countries as street harassment exists everywhere around the world. I’ve been street harassed in NYC a few times. Two men gave me the “Hey cutie”, others the kissing noise, one put his hand into his pant and smiled when I walked by him, a truck driver honked at me and my girls friends, and, the most disgusting, a man masturbated in front of me in Coney Island.
From my experience, street harassment in France is more intrusive and happens more often. I mean men often come closer, engage a conversation with you. And they stay, they don’t just pass by.
Unfortunately, I have very little information on street harassment in France, we actually don’t even use the terms “street harassment”! The newspapers articles that I found treated it as a game or as a form of flirting. As for the forums/websites, they’re often full of racist comments. That’s one of the reasons I decided to start a Hollaback France. Here are the links of two articles (here and here) written by sociologists (in French) about violence in public spaces and women’s fears.
I live in Richmond,Indiana. My name is Shannon Harding and people in cars love to shout,honk and even pretend to try to hit me with cars a couple of times.
I already have an anxiety disorder and this treatment is just causing me to feel lots of anxiety and anger.
Just yesterday, I was walking to the corner convenience store. A guy leans out a white truck and yells “I want to kiss you on your ****”(I didn’t hear the last word)
I flipped him off.
The vehicles mostly drive so fast I can’t get license numbers or anything else. I do not dress in a way that could be rationalized as ‘the reason to yell’ I often wear glasses and no make-up. I don’t know what to do- I keep being told to ‘Ignore it’
Yet the whole situation is just causing me so much stress and anger.
Submitted by Shannon
We are proud to welcome HollabackPGH to the scene! HollabackPGH is run by two smart, energetic, and dynamic organizers. In their introductory post they wrote:
“We hope that one day, everyone will be free from street harassment, whether it stems from your gender, race, sexual orientation, or anything else. We dream of a world where people don’t have to worry that others will harass them based on their appearance or identity when they’re just trying to get to work or to a party, and where everyone feels safe to walk alone and take public transportation without hearing phrases like “Hey baby, nice ass,” or experiencing the horror of being followed home or groped. We want to be a part of a movement that says that this is NOT OK, and we hope that HollabackPGH! can serve as a rallying point to fight back!”
Let your friends in Pittsburgh know, it’s time to stop walking on and start holla’ing back!
I was very interested in the post submitted by Sabriya regarding street harassment in France. A year and a half ago I lived in Paris for 4 months, and it was the first time I had ever experienced street harassment. The stopping an staring, the groping, the crude comments–I was shocked by the extent to which this harassment culture characterized the Parisian men. I am not a woman of color like Sabriya (quite the opposite actually). I am very very fair with very blonde hair, and I stuck out from the crowd all the time. People would ask me where I was from all the time without me opening my mouth. After spending time in other European cities as well as Moscow (and having experience less harassment in these cities), I would say that street harassment in Paris (and the rest of France) affects all women, and it is a constant and sometimes frightening nuisance.
Some links to interesting articles regarding this topic:
Senior aide to French President Nicolas Sarkozy writes book about how to pick up women.
Le sport national français: (in english)
Submitted by Lauren