I work downtown and will either take the bus home or walk. A few months ago, probably in February or March, I noticed a man hit on a woman as I left work around 8pm. She brushed him off and he tried to talk to me, but I ignored him and kept walking. I had to run some errands so I stopped by Target, and was talking on the phone to my mom when he tapped me on the shoulder. He said he knew I was in the middle of a conversation but he really “liked [my] look” and wanted to talk to me. I told him to wait until I was finished talking if he wanted to speak with me, and walked away.
A month or two later, I was waiting at my usual bus stop when the same man came up to me. He struck up a conversation with me, and not wanting to be rude, I talked to him for a bit. When he asked me if I was an artist, I told him I had designed the image on my t-shirt. He laughed and said “Well, now I’m looking directly at your chest.” Thankfully that was the moment my bus came, and when he asked me out for coffee I told him I wasn’t interested, and had to leave.
Those were both downtown. Tonight, I was walking home from work again and was stopped at an intersection closer to my neighborhood. I turned to look at something and saw the same man behind me, so I quickly turned away obviously not wanting to be engaged in conversation. He walked all the way around me until he was right in front of my face and couldn’t be ignored and said “Hello, you know you look really cute.” I felt like this guy needed to be put in his place, so I told him that I saw through his act and he had done this to me several times before. Rather than being ashamed, he was delighted, and said “Really! Wow! I thought you looked familiar!” I forcefully told him that I was not interested in talking to him and that I was trying to make my way home in peace. He said “Well I just thought someone should tell you you looked cute.” I walked away from him without a word.
I’ve not only had uncomfortable interactions with this particular man in the last few months, but have had multiple notable sexist interactions with men in the last week alone, all while simply trying to commute home from work. I feel uncomfortable to even walk out my door or wear something that shows a bit more skin. It is not acceptable to be made to feel this way simply trying to get to and from work.
Watch your butt while grocery shopping. There are perverts out there taking pictures with hidden cameras and putting them on the internet.
I wear short shorts and sleeveless tops because I think I have great legs and arms. I generally dress for my body type and keep it preppy casual. Unfortunately, I was walking down the street and a man yells out the passenger window of a moving car: “you dropped your wallet!” laughing as a few dollar bills fly through the air.
I was walking my dog down my block and there was a group of men working on my neighbors driveway. I could see one of them staring at me and I watched him move behind a vehicle parked in the road. I watched his feet under the car…he was waiting for me to walk up to him. But he was hiding. When I came up on the vehicle, he stepped right in front of me, sort of blocking my path. He asked what kind of dog I had so I told him. Then he asked me if my husband was home. Even though Im married to a woman, I just said “Yes, yes he is”. I didnt want him to think I was single or home alone. He then said, “Can I ask you a question, can I have a hug?”. My dog began to growl at him, and my dog has NEVER done this before. Mind you, it was almost 95 degrees, hot and humid. I said “No dude and you better back off or my dog will bite you”. He asked again, making it sound like he wasn’t asking for much. I quickly walked away. He stared at me the whole time. My dog kept stopping to look back at him, thats how I caught him staring. Now he knows where I live, as he was working there all day and I live two houses down. I locked myself in the house all day yesterday and today Im afraid to walk my dog because hes there again. I think Ill go out with a pocket knife, just in case. It might not sound very threatening to some of you, but Im scared of this guy. Im scared that he knows where I live. And theres not much I can do about this other then continue to be hypervigilant.
I was walking through a shopping mall to escape some of the summer heat, and had just gotten off the escalator to visit a few other shops. A man in his early twenties approached me politely and asked if I knew where the nearest Indian restaurant was; I gave him the intersection with the nearest restaurant. So far, so normal!
Next, he said: “Please feel free to say yes or no, but would you like to try my Indian juices?” (This was his ethnic background.) I was so shocked, at first, I just said, “No, but thanks” and walked away into the nearest store. After simmering for about thirty seconds and feeling my heartrate do all kinds of crazy things, I realized that leaving our interaction at that was wrong, especially with the number of other young women/girls walking in the mall that day.
I walked back out and to the guy, who seemed surprised to see me coming.
“Do you realize that the question you asked me could be taken sexually?” I asked him. No reason to assume ill intent if he was just really, truly culturally ignorant. Sadly, he wasn’t. He immediately began to shuffle his feet and admit that, no, he knew what it meant, but he was just “really bored” and an engineering student at X University for the summer.
“It’s not appropriate. I’m twenty-nine, but if you approach a seventeen-year-old and say that, there’s going to be a problem. That is not appropriate to say.”
He whined that he was just trying to find something to do with his summer.
“It’s not appropriate. Hope you find something better to do with your summer,” was my final comment before walking away.
Then, I went into a shop nearby and immediately reported him to the cashier and asked that she call security. Two guards responded within the next ten minutes.
Calling this person out and then reporting it made me feel more in control; as a survivor of past physical assault, this kind of verbal confrontation makes me feel all of the awful physiological reactions to an assault all over again (nausea, headache, heart palpitations, sweating). Dealing with this individual as a proactive adult, and not as a reactive victim, does help relieve those feelings, but I still feel gross! This kind of behavior is 100% unacceptable. Hopefully, my efforts plus those of the security who escorted him from the mall will help him realize that.
The graduation presents my father bought me and my sister when we went out on our own we’re powerful Tazers. I remember him looking at them before we left, trying to find the most practical ones. He messages each of us constantly to assure that we are carrying them, they also work as flashlights, one night I was terrified when I was pressed to use it on another individual.
A coworker of mine, we’ll say her name is Stacy, had told me about a weird man who came into our retail store one Saturday night, he came in when she was trying to close and was asking her odd questions. We didn’t think much of it and, subsequently, brushed it off. That following Wednesday, I got a call from a man who was looking to speak to her. He mentioned that he had been in that weekend and was supposed to call her back to discuss a few things.
When I brought this up to my coworker, she said that she didn’t talk to anyone at that length but the man and that they didn’t agree to speak again.
Just at that moment, with both of us looking confused at the phone, he called. I answered and attempted to prove him for information. What gave him the assumption that she wanted him to call? He simply kept insisting that they had ‘important’ things to discuss. According to Stacy, they had nothing to discuss. I hung up the phone on him and thought that would be the end of it.
The week after that, I was closing on a Saturday night by myself as we often do. I was cleaning something, in the front of the store which is just a wall of windows. It was only ten minutes before I had to lock the door when I saw a car pull slowly by my store. There was a man, driving alone in a car marked with Colorado license plates. He crept by, his eyes searching for something or someone. As he walked slowly up to the windows in the store, I didn’t have that tazer in my work apron and, even if I had, I would have felt fear-stricken regardless. He didn’t enter the store. He started from one end of the windows and slowly worked his way down to me. I knew at that point that something was going on. So, when he made eye-contact with me and smiled I felt like I was going to cry. I was absolutely paralyzed.
He looked similar in appearance to the man Stacy saw just a couple weeks before. I didn’t feel safe enough to take out my phone for a picture, however. I stood and hoped that he wouldn’t enter the store. I couldn’t lock the door either, I was afraid that it also may be someone important, like a health inspector. He man walked away from my store like he had been caught and just stood in front of the store next to mine. He stood there like he was thinking of his next plan of action.
Now, I was watching him very closely. So, when he quickly turned towards me and walked briskly to the still unlocked door, I physically jumped. The man opened the door, and spoke to me as if our whole exchange wasn’t filled with his off putting actions.
“So, where is a good place to get some food around here?” He spoke to me as if we had been talking before. I told him the first restaurant that I could think of, to get him out of there. The whole time he was looking at me, I felt violated and defensive, ready to pick up any object and defend myself. He also looked oddly disappointed. He left out the door after I gave him a recommendation. The man then proceeded to walk to his car, the only one in the parking lot, and entered through his passenger door. I continued to work. I swept and mopped and counted my drawer all in the period of which he was sitting in his car, alone. I. The seat closest to me.
When I went into our employee area to grab my things, I held my electrical flashlight in my hand, ready once again. The man’s car was not in front anymore and there seemed to be no other humans in sight. I walked frantically to my car and didn’t feel safe even when I reached my home.
I called Stacy and explained to her what the man looked like. She was positive that it was the same man, even down to his tie-die shirt labeled with a festival that happens in the area.
I told my boyfriend of my concerns about what happened. He starting asking me so many questions. “Why didn’t you call security? Why didn’t you lock the door when you saw him? Is she sure that it is the same guy?” The answer to all of his questions was silence form me. I realized that because we had no physical proof, people brushed it off on us being paranoid.
Now, the next week, this week, is when I had another Saturday closing shift. I locked the door early that night when no one was in the lot, just to be safe. As I was sweeping, I heard the roar of a motorcycle. I lifted my head only to see a similar looking man creeping by my store’s giant windows. His plates were also from Colorado. He made eye contact with me again and smiled. From what I could see, the only differences in the men were his face was shaven and the other man, from the Saturday before, sported a thick beard. He turned his cycle in my direction and drifted to the curb right in front of the door. He parked his cycle in front of the door. At this point, I was done feeling so terrified. I stood in front of the door as he was trying to open it, making sure he didn’t look away from my eyes. He seemed confused when I didn’t unlock the door to let him in. I didn’t care, I stood and gazed out at him, challenging him. After several failed attempts at getting the door opened by smiling at me like we were old friends, he got on his motorcycle and left. I work in a mall setting, there are many store surrounding me but, he drove up to mine intentionally and left without seeing any other stores.
I called my father on my way out of the store, in hopes that he would help me calm down. I was so scared and exposed. Yet, I still knew that I had things to do in my personal life. I drove over to my local Wal-Mart to pick up a few things. I grabbed my purse, the home of my tazer, and started to walk in to the store. i could see the door form the place I was standing and had to stop to wait on crossing the road.
I heard a rumbling just to the left of me, I looked up. To my disbelief, the same man that had been at the store earlier, was stopped at the stop sign, waiting for me to cross. I practically ran away from him and my car as I heard some sort of whooping noise behind me, no doubt coming from the man.
I live close to that store so, I didn’t go home that night, in fear that he was following me. I am not sure where or who he is but, I am scared. I am so terrified. And, this isn’t even the first time I have felt scared because of a similar encounter. Next Saturday, I am scheduled to work again.
We’re back with our HOLLA-Who series, profiling the amazing site leaders who take on street harassment in their local communities. In the HOLLA-Who series, we learn about what street harassment is like around the world, and what activists are doing today to push back and fight for the right to equal access to public spaces.
Today we’re talking with the amazing Jaqueline from Hollaback! Panama City. Hollaback! Panama launched with Class 12 just this January, and have already begun making an impact in their community. Today we’re chatting with site leader Jaqueline.
Why did you start the Hollaback! site in Panama – & what inspired you to join on?
“Hollaback means activism, it means nonconformism! Street harassment is an issue I face on a daily basis in Panama. I wasn’t born here, so often people ask me what do I like and dislike most about it here and harassment always came up as my number 1 complaint. I’ve started a Hollaback! because I want to change this reality!
What’s a HOLLA-fact about your city?
“Taxi rides are very cheap here. You can go many places paying from US$1.75 to US4.00. Unfortunately there are many (legal and illegal) drivers who harass their clients with disgusting looks and comments, or even assaulting or raping.“
Say you’re the Queen for a day. What would you do to end street harassment?
“I’d do a huge educational campaign / workshops with people of all ages. Also I’d define better laws for all kinds of harassment.“
What was your first experience with street harassment?
“I can’t remember precisely, but I am sure it was already very frequent when I was 12 years old.“
Given that you’ve had years to perfect it, what’s your signature Hollaback!?
“It can be “never seen a woman before?” to “THIS IS SUCH A LACK OF EDUCATION. HAVE SOME RESPECT!“. I enjoy saying it very loud, so they get publicly ashamed – as they should.“
We’re all about the right to define yourself. What’s your Hollaback! on-the-ground style?
“Natural! Let’s be true to ourselves.“
Serious question time. Would you rather have a dragon or be a dragon?
“BE a dragon! A blue dragon that flies and spits fire.“
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be?
“If you don’t like your partner, your job, your city etc, CHANGE IT or LEAVE IT! Everyday you accept it as it is, is a day that you’re deciding that this is the best you can do for yourself. Own your decisions!“
What are you excited about for 2015?
“Getting a bigger team and making a Hollaback! art event in Panama.“
What inspires you in this work?
And finally, in the year 2020, street harassment will be…
“In the year 2020, street harassment will be as despised as racist jokes currently are“
A big thank you to Jaqueline, site leader of Hollaback! Panama City!
Holla and out!
Just walking down the sidewalk at 10:30am on a Saturday, when a guy decides to help himself to my butt. He was surprised when I spun around, screamed at him, and chased him half a block until he lost his shoe and a police officer working the grocery store ran up to us. He left in cuffs.
Happy Friday, Hollas!
The week has flown by here at HQ! We are counting down the days to Holla::Rev on one hand now! Emily and Debjani are heading to London for the big event which will be followed by a site leader retreat, where some of us get to meet face to face for the first time to talk about the work of ending street harassment. Woo hoo!
Here’s what’s been going on around the world this week:
Hollaback! Ottawa is excited to announce OC Transpo’s new online tool to report street harassment! After two years of Hollaback! Ottawa advocating for this new technology, they are elated that OC Transpo is finally recognizing harassment in public spaces. Through this website, riders are able to report violence and harassment of any form. This is definitely a win for the movement to end street harassment!
Hollaback! Bahamas completed training on Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) at Women’s Human Rights Education Institute in Toronto. This was a 7-day educational workshop focused on non-discrimination and equality.
Hollaback! Vancouver continues successfully with Transit Tuesdays. Every Tuesday in the summer, this Hollaback! team provides stories, tips on reporting, stats, polls and other helpful information to help make transit safer and more comfortable for everyone.
Keep counting down with us to Holla::REV!
Holla and out!
On my way home from getting groceries after work today I was walking along a very busy street with one side being redone resulting in the erection of a janky, narrow two-lane temporary sidewalk. A man walked towards me innocuously and as we crossed paths he reached his hand out and cupped my breast. I stopped and the chicken cutlets in my grocery bag gently hit my thigh. I thought, did I imagine that?
I turned around and watched the man in the hooded sweater continue walking. The man had just touched my breast as if he were pushing the crosswalk button and now I was letting him walk away. But what could I do? It seemed the moment had passed. The barely perceivable moment of shame had passed and I was the only witness and no one would fight for me. I suddenly remembered the same feeling of helplessness mixed with fear flooding over me when I had been a student in New York my freshman year in 2009. I had been on my way to tutor at Tompkins square middle school on the east side of the notoriously shady Tompkins Square park and I had been texting on my blackberry half watching where I was walking. On a similarly deserted side street in a popular neighborhood, a man, jerked his arm into my breast sending my sad little blackberry flying out of my hand and onto the sidewalk. I stood there stupefied not knowing what to do. I even remember wondering how I could have provoked his fury. As I now watched the man who bore so many parallels to my faceless aggressor from the lower east side I realized very quickly that while they may have not changed, I had. Here I was in my law firm work clothes, I was grocery shopping, no longer mooching from Weinstein and Kimmel! I pivoted on my toe and began clop clop clopping in my kitten heels towards the faceless man who had just touched my breast. He glanced back and kept walking straight. I yelled after him “Pourquoi vous m’avez faites ça?” He began to pick up his pace. He was picking up his pace and now I was pursuing him, how rich! I yelled again, “Pourquoi vous m’avez faites ça?!” We turned off rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin, out of the janky temporary sidewalk, and onto the heavily populated Boulevard de la Villette. My heels were not letting me catch up with him and I yelled a third time “Pourquoi vous m’avez faites ça!?” A young boy in a suit around my age, and a mother pushing a stroller with two little girls hooked to her waist looked at me, then at him, then kept walking. The man was speeding up and I could not catch him. I had spent a minute of my life chasing this coward down the street and with my thoughts boiling over and my limited French I could only think of one final succinct phrase to yell at him: “Vous êtes un lâche!”
I stopped and my chicken cutlets hit my thigh again. I was shaking badly, the adrenaline was rushing, but I was smiling. I turned around to walk back towards my apartment. I crossed the mother I had passed and she seemed to understand what had happened and asked me if everything was okay. I told her, Yes.
My Maman had always told me if there was danger, to go away from it. Her favorite anecdote is that of the safety lesson the plane stewardess gives the cabin before takeoff. Should there be a problem with the air pressure, the stewardess instructs you to first put on your mask, then and only then, may you help others. With my Maman’s blunt twist, the moral of the story is summarized as such: You can’t save anyone if you’re dead! So I apologize, Maman, for going towards the danger. But you see, the danger turned out to be a ruse. Admittedly, at the moment I pivoted I didn’t know what I would do. I had imagined so many times before, following other street-slights, crude looks and creepy words, “I will slap him so hard”…But this man was not in slapping distance. He was far away. I didn’t imagine I would run to catch him and start a fight. What provoked me to keep going was his reaction. He ran away. The moment I refused to be the victim and hand him the aggressor role I found him deflated of the initial danger he had posed to me. In fact, as he picked up his pace, I realized exactly what these faceless street aggressors are. Shameful cowards who believe their nearly imperceptible act will go unpunished. I have never been harassed by a pack of boys or men. I have only been shamed in silent incidents like this in which their often-complicated retelling seems to be completely imbalanced compared to the time and place in which they took to happen. Perhaps this is why they continue to occur.
In yelling after this man I called attention to myself and perhaps a normal Parisian would have never done this. But I called attention to him as well. I dragged the moment of shame to hang over both of us and as far as I’m concerned I no longer have anything to be ashamed for. For so many words used about this incident, I could have just as easily summed it up here: that piece of shit had no right to touch me. Not the first one on the lower east side and not this one in the 10eme arrondissement of Paris. The faceless man doesn’t have the right to touch you, and you weren’t dreaming. He does it because he thinks you wont act back. As if you ought to feel shame for being on the street and buying chicken cutlets for dinner. No. This is for my girls. The faceless creep is universal and he is not worthy to touch you. The only shame is in letting the moment pass.