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Living in New York (and Philadelphia before that) I’ve been harassed almost on a daily basis. Most of the time I walk away from the incident feeling upset that I didn’t or couldn’t make my harasser feel as violated and threatened as he made me feel. So not too long ago, as I was returning to my office from a Starbucks break, a man leaned into my path and loudly said “SEXY.” He began to walk behind me. I wish there were a way to describe how thick and disgusting his voice was. Combined with the fact that he was raping me with his eyes and that at least 3 other men had tried to talk to me on my way to Starbucks, I was enraged. I turned around immediately and made like I was going to throw my hot tea into his face. He shrieked, apologized, and backed off.
I’ve been getting a ton of backlash for doing this (especially from male friends, no surprise there), although I never would have actually thrown the tea on him–not unless he had put his hands on me. He was following me, and was behaving the same way as men who had grabbed or touched me in the past. I have a right to walk wherever I please without being sexually harassed, and I also reserve the right to pose a physical threat to anyone who poses one to me. The only thing I’m sorry for is that I couldn’t snap a picture of him too.
Submitted by Gabrielle
The scene: an extremely crowded G-train shuttle bus on a Saturday afternoon. Everyone was packed onto the train, everyone’s bodies were touching each other, but I was surprised to feel someone’s hand squeezing my ass. I looked behind me and saw a man’s hand poised there behind his back–still in a cupped position as if he felt no shame or need to hide his covert grope. I was completely enraged and I turned around, grabbed him by the shoulder, and shouted “Did you just grab my ass? Because you totally just did!”
For the first instant he looked shocked but he suddenly became angry and yelled back (though much quieter than me), “Shut the fuck up, you ugly bitch, or I’ll smack the shit out of you.” Now, the bus was very crowded, and I knew he wasn’t going to hit me, though I wish he would have so I could have beaten the hell out of him. So I replied, “You’re going to hit me because you groped me on a crowded subway shuttle and I noticed? Are you kidding me?” at which point he turns around and starts ignoring me. I turn to the friend I’m with and say as loudly as I can “That douchebag just grabbed my ass,” she responds “What a fucking freak,” etc., and I stand close to him glaring the rest of the ride.
I handled the incident just like I always hoped I would, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t make me feel shaken and violated. It was absolutely horrible. From this incident onward (about 4.5 months ago), I tell street harassers to fuck off on a regular basis–even if they say “You look gorgeous” or “God bless you.” It feels good, but it doesn’t come close to completely counteracting the feelings of victimization, rage and sadness that come along with being harassed on a daily basis for being a woman.
Submitted by Rachel
Walked to get my coffee, man on the corner makes sounds at me. Walk back home and he starts his own monologue about how I’m looking good, etc, etc… It just kept going! I shouted behind me for him to “Shut up!” Had my hands not been full of coffee, muffin, and keys, I would have taken a picture. It was ridiculous.
Submitted by Rebekah
So up until a few moments ago I was having a very good day. Today was my first day at a new job which I love and this morning I spoke with someone regarding some freelance work that might be in my near future. So you would think that after all that I would be a good mood…guess again. I got harassed on my way home from my great, wonderful day. I walked by this man with his friend and he said “Lovely” to me. I as usual told him to go fuck himself. Now many my not think that the word lovely isn’t all that offensive but I don’t need hear constant compliments on my looks to validate who I am just because I am a woman. Now in response he got very upset told me to “get out of the hood”. Now this brings me to something that I have always wondered about: why does street harassment seem unusually high in the “hood”? And why is it a practice that is becoming increasingly popular among young black men? It has been in my entire life’s experience that 95% of the men to harass me have been black and most of those experiences have happened in poorer black communities. Its entirely safe to say that although I run a risk of being harassed everywhere and most women are I feel safer in Park Slope or Williamsburg as oppose to Bed-Stuy where I currently reside. I even dress a little different knowing that I wont get harassed. I know that whenever race gets brought up it can be a rather touchy subject but I cant help but wonder if more women in the NYC area other myself have noticed this trend or if it is at all significant to bring it up. Should race be tackled in the “Stop Street Harassment” movement? Should it be addressed? The problem that I think this blog is trying to resolve is to get women talking to realize that it happens to women everywhere and with that realization women can stop internalizing. But I wonder if it would serve a better purpose to speak of the harassers. Who are they are and why do they do this. The way I have rationalized my own experiences has been thinking of the black men who do this as an exercise in a power struggle in which they feel as though they are losing. Is it simply one oppressed group trying to oppress another? What that guy said to me resonated because it seemed like he was saying that in the “hood” things are done a certain way and how dare I challenge it by talking back to him. I may be over thinking this it was though he was trying to make some sort of comment on gentrification. I do look like an outsider in my neighborhood and even though I am perceived as minority myself being Hispanic, its obvious by how I dress that I am probably part of the gentrification movement that is slowly but inevitably affecting Bed-Stuy. Are these men noticing this trend and is this a source of anger? I hope this will inspire some feedback because either rude black men are just what I am attracting or this might have some larger significance.
NOTE: Hollaback! believes that street harassment stems from a culture of violence against women, but we don’t believe it stems from anyone’s culture in particular. Our blog shows that men of all races harass women, and our work shows that it happens in all countries. Still, E. isn’t the only one who has asked this question. What do you think?
The New York Post reports that last week a brave Brooklyn student named Annie Jiang helped to catch a guy who was masturbating against her on a crowded train by taking his photo with her cell phone camera. “I tried to take a picture of him because I didn’t want to scream on the train,” Jiang said. “It was blurry, but I got it.”
The story reminds me of the inspiring story of Thao Nygun, who almost five years ago exactly photographed restaurant owner Dan Hoyt with her cell phone camera while he was masturbating on the train. Thao said, “I knew I would feel terrible afterwards if I didn’t do anything.” Thao’s brave act inspired us to launch Hollaback! and today she’s a member of our board.
Two incredible women taking bold actions for a better world. Now that something to HOLLA about!
WAH-NAILS in London runs HollabackLDN, and posted this on their blog this morning. My favorite part? The “we are everyone, we are everywhere” banners on the sides. With new Hollabacks popping up left and right, this isn’t just wishful thinking.
Portland, OR is a place where I actually encountered little sexual harassment on the street! Is it ironic that I am grateful I was able to exist in public without visual appraisal? After a few weeks I stopped expecting it. Then one day, as I was walking my bike down a fairly unpopulated sidewalk in the middle of the afternoon, a man who had been walking behind me caught up and said,
“Not to be disrespectful, but that is a very pretty backside.” UGH. As I biked by him on the way up the block, I yelled back, “it IS disrespectful!!” and I could hear him murmur, “well, it’s still pretty.”
Submitted by Esther
I was walking home from yoga when I heard “I want to fuck the shit out of you.”
I’m so glad this site exists, so people can share there experiences and realise they’re not the only ones – well done guys!!! I’ve had many unfortunately, but I will just mention a few. My city has no official blog yet.
As a introverted and shy teenager, I was carrying 2 heavy bags of shopping (and looking pretty rough, old jean and sweatshirt) in, A circle of at least 10 drunk guys surrounded me, blocking me and not letting me walk off. They were wearing novelty costumes (a stag night, maybe). I felt so intimidated that a froze. The “ring leader” came forward, and said, “we won’t let you go until you give us all a kiss”. I was still frozen. He started to move his face closer to mine, it was so disgusting. I squeaked, “I have a boyfriend” (I didn’t) and pushed past them. And they were all laughing, I felt so humiliated and sick for the rest of the evening.
Not too long after that, another woman I didn’t know and I were walking down a narrow street with scaffolding in the pouring rain and wolf whistles started from the builders. We both turned around and one went “No, not you, you train wreck” I don’t know which of us the attention was aimed at, but again this made my day just a little worse.
Another time drunk guy in club maneuvered me into a corner and wouldn’t let me go until I gave him my (fake) number.
To top this off, I went abroad to a certain foreign country (religiously conservative and by some standards 3rd world) for study reasons, where street harassment is the norm. In fact sexual responsibility and “sin” falls almost entirely on the women’s side. Women are belittled, some are not allowed out on their own, and stared at constantly even if they are dressed extremely modestly (as I was). Some women particularly of minority ethnic origins, have stones thrown at them (I think since I was taller than most of the men, they didn’t dare with me). Also if a man is staring at you, they won’t stop staring even if you make eye contact – they think they have the right. They would talk to me, even though it is meant to be unacceptable to talk to women they do not know.
Yes, I was aware of this behavior before I went, I am aware it is a different culture and values and I am a guest in their country etc etc but it still made me feel sick and it doesn’t make it right – I talked to many women who lived there and they all hated the harassment too, but they felt powerless about it. I felt under siege. Another sent flowers to my school and tried to negotiate with the school principal to marry me. Urghh. At a tourist festival, all the local men were photographing US, western women, more than we were photographing the festival itself. The one time that was almost funny was when I was visiting a local landmark and a rich looking man started filming us even though he was with his family! Then his wife saw and smacked him hard across the head and a torrent of verbal abuse was aimed at him by the women. Hah! That showed him!
It got more serious though. There was one incident where I felt my life was genuinely threatened, when I was stranded due to circumstances beyond my control. A man I didn’t know (whose unwanted attentions and sexual threats I had rejected) accelerated his taxi at me, almost running me down while I was alone on a dark night and deliberately intimidating me, then drove off in the night. In that moment my brain flashed to the attacks that’s had happened in South Africa, where a gang ran women down with cars to disable and rape them. I was so scared and numb. I stood for 10 minutes in the dark in the pouring rain, waiting to get in through the gate to my house (gatekeeper was in the toilet), all the time thinking he was coming back. The feral (and sometimes rabid) dogs prowling about added a nice atmospheric touch.
After 2 months of this, the effect on me, in addition to my other experiences, was profound. I’m sorry if this sounds cliche but I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel tears pricking at my eyes as I typed the previous paragraph. Since I’ve returned home I’m very sensitive to street harassment.
When I go out, I tend to wear hoodies and jeans, and don’t call attention to myself. I walk tall and confident and with purpose, but I don’t feel that way, even though I’m 5’7 and reasonably attractive. I keep my face blank, carry keys or perfume in my pockets (for defence if needs be) and my phone in other. I tend to be hyper-vigilant and I get really angry, mostly inside, at street harassment, particularly by drunks. My body language becomes very defensive even if a man is being respectful and friendly in showing interest in me, I blank them and turn my head away.
Even now in my mid twenties I feel vulnerable going out alone wearing skirts and dresses (although I will with a group of friends, rarely, in house parties or places I feel safe), even though I love girly dresses, especially retro ones. I want to go out and feel beautiful within myself and respected, and you know what, one day I want to meet the right guy, get married and be happy – but if keep acting this way I worry I’ll never get that close to a guy again. Its sad but I think I have had more negative contact from guys in my life than positive.
Things are getting a little better now, I feel happier and more confident than I have in years although the emotional distance is still there. I have travelled alone to many countries, made new friends, skydived, climbed mountains. If you met me in a social situation you would probably never guess any of it – I would come across a pretty, friendly girl, not a wallflower.
But I have to say this – Guys, please be considerate. Try not to be obnoxious assholes who stare and and yell and grope. I’m a nice, funny, person and although I try to be strong, I have a thin skin and these things still hurt me. And it has been these little incidents, the harassment which guys don’t even seem to think about, and which still happen to me occasionally, which make it worse.
Submitted by A.