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Driving home from work in my car, guys pull up next to me at the lights and begin yelling out the window (no actual words that I could hear, just loud noises, but intimidating). I stared straight ahead, not moving, not changing my expression, nothing. No reaction. So they began waving their arms at me, revving their engine and screaming ‘filthy slut’, among other things, for about a minute until the lights changed. They then sped off, screeching around the corner out of control, across two lanes.
Apparently can’t even drive my own vehicle now without being harassed with such anger and venom behind it. Btw, not that it should matter but I was wearing jeans/jumper. Goes to show harassment seems to happen purely because we’re female, no other reason. Clothing, time, place, doesn’t even matter. I’m sick of not feeling safe, absolutely everywhere.
I’ve been a fan of Hollaback for about a year now, and I finally decided to share a story. There are so many experiences of harassers getting away with their words and/or actions, and leaving the victim feeling powerless and trapped. However, I am happy to say that this is a success story!
I work in an industrial neighborhood in the East Bay, California. Every morning, I take a walk in about a one-mile radius from my workplace. There is a tow-truck company whose trucks frequent the area quite often, as their headquarters are nearby.
Beginning around October of last year, there was one particular driver for the company who, everytime he saw me walking, would blare his horn. A shrill, jarring, airhorn-like sound. Truck horns are designed to startle someone in an urgent situation, and naturally when this first started occurring, I would immediately look towards the sound to see what was happening. When I looked, the driver would have this grin across his face that felt so… Invasive. Sometimes he would wave, as well. My standard reaction was to flip him off, but that wasn’t satisfying the need to make him feel the way that he made me feel. Cornered, on display. I should throw in that this would always happen when he was driving by (in motion), and never when he was stopped. Big surprise, I know.
A few months later, another driver for the company started honking, grinning, waving, etc. as he passed. This happened several times. Everytime an instance occurred with this company, it was one of those two drivers. They were always in separate vehicles, never together at the same time.
So, I began to recognize my options. I thought about notifying the police, but I then realized that harassment in the workplace is taken much more seriously, internally speaking. If a company discovers that one of their employees is harassing others inside or outside of the workplace, there are often serious repercussions. I decided to call the company.
I immediately- but non-confrontationally- asked to speak to a manager. I told the receptionist that I had been experiencing harassment from two of their employees for approximately four months, and that I was fairly confident the company was unaware that this was happening. The woman I spoke to seemed to understand the urgency, and transferred me to the manager’s phone line. He was not in the office, but I did seize the opportunity to leave an in-depth message. I addressed everything that had happened with the honking and smiling, and let him know how these actions affected my feelings and sense of safety. I noted the times that these instances occurred, and the drivers’ appearances.
I never did receive a phone call back from the company, but I am ecstatic to say that not one single harassment incident, from either driver, has occurred since. I still see the same drivers when I go for a walk, and they will look, but will not say or do a thing. In fact, the majority of the time, they can’t even look me in the eye anymore.
People need to know that they CAN make a difference. They DO have the power to change things. They need not be afraid to use their voice and take action. The harassers do not have any more power than those who are harassed, and this story proves that those who choose to victimize others will endure justified consequences, if we speak up!
Here’s what HOLLAs around the world have been up to:
Hollaback! Appalachian Ohio has started a photography series titled Body Hair Hoopla, and is calling out to all self-identified females with body hair. The event states, “We believe everyone has the right to do whatever they want with their body without criticism. If you wanna shave, awesome! If you don’t wanna shave, awesome!..Hollaback wants to highlight an alternative view of femininity and beauty (or maybe just raise a middle finger to society’s expectations, depending on how you wanna frame it!)”.
Hollaback! Baltimore was at a Take Back the Night event and will be at Gouchella today as a Community Ally for this event put on by Goucher College’s Feminist Collective. Also! Tatyana Fazlalizadeh put up her first poster in the Baltimore series of the Stop Telling Women to Smile project and it features three women that were at their event last week, including Site Leader, Mel. So cool!
Hollaback! Boston presented a Hollaback! 101 workshop at Northeastern University’s Cabral Center for a free summit for youth, adults, survivors and allies called Raise Your Voice. Various organizations were there talking about intervention and prevention strategies, celebrating survivors of sexual violence and work being done to make Boston safe for everyone.
Hollaback! Chennai shared this great interview with Sandy’s Chocolate Laboratory, one of the local businesses that have signed on to Hollaback! Chennai’s Safer Spaces campaign and has made a visible commitment to ‘zero tolerance’ of sexual harassment at their place of business.
Hollaback! Cleveland visited St. Martin De Porres to support their Take Back the Night event. They were also on WRUW-fm’s By the Bi discussing street harassment and their launch as a new site. The recording will soon be available to listen here.
Hollaback! Hull University held their official launch party. Woohoo! And they were on BBC Radio Humberside to talk about their launch. Listen to the podcast here (Reportage and interview start at 01:09:43).
Hollaback! Montreal celebrated the publication of the eighth edition of Subversions: A Journal of Feminist Queries; a collection of student visual art, creative writing and academic pieces from the Simone de Beauvoir Institute community and beyond!
Hollaback! Ottawa, as part of their ongoing campaign to see gender-based violence prioritized in the upcoming municipal election, held a video shoot (pictured above!) highlighting community member’s thoughts on what they want candidates to do about gender-based violence in Ottawa and how they want gender-based violence to be addressed.
Inspiring work, as always! Happy May, everyone! Til next week,
HOLLA and out!
– The Hollaback! Team
I was walking into the Target on the corner with two friends. I was wearing a dress. I heard a male voice behind me say that he loved the dress and I ignored him. He followed my friends and I further into the store and kept saying “hey you in the dress,” but I ignored him. Finally I without looking told him to fuck off. He started being like “fuck off, all I wanted to do was compliment you!!!” I turned around at that and he looked physically threatening so I walked with my friends further into the store. The store was crowded, there were employees everywhere but no one said a thing.
I go to The University of Texas in Austin and it’s hella expensive to park your car on campus. Usually I just park my car across 35 and take the shuttle back to campus, but I had just gotten back to town and it was a Sunday, so the shuttle wasn’t running a full schedule. Because the next bus wouldn’t arrive for another 45 minutes (and because it was early March and 30 degrees outside), I decided to walk back to campus rather than wait.
I was walking down MLK, having almost made it back to my dorm without incident, when a silver PT cruiser sped past me. Some guy stuck his head out the window and yelled “SLUT,” started laughing, and pulled his head back into the car.
They turned onto the same street as my dorm and I tried to chase after them, but they were gone by the time I turned the corner.
The guy in the photo below decided that he wanted to talk to me at the cafe that both of us happen to be at twenty minutes ago so he said hi. I ignored him, he said hi again then a few more times. I ignored him & stayed focused on the book I was reading. He said, “ok,” then started waving he hand in my face to get my attention. I still ignored him. Then he touched me on the shoulder while laughing & said ok. I then said, “Fuck you.” Then I walked to the barista and complained. She said, “he’s a regular, he’s here all the time but I’m sorry that that happened & I’ll tell the guys (that work there). And I took his photo & said that this is for Hollaback. He left the establishment.
At around 8:30 am while waiting for the downtown J train at Bowery I was followed and watched by a man who began masturbating. He stood about 20 feet away from me on the same platform. He looked right into my eyes. Thankfully, my train arrived soon after. I called 311 but was on the line for 15 minutes with no response so I gave up. Unfortunately, I was too shocked and disgusted to give this sexist pig a big FUCK YOU. Thank you, you fucking jerkoff, for ruining my Saturday.
He appears at my work every single day.
Criticizing the women I work with, including me, he reaches a topic that is a personal and gender-based insecurity to every woman, sex. The way women look and dress is always a sexual concern in the publicity of men, which he makes apparent.
Questioning the way my co-workers and I present ourselves, he makes comments like, “So when are you going to make a sex tape?” “You look tense, you should purchase a vibrator”, and, “When am I going to see you as the center-fold for Playboy?” These questions do not contribute to women as an individual, but as sexual fixations, enabling us to believe that being a sexual object for men is the purpose of women’s existence.
He does not pass up the opportunity to lower one’s mental health; he attacks even men as well. Commenting on a man’s hopes and aspirations, he belies, “You’re a beatnik and will never amount to anything.” For men, not “amounting to anything” results in a gender-based insecurity of failure. Men value their work ethic and aspirations as a reflection of their selves, because essentially men are taught that they will be relied on later in life. If someone doubts their accomplishments or determination, they take it as a personal threat of their inability to provide for others in life.
He doesn’t need to know someone as a person, only how to make generalized comments towards their gender. The University of Oregon recognizes this behavior as gender harassment, defining it as, “Generalized sexist statements and behavior that covey insulting or degrading attitudes about women [or men]” (University Counseling & Testing Center, 2010).
Making note of his appearance and the way he confidently fabricates his life as successful, this explains why he must mentally flagellate those around him. He struggles with his own heightened insecurities and belittling others creates the illusion that he feels superior; by recognizing that others have insecurities of their own. He heightens his perception of his own self-worth when verbalizing false statements to those around him.
The use of harassment in the workplace causes my co-workers and me to develop effects of drop in work performance due to stress, decrease in job satisfaction, depression, self-consciousness, frustration, and unfavorable work conditions. The comments that he makes cause psychological damage and sustain us from not performing our best while at work.
A lot of victims hide in terror and denial from their harassers, unable to tell anyone or change the outcome. Victims may feel powerless; an imbalance of power between the harasser and the victim is just a disconnected form of reality. When in actuality, the harasser holds no more power over the victim. In this case, he has no greater power over me or my co-workers.
When my friend and I were 13, we were walking back to my house from a fast food restaurant. We had entered a fairly nice neighborhood and were minding our own business when we hear “damn!” And we turn and there’s a group of 4 guys who looked to be 17, cat calling us, and just making lewd comments. After hearing enough, I turned around and flipped them off, telling them that if they didn’t shut up, they’d be getting this finger somewhere else. It’s amazing to see how young this behavior starts.
There is a local grocery store within .1 miles of my house that I walk to often, not having a car to drive, and I have gotten honked at multiple times, guys slow down when they pass me and give me a degrading stare, and I get comments like “hey hot stuff!” thrown out the window often. I’m barely 15, why not watch the road instead of the adolescents walking next to it??