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I was walking out of my apartment building in Brooklyn, heading to the bus stop to take the ride into the city for class. As soon as I exited the lobby, a few guys were standing outside. One proceeded to yell at me. I forget what he said… it was something to get my attention.
I didn’t make any faces, I didn’t make any noises, I simply ignored him. How did I know if he was actually talking to me? He got upset or bothered by the fact that I didn’t respond to his request for attention or affection. So he threw his food at me. It missed me by a few inches, as I was walking away from him, I saw it in my peripheral vision. That made me uneasy. What gave him the right to throw his food at me because I didn’t respond to his advance? A vulgar advance, an unsolicited advance.
I used to walk around Brooklyn with baggy clothes on, oversized hoodies, sneakers to get away from people quick if needed be. Then I decided to move, because living that way is absurd. I deserve to feel free, to feel safe, to feel secure. Now I do.
First of all, I am sorry for my anonymity. I just feel more comfortable that way. And this happened to my friend and I about two years ago.
I was showing one of my friends around a town I work in, taking her to all of my favorite shops and pointing out bakeries. Now, I never get catcalled. I’m overweight, my hair is a bit of a frizzy mess, and I also have the benefit of being built like a bear. My friend however is itty bitty and stunningly attractive. But she is unfamiliar with this kind of harassment since she is from a rural farming community.
I had noticed a man had been following a similar route as us, deviating only a bit to look at shops. But he never got more than thirty feet away from us. It made me rather uneasy, so I quietly told my friend to be a bit careful. Within minutes he decided to make his move. He just walked up and picked her up by her breasts, not even looking at me! He was outright trying to walk off with her, just like that!
My friend was mortified, and I was PISSED. I put my hands over his face and yanked him backwards to stop him before he could actually run off. He ended up letting go of my friend and running away himself after taking a punch at me.
My friend panicked, and she ran out into a more busy street. I couldn’t catch up to her very easily because of my weight, but I could hear people catcalling her and hollaring, the whole nine yards. By the time I found her she was just curled up and crying beside a trashcan.
The worst part is, even though the police tried really hard, they were unable to find the guy who tried to carry her off. My friend is mortified at the idea of walking around in any town now, this really shook her up, even so long afterwards.
It’s that time of week again! Let’s learn what our different Hollaback! sites have been up to this week…
At the Mothership…
Interns Maya and Sarah attended the NY premiere of the documentary “Anita” and got to meet Anita Hill after the show! Hollaback!, our work, and Emily were featured in the film as well!
Program Associate Jae Cameron and Emily attended the Morgan Stanley Challenge, where our team of pro-bono Morgan Stanley employees went head to head with other organizations. Our team didn’t officially end, but they won our hearts.
Hollaback! Around the World…
Hollaback! Belfast participated in “Feminist Fairytales” as a part of the anti-G8 demonstrations happening in Northern Ireland! The event was called “Folk the G8.”
Hollaback! Czech Republic‘s Gail Whitmore performed for the first ever International Women’s Conference in the Czech Republic.
This morning, traveling on the bus to work, in Brisbane’s inner northside, I had an odd and unnerving experience. I was seated in the front of the bus, in the wheelchair-accessible area where the seats face each other across the aisle. As I sat reading, I would look up occasionally to see where we were at. I also noticed the man directly opposite me staring. EVERY. TIME. He would avert his eyes when I looked at him. Now, I am used to catching the attention of others, as I dress and do my hair in the 1940s-1950s style so I did not pay much attention to this.
What DID catch my attention is when the flash of his mobile phone went off. It caught the attention of the lady next to me too and probably some other passengers. I looked up and saw that he was holding his phone on his knees and aiming it directly at me. I looked pointedly at him and all of a sudden he is so engrossed in his phone that he is no longer making eye contact with me. His behaviour indicated to me that this wasn’t an accidental knock of his camera.
I knew my stop was coming up so I got up and stood in the aisle and peeked over his phone. He was obviously on some kind of social media/photo-sharing program – possibly Instagram but I’m not sure. I was indignant. How dare this stranger take a photo of me, uninvited AND upload my image without my permission?! I am used to being stopped in the street for photos and to discuss my attire, and will generally oblige as most people are respectful and polite. But this guy? He was covert and secretive about it and it made his intent appear very creepy and weird.
Before I got off the bus, I leant over him and said politely, “Most people have the manners to ask to take my photograph.” He just hunched up and shook his head as if denying what he had just done. I wish I had been quicker of wit and returned the favour by taking my own photo of him.
I was walking around on Long St. during a sunny afternoon the last day of my 3 month stint in the beautiful country of South Africa. I’d just had a minor operation done, and was enjoying the sunny day. I’m 21, walking on the side-walk minding my own business. I felt someone walking behind me. There was a man, probably 300 feet behind me, walking. For some reason, I had the urge to look behind me… but it seemed normal, I brushed off my intuition. A few seconds later, he ran up behind me, grabbed my bottom, between my legs and bottom, and ran off. I was stunned. I didn’t know if I ought to yell, scream, chase him down, stop, cry, what do I do? I was stunned. I didn’t do anything. I paused for a moment, attempted to digest what happened, scoffed, and kept walking. I was wearing a dress, I was on my period, I felt violated, I was violated. What gave him the right to touch me? What went through his head that made it seem as though that’s okay?
I didn’t tell many people because I didn’t know how I felt about it. I didn’t want people to overreact, I’d dealt with it. I’m okay with it. It happened, it’s over, it doesn’t make me who I am, it doesn’t take away from who I am. It happened, and it’s over. I’m not mad. I’m not sad. I am free, and free from that experience as well.
LGBT STREET HARASSMENT: A THREAT TO PHYSICAL SAFETY
“Faggot!” (Just ignore them.) “HEY! FAGGOTS!!” (Ok. I guess we should have known better, we shouldn’t be kissing outside.) “I like your watch, fag.” (Please don’t take my watch. Uh oh, they got his phone already! Where did all these other guys come from?)
My friend Rob recently told me how he was street harassed in France last year. A group of men targeted him with antigay slurs, and then immediately escalated into physically attacking Rob, hitting him on the back of his head and trying to pull his watch off of his wrist.
Unfortunately, this is a common pattern, because all forms of street harassment are a type of violence. For people who think it’s alright to invade another’s space with verbal street harassment, it can be a short step to a physical street harassment attack. What do these different types of attacks have in common? They all serve the purpose of making the target feel scared or uncomfortable, and making the harasser feel powerful. Street harassment is about intimidation— putting someone “in their place.”
Many LGBT people have experienced street harassment based on how their sexual orientation or gender is perceived. When an LGBT individual is harassed in this way, the harasser’s message is clear: “You don’t belong here, and this is not your street. I can enter into your space and deny your safety, because you do not fit my personal expectation of sexual orientation/gender.” This denial of the right to exist in public space is directly related to the physical safety of LGBT people.
In New York City, we have seen a scary rise in gay bias-related crimes in 2013, all beginning with street harassment. There was a murder in Greenwich Village earlier this earlier this year, as well as several additional attacks. These hate crimes impact the entire community, laying out a blanket of ever-present discomfort and anxiety. As Jae Cameron of Hollaback! described it,
just as I begin to shake off that sense of self-consciousness and dread that follows me into public spaces, I hear it….just what I’ve been expecting, a shout from the other end of the bar, “sweet, lesbians!”, followed by the usual personal space violation and an unrequested “can I join in?”
The good news is that you can help your public spaces be more LGBT safe. One way you can do this is to take the bystander pledge, and learn how to safely intervene when you see harassment happening. Feeling energetic? Join us in this year’s pride parade – we will have streamers! Let’s make our streets safe and fun for everyone.
I’m older now but I was about 10 or 11 and my friend and I were trick or treating one Halloween around our small town with her sister and her friends. My friend and I went a different direction from the rest of the group and decided to meet back at her house, and being a small town which we knew our way around and with a lot of people around; we felt pretty safe.
We were on our way back to my friends house and walking through a neighborhood where most the houses were closed to trick-or-treaters. We walked past this really old, falling apart, shabby house that was the only one on the block with 5 foot high chain link fence surrounded the front yard. An older man (about 60s or 70s) was sitting in a chair on his porch.
We were just going to walk past his house when he called out to us. Being quite young and curious, we stopped to hear what he had to say as he walked towards the edge of his fence to us.
I remember specifically him saying, “Pretty cold out huh?” (Being Halloween in Colorado, it was) and it was at this point where I started to get a really weird vibe off of him. We said yes. Then he proceeded to tell us that he just made some hot chocolate and wanted us to “come on in and drink some to warm up.” And I politely said, “No thank you, we’re just on our way back home.”
He promptly told us that he “like our costumes” and they “looked really cute on us”. My friend by then had gone pretty silent so I told the creepy old guy (who was know leaning over his fence to get closer to us) “thanks, but we really should get going.”
He then started to open the gate to and told us he could walk us home because “you never know what weirdos could be out on Halloween night”. And I politely turned him down and said her house wasn’t too far away. Before he could protest, I grabbed my friends arm and we almost ran down the street.
I’m 16 now it still scares me to walk past his house.
Lets start out by saying that I am 18, and the friends I was with were 17 and 19 and I personally look to be around the age of 15. We were watching street performers at the 16th Street Mall one day when a group of men much older than ourselves walked by. I’m very observant and enjoy watching people so I was looking at them and happened to make eye contact with one of the men. He then gave me a dirty look and turned his head almost as if I was wrong for meeting his eyes. About fifteen minutes later when my friends and I had moved on and began looking for more shops the men came up behind us. My friend, who seemed obviously distressed, asked me if I could hear what they had said. It turns out, that despite them being at least six years our senior, they had made inappropriate comments about my friends short skirt and boots, my tight jeans, and my other friends tank top and shorts. I think it goes without saying I was uncomfortable and a little angry as were both of my friends. None of us were dressed inappropriately for an eighty-some-odd degree day in Denver. The fact that we received several cat-calls and offensive comments about us made me realize that street harassment needs to stop, if only I had had the wits about me to say something to them at at the time.
This is my daughter’s story. When she was 18 she visited Israel with her senior class at her school. Before they left for the Middle East she was told that they all needed to “blend in” as best they could. They needed to wear extremely modest clothing. She is a very light-haired natural blonde, with blue eyes and a very large bust. As they moved through the Arab Market in Jerusalem, she began to hear what she decided was jeering. It was directed at her. The men in the market were following her and throwing large-sized shirts at her (even though she had a loose-fitting, long-sleeved, shirt on;very modest.) She had no choice but to put on the extra shirts because, clearly, she was not covered up enough for them. She was embarrassed and scared. At the same time, these same men were asking to marry her. Making kissing noises and laughing. She was mortified.
I was coming home from a gig at around 1am and there was a car parked next to a bus stop. I didn’t pay much attention to it but as i passed it the guy started driving and asked if i was on business. My immediate answer was “no, sorry”. And as i said it i felt so stupid, why did i put that “sorry” in there, i do hope it’s just because of living in UK the last couple of years and everyone being quite polite and not because some strange subconscious psychological need to apologise for not being a prostitute and leaving the guy unsatisfied, because that would really be sick. This happened yesterday but i still feel kinda dirty, i guess thats the word, why would he even think that i do that. Yes, i admit it, someone assuming i was a prostitute makes me feel bad. No, i have nothing against prostitutes. There is a positive side to this though. I was wearing flat boots, jeans, t’shirt and a cardigan, so yeah, dressed extremely casually, yet got asked the question i got asked. So, those people who think that girls get harassed because they ask for it by wearing a sexy dress and accordingly can be blamed for it themselves, know nothing. I’ve had more unpleasant experiences when im not showing any skin at all than when i am.