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First off: this isn’t about a particular incident, but rather about the sum total of incidents that have happened to me lately and the way many people (not only men) react when i tell them about being harassed.
When I moved to Spain about five months ago, I was shocked about how frequently I got catcalled, even though I thought I knew the country well enough to be prepared. I wasn’t prepared. A month into my stay, I was completely and utterly sick of it, and as a foreigner with a noticeable accent in the local language, I found it hard to bring up the courage to say something to make them stop. I started taking notes instead. Ever since, I have been carefully registering every single man who invaded my space with the date, location, and what was said and/or done. This is how I know that in the past four months I have been harassed by men more than 30 times. Most of the incidents were verbal and harmless in nature when taken for themselves (like passers-by saying “Hola guapa”–“hello pretty”–and then turning away). But there have also been others–men trying to physically block my way, men moaning and breathing into my ear or making kissing sounds, men calling me a whore and commenting on my butt while walking behind me. On my worst day, I counted four independent incidents–and I was only out in public for 40 minutes total that day.
When I mention being harassed, others (men and women and all nationalities alike) often defend the harassers, saying things like, “It doesn’t really happen THAT often” or “Your fault for moving to Spain” or “I told you you shouldn’t have rented a place in that particular part of town.” I can’t even express how sick I am of hearing this.
FIRST: YES, IT DOES HAPPEN THAT OFTEN. I know because I am experiencing it, and it has been bothering me so much that I felt forced to keep track of it in writing. If you think that being harassed 30 times in 4 months is acceptable, you should probably seek professional help. And even if it didn’t happen that often (or effectively doesn’t in other places), how does that make it any more acceptable when it does happen? SECOND: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A COUNTRY OR A PART OF TOWN WHERE STREET HARASSMENT IS SIMPLY TO BE TOLERATED. I like where I live just fine. I would just like to be able to walk to the supermarket without having people honking, yelling, or whistling at me, and no, this is not asking too much. I am not doing anything wrong by living here. The harassers are doing things wrong by harassing women who live here.
I would like to finish this on a good note, so I’ll say that keeping records of all the men who have harassed me has really helped me to see that I have more than enough reason to complain, and more, it has given me the confidence to holler back. Yesterday, when a particularly invasive harasser told me repeatedly how “guapa” he thought I was, I told him firmly that nobody asked his opinion. It shut him up, and an elderly man walking in front of me who had overheard both the cat-calling and my reply gave me a smile, congratulating me for my response. This time, I won. And next time, I will win again.
I was looking at shampoo at Walmart one day. It was above 90 degrees outside, so I was wearing shorts and a t-shirt. I was facing the shampoo display, reading if it had the right ingredients in it, when a group of 5 guys came behind me and closed me in. They didn’t say anything, but I could feel them looking me up and down and getting closer. My dad walked around the corner of the aisle and scared them all off. If I hadn’t been there with him, I may have been groped or worse.
I am a 20-something living and working abroad.I live in a small village and must travel to a neighboring city to shop for food. Every time I go to this city I am hollered at in multiple languages and men make kissy noises at me. I have been followed on numerous occasions and grabbed by strange men a few times. I am in public areas during the day where other people see this happen, and no one does anything. No one says a word when I am running down the street from a man who keeps grabbing me and “wants to just talk.” Locals laugh it off as “well of course, you are foreign and they want to get papers.”
The organization I work for tells me not to travel alone and to just ignore it. I hate feeling afraid and having no allies near me to help me in this situation. I hate that I cannot have any kind of relationship or even a simple conversation with a man without him thinking I want to have sex with him. I have a male friend who lives a few hours from me and has offered to come shopping with me to hopefully reduce the amount of harassment, but I do not want to have to have a man with me for other men to leave me alone. I just want to be able to get food and go places on my own and not be afraid.
I was walking down the street at 2am. I was in the middle of London, which can feel like a really huge place when you’re walking by yourself late at night. I wasn’t wearing anything particularly racy (though of course that’s no excuse for harassment); black dress, black tights and a sweater. I was just trying to find a bus home.
As I was walking along (I’m a pretty fast walker), I realised I was catching up with three pretty huge guys. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I was instantly on alert, as I’ve had men catcall me before, usually when they’re in groups of two or more.
The one in the middle suddenly turned his head to look behind him and saw me. Then the other two looked behind them. The one in the middle nudged the guy on the right, who I distinctly heard say, “No, no…” I knew I’d have to just walk right through them. But as I caught up with them, the one in the middle started speaking to me. He said, “Hola.” I ignored him. He said something else in Spanish. I said, “What?” Then he said, “Oh, you don’t speak English?” I know, I didn’t get it either. I clearly and loudly responded “No, I don’t” and marched away as quickly as I could away from them.
It’s not a particularly dramatic or awful story, but as I was completely alone at night and outnumbered, it would definitely have been easy for someone to overpower me. I was extremely frightened. Even more so when someone did try and engage with me.
A second guy that night, in the middle of a Burger King, which I went into to ask directions, saw me, gave me a weird smile, and said “Hi.” before walking away, as if he knew me or something. Not a particularly terrible encounter either, but to be honest, I don’t want ANYONE talking to me when I’m in the middle of a city at 2am and I’m completely alone. It makes me frightened and uncomfortable. I was relieved when I finally got home knowing I’d made it in one piece.
I decided I wanted to go to a nearby mall to visit the bookstore, so I decided to walk to be healthy and save some money. On my way I first got stared at by a man in a large truck who even stared back at me once he passed me. After someone from their car called at me to get off my phone and pay attention to him, I called a friend to talk to on the way since I got a little scared. Finally someone whistled at me, and on top of this I saw the same bumblebee car four times in the short twenty minute walk. I became very scared and called a friend to meet me, and she gave me a ride home. I didn’t feel safe walking to the bookstore, and I don’t think that’s right at all.
At the mothership, we hosted a workshop to find creative ideas to improve the NYPD’s approach to subway harassment.
Here’s what HOLLAs all around the world have been up to:
Hollaback! Appalachian Ohio hosted a super rad Screening and Screen Printing Party. Not only did they screen the new Wonder Woman documentary, they also created some cool anti-street harassment memorabilia. They also did two screenings of the film Tough Guise for the women currently incarcerated at Southeast Ohio Regional Jail! Super cool, guys!
Hollaback! Twin Cities led their first sexual harassment with staff at the local DV/SA, and it went super well!
Hollaback! Ottawa co-hosted an amazing, creative workshop called Collective Spaces, where participants learned more about street harassment while working together to create a moveable mural that will be featured at various college campus around the area.
Keep up the amazing work! Til next time-
HOLLA and out!
-The Hollaback Team
I was standing outside a greyhound bus stop, waiting to be picked up by my friend. I saw men staring at me, but I stared right back. Then a woman walked by in jeans and a t-shirt & the man near me says, “Hey baby girl” while staring at her like she was his first meal after being starved for weeks. She turned around, gave him a disgusted look, and walked away. I didn’t know what to say, my feminist self was seething. I looked at him & just shook my head. He seemed oblivious to what he did.
I often experience catcalling and obscene gestures either from people in cars passing or people who walk by me along this road… The worst thing is it’s the road I take to get to work at times.
He was possibly being “friendly” but a man who seemed to be middle aged grabbed me on the shoulder without my permission, and it left me feeling very uncomfortable when walking towards Christ Meadow.
The above link is not my story, but the story of another woman…similar to stories everywhere, including my own. The injustice. The shame. The embarrassment. The rage.
I was cursed with beauty and in my youth and had dozens of my own experiences: sexual harassment and assault, cat calls, blatant staring at my breasts or crotch, whistles, honking, men masturbating in public near me, etc. I’m thankful to be middle-aged now–I am almost invisible.
I saw a post on FB today: When a man is raped, no one talks about what he was wearing.