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I was standing outside a club waiting for a cab, when two men in suits pass by. One taps me on the side, near my breast, and says “hey beautiful.” I point at him and shout, “Hey! You! Don’t touch me! Don’t touch women on the street!” He kept saying “I didn’t touch you, I didn’t touch you,” (my response: “yes you did, asshole!”) as I pointed him out to a completely apathetic crowd. There were even cops nearby, and they did nothing. Nobody even seemed to notice at all.
I grew up in a small town of 1500 people, it wasn’t really an everyone knows everyone kind of place, or if it was I didn’t notice because my family minded our own business for the most part and didn’t do much socially in town. I was maybe seventeen and I was pumping gas at the only gas station we had. It was spring I think, I was wearing a pink top with short sleeves and jeans and a grey jacket. It was warm out so I started taking my jacket off when some guys sped past me down the main street and shouted “Ow!” out their car window at me. I had my back to them but I didn’t turn around because I was sure it was just some high school jerks making fun of me. I didn’t feel like I was attractive enough to merit an “Ow!” just for taking my jacket off so they must have been making fun of me. I didn’t turn around because I wanted them to think I didn’t heard them, I didn’t want to give them any satisfaction, not that it mattered, they had already driven away. It didn’t upset me too bad at the time, I didn’t feel like I was a particularly pretty girl back then but I wasn’t really bothered by my plainness. I didn’t feel demeaned or harassed, some guy was being a jerk and then he was gone, that’s all. I didn’t know I’d remember it forever as the first of many catcalls I would hear over the next decade or so but that’s how I think of it now. As an introductory lesson to gritting my teeth and ignoring the harassment I would soon experience on a regular basis. It didn’t start for me in the big city, walking near a construction site in a short skirt, or running in the park in a tank top. It was a small town of 1500 people and I was taking my jacket off.
I was nineteen and I had an apartment in the city about a half hour from home. It was my first place of my own and I loved living alone, I have always craved independence. I didn’t know a lot of my neighbors, I kept to myself. One day I was walking to the mailbox, just about five minutes from my front door. I was wearing jeans and a purple shirt with short sleeves and a flower embroidered over the left shoulder. A car went by me driving too fast, and a middle aged person (I can’t bring myself to call him a man because he isn’t one) put his head out the passenger window and bellowed at me “Whoo! Hey, girl! Look at them titties!” I was nineteen. I was a teenager and a middle aged person had just loudly and publicly commented on my breasts in the rudest, grossest way possible. I didn’t ignore him, I couldn’t, I turned and watched the cowards speed away. I was just shocked. I wanted to put a rock through their window. I couldn’t. They were gone. There was nothing I could do. Its been ten years and I still think of that day, that guy, the thing he said to me, how I wanted to call him out, hurt him, break his car. How even if he hadn’t sped away I wouldn’t have done any of those things. I would have turned my back, gone home. I was nineteen and he was bigger than me and scary. I was a few steps from my mailbox, there was a man there checking his mail. He said “That wasn’t very polite.” No it wasn’t. I was so embarrassed. I agree, “Yeah”, I said. I went home.
I was twenty seven and had lived and traveled around and pretty much heard it all. The honking horns, the drive by shoutings, on the street, on the bus, on my bike, strange men commenting, hollering, commanding, Hey girl, hey beautiful, you’re gorgeous, nice dress, smile, smile, smile, nice tits, nice legs, smile, you’re hot, where you going, wow, smile, where you going, I’ll take you, sweetheart, baby, shorty, great body, smile, honey. And I’ve been ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore, for years I’m ignoring. FOR YEARS I’m ignoring. But this one day, this one guy, this one fucking guy really put me over the edge. I was walking to the bus stop, I was in a good mood. I had injured my leg a few weeks before and was finally off crutches and happy to be walking again. It was daytime on a moderately busy street and I was crossing when a truck stopped, he was friendly. “Where are you going? I’ll drive you.” I was friendly, too. “No thanks, I’m not going far.” I was wearing a yellow tank top with denim shorts and sunglasses. I passed by his truck, I was walking away. He said “Your tits really bounce when you walk.” My middle finger shot up over my shoulder without missing a beat, without turning around. I’ve heard this shit before, asshole, you’re not ruining my day. I was walking away. He said sarcastically, angrily, “Yeah, I was really gonna rape you in the ass.” I was walking away. It was daytime, I wasn’t scared but I was mad. What if this wasn’t a busy street on a sunny day? What if it was dark and empty? Then I might have gotten in that car, I might have been put in that car. The anger in that person’s voice because I didn’t get in his car, it was like I had robbed him of something he deserved. I will never forget his rage, his childishness, his entitlement. He wasn’t my first harasser or my last but he sure gave me something to remember him by. I told some friends, I never forgot, I found some support, found some women like me, I found out that most women are like me but a lot have it worse. I found out I’m done ignoring and I’m looking for solutions.
I was twenty eight, I was walking home, the ATM wasn’t working, I was frustrated. I was wearing a jean skirt and striped yellow halter top, I was sweaty and gross. A truck went by, honked his horn at me and turned into the gas station across the street. Not today, guy. Not today. I barely waited for traffic to let up before I crossed and made a beeline for the red pickup. He was watching me approach, I don’t know if he was happy or scared to see me coming at him. “Hey, did you just honk your horn at me?” He got really flustered. “I was just saying hello.” he said ” You’re very pretty,” I told him that’s not a nice way to say hello, that its so rude, I should be able to walk from here to there without hearing that. He was apologetic, embarrassed. I felt a little bad after, it isn’t his fault no one ever told him women are people and deserve to be respected, not honked at. Then I got mad at myself for feeling bad because a grown up person should know better and it is his fault. That was the first time I ever confronted a harasser but not the last. I wish I could say I had confronted all of the ones that came after red pick up truck guy but I haven’t. Most of them drive away, a lot of them are bigger than me, I’m almost always alone when it happens. I flip people off more than any other small town girl I know. Sometimes I ignore still. But if I feel safe enough, if they stay in the area I try to call them out as much as possible. Maybe some of them will listen and one less woman or girl will have to endure one less holler. Or maybe it just makes me feel better. Whatever, fuck these guys.
Yesterday, I’m twenty nine, riding the train, a drunk man is talking a woman, asking her if she has a boyfriend and when she’s going to dump him. He asks to sit next to her but she says she’s getting off the train. I wonder if that’s her real stop or if she’d rather walk than sit next to this guy. After she leaves he slurs a conversation with another young woman who is being more polite than I would. When its his stop he puts a hand out for her to shake and when she gives him hers he brings it up to his lips and kisses it and then rubs her head like she’s a dog before he exits. She looks a little shaken, runs her fingers through her hair and moves to my side of the train. I feel guilty, I should have said something to him, told him to leave her alone, spoken up because she wouldn’t or couldn’t. She looks troubled, I wonder if this is the guy she will never forget. That she’ll think about, get angry about, wish she would have told him to fuck off, wonder if he would have hit her if she did. He was a foot and a half taller than her and large and drunk in the afternoon. I don’t think I’ll forget her. I get off the train and man asks me for a lighter, I don’t have one, sorry, as I’m walking away he tells me I have an impeccable body. I’m wearing a white t shirt and shorts. I tell him he needs to keep those comments to himself, that it isn’t nice constantly hear things like that every time I leave the house. He’s confused, I walk away.
I just moved into a new apartment with my husband next to one of the gates that leads into a Naval Academy, a place that is supposed to produce strong, respectful trained military officers (that’s right; daddy’s money helps you skip boot camp altogether and you get to go in commanding guys who have more experience than you could ever hope to have… but I digress).
Currently there is construction going on at another gate and apparently a Naval Academy thinks that entitles them to set up a Militarized check point directly in front of my apartment giving whoever is posted at the checkpoint full view into my bedroom and bathroom (historical apartments have windows in the shower to stave off mold).
This ‘post’ violates all sorts of privacy laws just by it being there. But to add to the fuckery of it all; the 20 yr old military police officers (Or as I refer to them, Child Soldiers)know they have full view of my apartment and found it funny to attempt to ‘Peep’ in my shower while I was in it. And those antics are adding to the menacing manner in which they were responding to any private citizens questions (including asking where Non military residents were headed and demanding they produce Identification)
After a week of me pushing back as much as I could, complaining to higher ranked officers and receiving nothing in return I decided to make a few phone calls. I got in touch with the Child Soldiers superiors and was told by [FEMALE officer] “Ma’am, I’m not sure why you not having your curtains closed is our problem” and I had to respond with “Ma’am, I believe having a person posted outside my (who gives a fuck what state of closure they’re in) curtains who thinks it’s funny to look in people showers; which is against the law no matter who it is, IS your problem” I was then transferred to the head of Naval Academy security who did not answer the phone (how unexpected).
After this infuriating interaction I decided to call Annapolis City Planning and Public Works.
I had a wonderful conversation with a person in Public Works who agreed that all of their behavior was beyond out of line and that the city of Annapolis and the Mayors office would be in touch with Naval Academy Security to put pressure on them to act accordingly.
Hours after, I (finally) received a call back from the head of security and when I informed him that I’d taken care of it already he paused slightly then said “Yes, we’ve heard from both City Planning and the Mayors Office, we’ve been corresponding with both of them today” I very politely replied “So then you know all about it and there’d be no need for me to reiterate, wonderful”. He seemed a bit uneasy, said that I should keep his contact info for any future problems and hung up.
This doesn’t make me feel any better because there is still a woman who is a security officer at the Naval Academy who thinks that victim shaming is appropriate.
[The picture attached is the view from my window]
Happy Friday Hollaback!’ers,
At the Mothership, DD, Debjani Roy, hosted the first meeting of the newly launched people of color leadership pipeline with our awesome site leaders.
ED, Emily May attended and delivered a lightning talk at the ONA Conference in Chicago.
And in HB site land…
Hollaback! Boston hosted their first back-to-school Take Back The Bar Boston event, as well as the first support group meeting with a focus on post-harassment self-care. They were also featured in a CBS segment on food shaming!
Hollaback! Appalachian Ohio completed a series of 4 45-minute workshops on sexual assault prevention with 23 8th graders at Vinton Middle School.
Hollaback! Twin Cities tabled at a spoken word and music event about street harassment resulting in great conversations.
Great job this week, team!
HOLLA and out!
– The Hollaback! Staff
I’d gone to the store and found myself going out of my way for half an hour to avoid a man that had been following close behind me. He still waited until I had to walk home, then attempted to follow me there. It wasn’t until I looked him in the face and asked if I could help him that he finally stopped.
I was sort of in a rush to school I just left my apartment literally on the same block! I was turning on my iPhone to listen to music. This man that I glanced at was walking towards me, and I was on the left side of the street and he was on the right, and I noticed him sort of walking in my way, therefore I even moved more to the left side. His leg rose and he kicked my bag! With about medium strength! Hard enough that it left a mark on my bag! I was seriously in disbelief! And he kept walking. I stopped and looked back and yelled “HEY! WHAT THE HELL MAN!”
I have zero tolerance for anyone who makes overtly sexual comments to woman, especially if they don’t know them, however like most of us I guess I used to feel that bowing my head and not saying anything was helping me.
It wasn’t and it wasn’t helping them realize their idiotic ways either.
So on my usual trip home I encountered the same general comments on a section home near the local pub… no surprises there. However this time I decided to comment back…
Mid 40’s Creep: “Hey looking good, all you need now is a smile!”
Although I would have usually kept walking I turned and I said “And all you need is to loose the creepy attitude, but have a nice day…” With a gigantic smile on my face that screamed sarcasm and my middle finger raised high.
I got called a bitch after saying it… And again I turned and said “Well maybe if you weren’t such a disrespectful asshole I wouldn’t need to be. Now have a lovely lonely evening sir.” Again with the biggest smile I could.
He didn’t know what hit him…
Proudest Moment Ever!!!! Gonna do this from now on… Smiles and Sarcasm seemed to work against these brainless creeps.
I was walking across the USC campus parking lot in the middle of the day when a middle-aged man called to me from the sidewalk. He was standing with a parking guard. He said, “Excuse me, young lady, aren’t you going to say hi to two handsome men?”, gesturing to the guard and himself. They were both smirking. I smiled and kept walking and he called after me, “That’s better, sweetheart.”
It doesn’t matter where or you are, if you are not “controlled” by men, they feel the need to establish their power. What they don’t realize is, that makes them all the more powerless.
Was walking thru Times Square after work at 11pm Saturday Sept 20, looking down texting my boyfriend (not that it should matter but I was wearing somewhat baggy jeans and a blousy three quarter length Tshirt) when an apparent comedy club ticket seller with no teeth (short guy in a black hat and suit jacket) shouted at me “Hey you should smile!” And I flipped around and told him no thank you he continued talking saying he was a comedian and wanted “me” to smile.
Then a block later on 46th and 7th a guy standing in a group of two guys and a girl at a hot dog stand, repeatedly yelled to me “hey miss! Hey miss!”. I ignored him thinking he either wasn’t talking to me and if he was I wasn’t about to entertain him. He then yelled “hey BITCH!” I stopped , turned around, glared at him and said excuse me!? He laughed in my face, as well as the other two guys and girl while he bragged to them “told you she’d turn around”. I was so angry and shocked I just continued on my way home.
Catcalled by a boy, about 8, who was congratulated by his father.