Athens GA, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Denver, Des Moines, Duke University, NC, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Flagstaff, AZ, Houston, Iowa City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Lubbock TX, Manhattan KS, Muncie IN, New Orleans, New York City, Oneonta, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Providence, Richmond VA, San Fernando Valley, San Francisco, Twin Cities, West Georgia (University)
First I should explain myself and how I’ve come to realize unwanted attention is not OK. I live in the South, where ladies are said to be gentle, and I know they put up with a lot of crap. My mother always loved unwanted attention from men, she flirted back and fed off of it.
I myself am much more modest and uncomfortable with such encounters. I grew up thinking it was OK for the attention and that I should bask in it and consider it a validation of my attractiveness and womanhood.
Fast forward to present day. My sister and I decide to go out one weekend for drinks and dancing with our Dad. Two men join our table that dad knows from the bar he frequents. They seem harmless enough, but one constantly lies to me about his age and agonizingly comments on how beautiful I am. No conversation had.
Dad leaves, my sister and I decide to dance, leaving said men at the table. All of a sudden the guy who lies about his age comes up behind me and starts dancing. (Note: I hate dancing with dudes. It’s gross). I try to move away and he immediately smacks my ass. It’s over, but I’m enraged. I give him a verbal lashing how that is never OK and force him to apologize. Although I did get an apology, I have a feeling he didn’t get the message.
On June 23 around 9 p.m., I was at my job supervising an outdoor volleyball game on campus. When I was on my way back to the game after taking a bathroom break, I had to go through an alley to get to the other side of the street. A man said hi to me as I was exiting that alley. I was nervous because he seemed sketchy, but I quickly replied hi to avoid a nasty response and kept walking. He then asked me where I was from, and when I ignored him and crossed the street, he kept shouting at me trying to guess.Then he mumbled something I couldn’t make out. I normally feel very safe on my campus, even at night. However being harassed near a dark alley when I’m just trying to do my job and mind my own business shook me up. Even though I know harassment isn’t acceptable not matter a woman’s appearance, I certainly didn’t expect to be harassed while I was wearing my uniform.
I was walking home at night the other day. I saw a group of men in their seventies who said, “Hello, beautiful.” I’m a seventeen year old girl who didn’t know them at all, so I thought they might have seen someone they knew. But no, those seventy year old men were talking to me, and since I hadn’t answered them the first time, they just came closer and started saying, “Hey, beautiful, hello!” louder. Since they kept getting closer and wouldn’t stop, I eventually said, “Hello” and then went away as fast as I could.
I just can’t understand how those men thought they were complimenting me. I just can’t understand why a group of seventy year old men would harass a teenager and think that’s perfectly fine.
I have probably gained about 8-10 pounds since the holidays, so I am just now getting back into working out, running, and just becoming healthier in general. After the gym one day I came straight back to my house. This was on a particularly hot day (I live in Savannah, GA where it can easily reach temperatures in the 100s), so I was wearing a tight (thanks to my 8-10 lbs) pair of soffe shorts and a loose tank top. As I was just approaching my door a group of middle aged men in a white pick up truck stopped right out side of my door. They proceeded to scream loudly, making harassing comments about my body. I could not unlock my door fast enough. As soon as I got in my house I did not want to leave for the rest of the night.
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