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I was in Paris for Easter. It was early afternoon, I was walking back to my hotel, which was in a very posh neighborhood, a group of two boys and two girls were walking in the opposite direction of the same sidewalk. They were about 13 to 14 years old. The idea of any harassment wouldn’t have crossed my mind at all, I barely paid attention to them, which made it even worse. As I was about to pass them, one of the boys grabbed me out of nothing in between my legs, the other one slapped my butt. After that, they just casually proceeded in their walk while screaming laughing, including the two girls.
As an adult, who thinks of herself as a strong woman, I was caught off guard, not knowing what to do, hating myself for not doing anything, at least a slap might have done after all. Even though I already got used to whistling, being hauled, forced into conversations, etc. I was defenseless at this point, kept wondering what made them do it, and was alarmed by the fact that a kid might be a possible threat to me. However, I mostly regretted all those women around these two boys, be it their sisters, mothers, friends or future girlfriends and wives.
I don’t have a single story. I have tons of stories. Growing up I learned not to take walks, to never acknowledge people, and pretend to talk on the phone (with 911 already dialed).
I began riding a bike for exercise, as I receive less comments and gestures, although they still happen.
The most recent was when a car came up right alongside me, a man leaned out and seemed to try and grab me while yelling “HEY B****!!!” I wasn’t sure what to do, so I kept going and thankfully another car came up, so he had to go back in his lane.
I’ve had people make offers for me to sell my body, as if I were on auction. I’ve had people call me names, whistle, etc. In one walk I could have four incidents. I stopped walking to church, because it got too uncomfortable and someone would follow me consistently.
When I go out with my male friend, it is so NICE not to have the comments or be on guard as much. I was shocked the first time walking around the city with him how NO ONE tired anything. It makes me want to have an escort all the time. Which is extremely sad.
I’ve become to expect the harassment, and am pleasantly surprised when I don’t receive any. However, most of the time I get at least some. I don’t even bring up all the incidents to people, cause I know they will think they aren’t a big deal, but they ARE a big deal.
I wish I knew of a SAFE way of telling the jerks that it is NOT okay. However, I try not to engage, because I don’t want it to escalate.
While I was exploring BaoBao Bakery in Chinatown in broad daylight with friends, a middle-aged elderly man groped my butt twice in the middle of the store, first as a “tester” brush to see how I would react and then a later, stronger touch when my confusion at the first contact did not result in negative consequences. At the time, I was not sure whether the crowdedness of the store was what had caused the touches and whether they had been honest mistakes. Looking back, though, I realized the man could have easily grabbed the breads without touching my butt the way he did.
Instead of suffering in silence, I have decided to Hollaback! by posting this story. I had not taken a picture of my harasser but wish I did. This incident happened in Boston Chinatown, and I am not sure if the man spoke English. I don’t think potential language barriers should prevent women from hollering back – in whatever language they choose – and publicly denouncing their harassers for their behavior. If anything like this happens again, I will not hesitate to Hollaback!
Note: BaoBao Bakery does not deserve special blame. It merely was the location I was in at the time of this incident.
I was maybe eleven or twelve? Either way I was very young and very innocent. I hadn’t properly hit puberty yet and I wasn’t in any way old for my age. In short, I was just a kid. I was walking home by the local shops, right in front of Mcdonalds when a man (35? 40?)hissed “You’re looking great, sweetie, I want you” or words to that effect. I freaked out and ran home, crying, where some friends saw me in the park. I cried and explained what had happened and my girlfriends soothed me and organised a lift home for me. That was upsetting, but not as upsetting as the reaction the next few days. People would come up to me, curiously asking if I had been raped, because that was what they had heard from a friend who heard from a friend who said they were there. Some boys came up to me, teasing me about my older lover. I saw the man again, a few weeks later, and he smirked at me and wiggled his finger for me to come closer. Thankfully I was with a friend and we kept walking until we were out of sight, where I called the police. It was probably the scariest encounter with street harassment in my life, maybe because of my age.
03/05/14 about midday I was walking through Primrose Hill park and two creepy guys lounging on a bench started wolf whistling at me in front of loads of families and kids, I was so angry and frustrated.
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.