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I’m a law intern and my friend and I, both girls, dressed professionally, were shadowing a judge in the municipal court today. During the ten-minute recess, we both went to the bathroom, passing through the large marble atrium on our way. Two men were leaning on a railing as we passed; one of them said “Sexy, sexy” to us, and the other “Yum, yum,” and other indistinguishable grunts as we passed them.
I’m sharing this story precisely because it is not shocking. I think it should be shocking. I was too shocked to respond. We are desensitized to this behavior and have come to expect it; my goal is to question that expectation and that passivity.
Last night, Hollaback! interns Maya and Sarah (that’s us!) spent the evening at The Hatchery’s Women’s Leadership Summit: Empowering Women Forward. It was a night that celebrated all its title would suggest and expressed the importance of women in leadership roles and how to empower one another to reach our goals.
In conversation with the speakers before they took stage, one theme seemed to rule the conversation– the obstacles and challenges in our world that have been left untouched. As part of the movement to end “street what?” we thought that this idea certainly applied to Hollaback! There are moments when tackling street harassment does sometimes feel like a “no one else is doing it” kind of project. From our conversation last night and from the stories that you have shared with Hollaback! about your own experiences of street harassment, we were reminded that it is often those causes that seem least known that are the most important to discuss.
Fortunately for us, this “street what?” is becoming less and less common. The internet has allowed us to connect our incredibly isolating incidences in a way that holla’s back against our harassers. As Yao-Hui Huang, founder of The Hatchery, said to kick off last night’s events, “It’s time to talk about power.”
It is time to talk about the power to stand up for yourself. It is time to talk about the power to respond to your harasser. And it is time to talk about how you can take back the power by telling a story, taking a photo, or standing up for a stranger in need of bystander intervention.
These are the powers we have to combat street harassment. And damnit, we’re going to use them. You go, holla-people!
-Sarah & Maya
I love riding my bike, I use it as transportation as often as I can. Riding home last night around 10p.m. a car driving the opposite direction slowed down and stared at me as he passed. I glared back. He proceeded to turn around, and follow slowly behind me, in the bike lane. I saw someone I know walking and slowed and pulled to the curb to talk with him. The car turned off on a side street. Annoying as hell. I love riding my bike. I hate harassment, and it happens every time, from catcalling, to following.
I was on my way to work this morning, and was mentally steeling my resolve and “don’t talk to me” body language in preparation for the couple of creepy suits that are invariably standing outside the building ogling like it’s a full-time job. So I was taken completely by surprise when, only a few yards from my car, an older man walking the other way insisted “hey, smile, come on!” I was so startled that all I could manage before he was out of earshot was “Seriously? Fuck you.” I wish I’d had the focus to stop him and ask him if he would say the same creepy shit to a young man, or if that would seem like a weird imposition on someone else’s life. New golden rule: if it would be creepy to say it to a man, it’s creepy to us too.
Check out this amazing video, “Smile for me Baby”, filmed and edited by Hollaback! supporter Ceclia Wachter.
The video has scenes from Hollaback!’s Anti-Street Harassment Rally in Washington Square Park and interviews folks who experienced and respond to street harassment.
I work at a day camp for gifted kids, and this morning, my boss sent me and two other coworkers down the street to get ice cream sandwiches and more kool aid for the kiddos as a special treat.
Normally, we’d drive but all three of us were low on gas, wanted to kill time and get some exercise and the weather was still relatively nice, so we walked.
On the way back, a pair of gross guys, probably early 30′s started cat calling my female coworker and i, making comments about our legs and asses, as we were wearing shorts. they kept hollering, asking us if we wanted a ride to wherever we were going, and when we ignored them, they asked us what our problem was, why were were being bitches? they continued to whistle and even bark (what?) and unfortunately, we had no where to go and had no choice of standing at the stop light near their truck.
We kept ignoring them and they kept yelling at us and whistling, making gross kissing noises, inviting us to get in the truck. our other coworker, a sweet 17 year old kid, says, “FUCK OFF”
So the guy in the passenger seat pulls a gun out of the glove compartment and points it at our friend’s head.
Thankfully, the light changed, they drove off and we walked back to work in silence. once we got back, we hid behind the school in order to compose ourselves before going back inside. (with lots of tears and hugging, my female friend and i were all snot and running mascara)
We went about our duties of setting up snack, cleaning and playing with the kids and told our boss as soon as she returned from the bank. She promptly called the cops who took statements and descriptions from us.
Both the cops and our boss told our coworker he did the right thing, and he answered “what, was i supposed to stand there and let them be disgusting?” and that even if he would have gotten shot, it would have meant he did something.
Luckily, we were able to walk away but were shaken up all day.
Not only are street harassers persistent and disgusting, but they have no qualms about pulling guns on those who try to intervene.
I was in somewhat of a hurry that day so I got onto the tram right at the back where people tend to accumulate. Therefore, I stood right next to the door with a middle-aged man on my other side. I felt like he was standing a little closer to me than strictly necessary but didn’t think anything of it because it was really quite crowded. After a stop or two however I felt something moving against my thigh and being kind of stuck between the guy and the door couldn’t just move away. I didn’t call him out on it because I still thought that I could technically be imagining things and didn’t want to cause a scene. At the next stop I had to let people out so I could move to a different place away from the guy. When I looked at him from the distance his quite thin pants clearly showed that I hadn’t been mistaken at all and he had definitely been rubbing off on me.
I should definitely just have said something right at the beginning or at least when I was totally sure what had happened but being the quiet person that I am I just let him walk away. I really hope that the next time something like this happens, I’ll be able to call them out on it because guys like that absolutely need to be informed about what they’re doing to women all over the world.
A documentary about street harassment, created by the one and only Cecilia Wachter! Check it out:
The bus stops seem to a prime location for street harassment. This particular day a month ago (May 27th to be exact), was slightly more of an extraordinary occurrence then I was used to (and now that I know about this site I could probably post a story every week).
I had walked from Frankfuary, on Butler, up 39th to Penn Ave and over to the bus stop by Main Street. Shortly thereafter a torrential down pour ensued. After it cleared up, a man who had just parked his truck near the bus stop got out of his vehicle and say down at the bus stop with me.
“Did you hear me hollering at you on the street?”
“Damn, you got a baby face, how old are you?”
This conversation should have ended here. If I look too young for you to be talking to me (even though I’m not), then stop. THEN I realized that this guy had seen me on the street and either made a u-turn or drove around the block to come talk to me. Fuck that.
Unfortunately I was tipsy enough to politely play along and dismiss him. Next time I hope I have more wits about me.
If you didn’t know, Wednesdays are half-off clothes at the Salvation Army in the Southside. This particular Wednesday proved more trying than just finding some good deals. As I walked the stairs up to the second floor, a man gave me a look over and a “compliment.” I said thanks and kept walking up the stairs, grateful that we were headed in opposite directions. To my dismay, he decided to turn around and come back up after I had begun browsing the racks. He asked if I was married, if I had kids, or if I had a boyfriend. He told me I should be on the cover of sports illustrated in a little bikini (the was in the winter and I was wearing jeans and a cape style jacket, not figure flattering). I was followed around the store for what felt like an hour trying to politely be an asshole and dismiss him, saying “no” and “probably not” to everything he said. He tried to get me to try on some work slacks. I made a sarcastic joke about how I could wear them to my corporate job (I also had blue hair at this time) and he responded with a sexist and inappropriate comment about how all the guys in the office would be checking out my ass (which was currently covered and potentially very flat for all he knew). He had some lunch he had been neglecting and after several of my suggestions to go eat it, he finally did.
Relieved I no longer had to deal with this guy, I went to text my friend and tell him about this crazy situation I had encountered. Unfortunately, this man returned. This time it wasn’t to ask me a million questions and follow me around the store but to ask for my phone number because apparently the little voices inside his head told him. I said no. He asked if that was how it was going to be, I said yes, and he left.
I browsed the clothes for quite a while longer and contemplated asking my friend to come pick me up. I didn’t want to walk home. What if this guy was downstairs waiting for me? What if he followed me home? I took an unusual route home and thankfully haven’t seen that guy since.