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Some time ago, in high school, two female friends and I were sitting in the rain shelter at the station waiting for our train, when a man walked into the doorway of the shelter, blocking it. He told us we were pretty, and asked for our names, which we didn’t give him. He asked where we were going, still blocking the doorway, and we gave him the intentionally-ambiguous “the mall”. I don’t recall how we answered when he asked which mall, but we didn’t tell him.
Then he changed tactic a little, told us we were pretty again, and asked if any of us “would be interested in going out with [his] friends”. We were pretty visibly horrified, and he tried to convince us by saying we’d “make them happy” and that they’d “buy [us] stuff, like iPods and stuff”. We kept saying we weren’t interested, and he kept asking us if we were sure for a while, but thankfully he eventually gave up and got out of the doorway and walked off.
I had this plan that if he looked like he was going to try and follow us onto the train, we could fake out getting on, then get back off the train at the last minute and wait for the next one, even though they ran at hour intervals. Thankfully, though, he wandered off to the other side of the station and we never saw him again.
Waiting for the 66 bus. Man sits down next to me on the bench and tells me how much he likes my “huge tits” and that I’m “way hotter than skinny bitches in the clubs”.
I was walking home from a friend’s house tonight when I passed four young men (they looked about 17-18). They had been having a conversation, but when they noticed me approaching they all fell silent and stared at me. As I passed them on the pavement, they continued to stare at me in an intimidating way. Just after I passed in front of them, I overheard them laughing and discussing how much I was “worth”:
“Nah, more like 50p.”
It can be almost impossible to pass this spot late at night without having something shouted at you, especially if you are alone. I often cross the road to avoid having to walk directly past, but still experience verbal abuse when I do. I am in my twenties, but the fact that they were younger than me did not stop me feeling intimadated and uncomfortable.
I’ve lived in happy valley, hong kong my whole life, and because it is my home, my neighbourhood, i have usually felt very comfortable here. but for the past few months, i have been harassed by these dudes and this lovely neighbourhood which used to be one that i could walk around aimlessly with a popsicle is now one in which i need to think about my route to the train station, policing where i walk in an attempt to avoid this harassment. i hate this. it royally, seriously sucks. i don’t know who these dudes are but whenever i see them, they leer and stare at me and will occasionally stop in the street and watch me walk past them and away. it’s disgusting. it makes me feel like garbage. i have tried reasoning with them, arguing with them, screaming at them. nothing has worked. when i yelled at them on one day when i was too hot and frustrated to think straight, one guy called after me ‘hey bitch.’ a few days later, the other dude came running after me on the street and asked me to explain why i got so mad. i did. and he just…didn’t get it. he didn’t understand why their actions would bother me. WHY IS THIS SO DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND?! just leave me the hell alone. do you want someone to wink at you, leer at you, stare at you when you walk down the street? i highly doubt it. why can’t you afford me the same damn courtesy. i want to wander down the street, running errands and not thinking about who will be around the corner. i want my neighbourhood back.
Driving home, north on Interstate 87/Adirondack Northway in upstate New York with my sunroof open, I noticed a truck driver looking down at me. As we continued, he stayed with me. If I sped up, he sped up. If I slowed down, he slowed down. Ultimately, I took an exit quickly so that he didn’t have time to also get off, then waited a bit by the side of the road to give him time to continue on ahead of me. Then I re-entered the highway and continued my journey home safely.
This happened about a year ago, and only now am I learning about hollaback. Next time, if this ever happens again, I will think to get the driver’s license plate or take a picture or contact hollaback. Thank you for the good work you are doing!
It had been sunny all day. A bit windy, but sunny.
7pm, night is setting in. Eighteen or so lovely enthusiasts show up at the entrance of De Brouckère Metro station to start Hollaback!Brussels’ 2nd CHALK-WALK. We have chalk, self-made banners, flyers in hand – and a lot of badass energy!
and then.. It starts to rain.
But: Who living in Brussels will let her/himself be deterred by such a negligible fact as rain?
Exactly: No One.
The covered roof of the entrance of De Brouckère proves to be a perfect hideout – we huddle together and after some troubled looks towards the pitch-black sky, we start writing on the pavement, there, on the spot.
More and more people running from the rain join our shelter – slowly it gets crowded under there – and they become (unintentional) bystanders watching us while we write our colorful messages. We hand out flyers, explain what we are doing, why we are here. It feels exciting; unusual for some, thrilling for others.
And then the rain stops pouring … just for a second. With the urge to move on, we look for areas that are at least slightly covered so our chalk messages are not immediately washed away. We run to another protected area.
More chalk-walkers come forward and write how they feel about street harassment, how it affects them, what they think should be done about it. We talk with bystanders, passers-by and rain shelter seekers. Reactions range from “Oh, is it that bad in Brussels?” (from tourists) to “Yeah, it happens a lot, you’re right” to “Wow, finally someone is doing something about it” to “You girls are amazing”. And it starts to sink in how important this is, being on the street like this, talking with people, starting a dialogue. But also for ourselves: It’s empowering, it liberates us from certain fears, and being in a group like this reinforces the fact that we ‘have each other’s backs’.
We walk on from shelter to shelter and when the rain finally stops, for real this time, we go to reclaim the biggest spot we had marked on our map: “La Bourse”.
There, we notice it works really well to write with chalk on the pavement when it’s still quite wet , who’d a thought. A large group of bystanders circle around us, trying to read, thinking we’re doing a performance of some sort. We enter into conversations, some are difficult to walk away from, some are awesome & encouraging, some require a lot of energy, some feel good, others not.
Rue du Midi is our end-point of the night. Everyone’s elated. This was so awesome. This is what we should do every day! …. This reinforces that things can change.
So Brussels… our message to you dear friend:
You DO have the power to end street harassment!!Reclaim the street, every day!
Your Hollaback!Brussel team
Up next for July/August/September: Self-defense classes with Garance and a Big Holla Party! More news soon!
I go to high school in SA, and for those who have not heard, several of the junior girls from our school decided it would be a good idea to film a video in which they offered sexual services in exchange for small amounts of cash. This video then went viral and has been seen in at least 10 other countries. Despite the fact that the girls are sorry, this has opened students from our school up to a whole range of abuse from the public. I personally have been yelled and at had eggs thrown at me (but missed) whilst other girls have been yelled at, had juice tipped in their hair, had money thrown at them and one girl was even grabbed by a guy, but luckily she managed to get away. These girls made a mistake, but it’s not fair that we have to suffer for what they did.
I used to work at a high-end gift shop. It was a great place to work for the most part, except for one person there who liked to touch the women’s tramp stamps, bump into them and place his creepy dirty-old man hands around their waists. We didn’t deal with him that much and most of us needed the job so we didn’t really contest. Then, I noticed him being prone to raging out on people. He’d call us morons and humiliate us in front of customers for kicks.
As my job prospects improved in other areas, I began to get more and more bothered by the man’s behavior. I’d change direction if I saw him coming my way in a narrow space. It got to a point where I would just replay the many times I recall him humiliating me but my fellow colleagues. One night after two nights on — one night helping the joint out because someone quit on the spot a few days earlier (something that happened a lot), I spied the tramp stamp molester putting his hand’s around a 23-year-old employee’s waist. He’s old enough to be her grandfather.Ick. When he decided to pick at me at 11 p.m. at night after three nights of exhausting work, that is when I had had enough.
Right after he humiliated me in front of a customer over stupidity, I informed him that he abused his employees. He didn’t understand why I would make such a statement. I didn’t bother arguing, went to the back and clocked out and didn’t look back. he had that coming for months. I was a fortunate one because I had other employment opportunities. I’m just hoping my other former colleagues get the opportunity to leave soon.
Typically, I can shrug off cat calling, because half the time it’s so ridiculous, they can’t be serious. My responses vary from laughing, a WTF look, and a cold “Don’t fuck with me, I carry a weapon” glare, depending on how threatened (if at all) I feel.
The best example of complete ridiculousness came one evening, walking through town with one of my girl friends. We passed a group of young guys having a conversation, when one of them turned around and said, “Damn girl, your hair’s like a fistful of fuck yeah!” and then resumed his conversation, as though we never walked by. We laughed uncontrollably as we continued toward our destination, wondering who he was talking to, what that was even supposed to mean. It’s even become somewhat of an inside joke to us.
Personally, I still believe, that in some few and far between cases, laughter truly is the best remedy
Cross-Posted from HollaBack! Boston
Here at Hollaback!, we often talk about, well, holla-ing back! And we all agree that it’s important to speak up and to fight back. But we also agree that it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will do that. We also agree that it’s not always safe, because the situation could escalate. And we know that some days you’re just too tired to tell yet another harasser to STFU. And we know that some people just plain don’t want to say anything! And all of those things are a-okay!
When we tell people that there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to handle street harassment, we get into that victim-blaming rhetoric that we all hate so much. Recently, a guy responded to something on my Facebook by telling me that if I just “took control of the situation” by telling a guy to go away or [asking another male for help] that I could “end street harassment.” There is so much wrong with that line of thinking, but what I want to focus on is the idea that if I just acted a certain way, this harassment could and would stop. It’s the implication that I’m somehow to blame for the harassment because I didn’t react to it properly, which is no different than telling me that I should have worn something different/walked somewhere different/done something different in order to avoid harassment/rape.
Ruth Graham says:
The message behind this is simply this: whatever you need to do to feel safe, just to do it. You’re under no feminist obligation to shout ‘em down every time they shout up. But just know that you do not have to take it as a compliment, you do not have to feel that you have done something wrong, worn the wrong thing, or behaved in the wrong way. And most of all, you do not need to accept it. You are not wasting time if you make a complaint, and what they have done is not okay. 80 – 90% of women have experienced sexual harassment, and though we might describe it as ‘low level abuse’, it is still fundamentally wrong, and it’s time society started fully recognising that.
Read the rest of her post here.
So even though we love and encourage you to hollaback and to share your story with us on this site, we also want to assure you that, just like eating a Reese’s, there’s no wrong way to respond to street harassment. We trust that whatever response you choose is the right one for you in that moment, and makes you no less a part of our movement to end street harassment!