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In a follow up to her “New Phone Apps Aim to Combat Harassment” article published in the NYT on Monday, reporter and now HollaHERO Karen Zraick publishes her own personal hollaback in today’s City Room blog.
As if we couldn’t have guessed, within hours, there are 47 comments all containing one, two, three, and sometimes more, horrifying stories of women’s own personal experiences with street harassment. And it isn’t over yet. NOW THAT IS ONE HELLUVA HOLLABACK!
“It’s infuriating to see this described as a ‘quality of life issue’, writes one woman. “This isn’t a ‘quality of life’ issue, okay? It’s not my neighbors having a loud party, or a dog barking next door!”
At Hollaback, we couldn’t have said it better.
Now this is one holla the city will NOT be able to ignore. Read Karen’s story and the accompanying comments here.
If I had a dollar for every NYT reporter who has come forward with her own hollaback…well, I wouldn’t have very much money. But if I had $5 from every woman who read this story, including you, now I might have something to talk about…raise us $5?
First, THANK YOU for initiating this movement. I have experienced street attacks on multiple occasions ranging from the words “queer” and “dyke” to having golf balls thrown at me.
I have also experienced a gang attack where people wrote phrases and pictures all over my body while others watched — this was in a home and was never prosecuted. The pictures involved drawings of penises, breasts, and words such as “eat me,” “cunt,” and “enter here.” This evening also involved a rape.
Although this happened in a home and not on the street I bring this up because a) it was unprosecuted suggesting that it is that much more imperative that “we the people” take our streets back, b) it involved bystanders who did nothing, so your movement to get others involved with doing the right thing is encouraging.
I am an activist in my community in Lansing, Michigan — wearing many hats working with teens who are homeless, teens who are bullied (and inactive bystanders), and LGBTIQ youth.
Submitted by Veronica
If verbal harassment is okay, then groping is okay. If groping is okay then violence is okay…where is your boundary? IT ISN’T FREE SPEECH IF SOMEONE IS GETTING HURT. Help us today, show your support with a $5 donation. Thank you.
Well dressed young man, for no apparent reason assaulted me as I was leaving the subway train this a.m. shortly after telling me “you aren’t in Oklahoma anymore.” He had given me the finger while I was on the train, and I had asked him why, he never answered. I was peaceful, and didn’t leave after the gesture, because the train was crowded. When we got to my stop (Fulton street/ Broadway Nassau on the A train)I gestured for him to go in front of me, he refused, and then I walked in front of him to exit the train, at which point he shoved me. I still do not understand the reason for the attack, but it may have been racially motivated.
Submitted by Guelda
In honor of the first-ever NYC Council hearing on street harassment, we are posting the testimonies of high school students who couldn’t be there (the hearing is at 1pm) but were impassioned enough about the issue to submit written testimony.
Hello, my name is Taylor, I’ m a junior in high school and I’ d like to thank you for taking time out to host this hearing. This summer I was sexually harassed by a young man who eventually pulled a gun out on me when I rejected him. I was with two friends, both bigger than I, when he started hitting on me, saying things like “ Hey ma, what’ s good with you?”
My friends and I ignored him, but he continued to try, saying, “ Yo Shorty I’ m talking to you!” At one point I look so scared that my friend (a boy) intervened and told the man to “ Chill out, she’ s not interested.” The man then decided to yell at my friend and curse him out, screaming “ Yo who the f* * * are you? I’ m talking to her!” at which point he punched my friend. After me and my other friend (a girl) started freaking out and getting my friend away, we hear the guys friends go “ Yo, are you stupid what are you doing!?” When my friend and I turn around the guy was pointing a gun at me, while his friend was talking him out of doing anything too rash, at which point me and my friends ran away.
I do not expect the government to be able to stop things like this from happening, I do, however wish that they would pay more attention when women tell them a guy sexually harassed them because the man who harassed me could have done the same thing to someone else hours earlier. All I want to see happen is the government take action when someone comes in with a sexual harassment case, and for the people in our society to stand up for someone who they see is being sexually harassed.
The scene: an extremely crowded G-train shuttle bus on a Saturday afternoon. Everyone was packed onto the train, everyone’s bodies were touching each other, but I was surprised to feel someone’s hand squeezing my ass. I looked behind me and saw a man’s hand poised there behind his back–still in a cupped position as if he felt no shame or need to hide his covert grope. I was completely enraged and I turned around, grabbed him by the shoulder, and shouted “Did you just grab my ass? Because you totally just did!”
For the first instant he looked shocked but he suddenly became angry and yelled back (though much quieter than me), “Shut the fuck up, you ugly bitch, or I’ll smack the shit out of you.” Now, the bus was very crowded, and I knew he wasn’t going to hit me, though I wish he would have so I could have beaten the hell out of him. So I replied, “You’re going to hit me because you groped me on a crowded subway shuttle and I noticed? Are you kidding me?” at which point he turns around and starts ignoring me. I turn to the friend I’m with and say as loudly as I can “That douchebag just grabbed my ass,” she responds “What a fucking freak,” etc., and I stand close to him glaring the rest of the ride.
I handled the incident just like I always hoped I would, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t make me feel shaken and violated. It was absolutely horrible. From this incident onward (about 4.5 months ago), I tell street harassers to fuck off on a regular basis–even if they say “You look gorgeous” or “God bless you.” It feels good, but it doesn’t come close to completely counteracting the feelings of victimization, rage and sadness that come along with being harassed on a daily basis for being a woman.
Submitted by Rachel
I’m so glad this site exists, so people can share there experiences and realise they’re not the only ones – well done guys!!! I’ve had many unfortunately, but I will just mention a few. My city has no official blog yet.
As a introverted and shy teenager, I was carrying 2 heavy bags of shopping (and looking pretty rough, old jean and sweatshirt) in, A circle of at least 10 drunk guys surrounded me, blocking me and not letting me walk off. They were wearing novelty costumes (a stag night, maybe). I felt so intimidated that a froze. The “ring leader” came forward, and said, “we won’t let you go until you give us all a kiss”. I was still frozen. He started to move his face closer to mine, it was so disgusting. I squeaked, “I have a boyfriend” (I didn’t) and pushed past them. And they were all laughing, I felt so humiliated and sick for the rest of the evening.
Not too long after that, another woman I didn’t know and I were walking down a narrow street with scaffolding in the pouring rain and wolf whistles started from the builders. We both turned around and one went “No, not you, you train wreck” I don’t know which of us the attention was aimed at, but again this made my day just a little worse.
Another time drunk guy in club maneuvered me into a corner and wouldn’t let me go until I gave him my (fake) number.
To top this off, I went abroad to a certain foreign country (religiously conservative and by some standards 3rd world) for study reasons, where street harassment is the norm. In fact sexual responsibility and “sin” falls almost entirely on the women’s side. Women are belittled, some are not allowed out on their own, and stared at constantly even if they are dressed extremely modestly (as I was). Some women particularly of minority ethnic origins, have stones thrown at them (I think since I was taller than most of the men, they didn’t dare with me). Also if a man is staring at you, they won’t stop staring even if you make eye contact – they think they have the right. They would talk to me, even though it is meant to be unacceptable to talk to women they do not know.
Yes, I was aware of this behavior before I went, I am aware it is a different culture and values and I am a guest in their country etc etc but it still made me feel sick and it doesn’t make it right – I talked to many women who lived there and they all hated the harassment too, but they felt powerless about it. I felt under siege. Another sent flowers to my school and tried to negotiate with the school principal to marry me. Urghh. At a tourist festival, all the local men were photographing US, western women, more than we were photographing the festival itself. The one time that was almost funny was when I was visiting a local landmark and a rich looking man started filming us even though he was with his family! Then his wife saw and smacked him hard across the head and a torrent of verbal abuse was aimed at him by the women. Hah! That showed him!
It got more serious though. There was one incident where I felt my life was genuinely threatened, when I was stranded due to circumstances beyond my control. A man I didn’t know (whose unwanted attentions and sexual threats I had rejected) accelerated his taxi at me, almost running me down while I was alone on a dark night and deliberately intimidating me, then drove off in the night. In that moment my brain flashed to the attacks that’s had happened in South Africa, where a gang ran women down with cars to disable and rape them. I was so scared and numb. I stood for 10 minutes in the dark in the pouring rain, waiting to get in through the gate to my house (gatekeeper was in the toilet), all the time thinking he was coming back. The feral (and sometimes rabid) dogs prowling about added a nice atmospheric touch.
After 2 months of this, the effect on me, in addition to my other experiences, was profound. I’m sorry if this sounds cliche but I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel tears pricking at my eyes as I typed the previous paragraph. Since I’ve returned home I’m very sensitive to street harassment.
When I go out, I tend to wear hoodies and jeans, and don’t call attention to myself. I walk tall and confident and with purpose, but I don’t feel that way, even though I’m 5’7 and reasonably attractive. I keep my face blank, carry keys or perfume in my pockets (for defence if needs be) and my phone in other. I tend to be hyper-vigilant and I get really angry, mostly inside, at street harassment, particularly by drunks. My body language becomes very defensive even if a man is being respectful and friendly in showing interest in me, I blank them and turn my head away.
Even now in my mid twenties I feel vulnerable going out alone wearing skirts and dresses (although I will with a group of friends, rarely, in house parties or places I feel safe), even though I love girly dresses, especially retro ones. I want to go out and feel beautiful within myself and respected, and you know what, one day I want to meet the right guy, get married and be happy – but if keep acting this way I worry I’ll never get that close to a guy again. Its sad but I think I have had more negative contact from guys in my life than positive.
Things are getting a little better now, I feel happier and more confident than I have in years although the emotional distance is still there. I have travelled alone to many countries, made new friends, skydived, climbed mountains. If you met me in a social situation you would probably never guess any of it – I would come across a pretty, friendly girl, not a wallflower.
But I have to say this – Guys, please be considerate. Try not to be obnoxious assholes who stare and and yell and grope. I’m a nice, funny, person and although I try to be strong, I have a thin skin and these things still hurt me. And it has been these little incidents, the harassment which guys don’t even seem to think about, and which still happen to me occasionally, which make it worse.
Submitted by A.
A friend and I went to the Pratt art store (Clinton Hill) to buy canvas and there was a well dressed man standing right in the middle of the store. I needed help and he looked like he worked there.
me: Sir do you work here?
creep: No, but I still want to talk to you
me: No, thanks.
As I walk away he grabs my arm and starts caressing it!! I pulled away.
me: DON’T TOUCH ME!!
creep: Oh so it’s like that??!!
me: I dont like being touched by strangers!!
creep: Go back to where you came from!! Go back to f*cking Eastern Europe you b*tch, get the f*ck out of here.
(I am from Moscow but I have been here since I was 9 and have had my citizenship for 10 years now.) He kept saying nasty things and I was terrified. So I went to get the store security guard. When we walked over to the racist creep the security guard asked him if there was a problem… creep: “there is no problem, I was just trying to shop and she was talking me up and touching me!!!!”
me:no, you just sexually and racially harassed me.
creep:you don’t know what harassment is.. go back to f*cking Eastrern Europe! ect..”
A manager came over and I told her what happened, I was very upset and scared and I couldn’t help it when I started to cry. She told me and my friend to wait behind the isles on the other side of the store while she took care of it. My friend who was with me the whole time was very scared too and didn’t say much the whole time.
The creep by now was yelling at everyone, saying that “can only Eastern European b*tches shop here???!!” and other nasty things. The manager told him she’s going to call the police and he was yelling “yeah call them” Then when she walked away to call the cops he ran out.
The manager was very nice and sympathetic and took my ID to file a report and then let us out the back door. This happened almost a week ago, the first couple of days I didn’t think about it because I think I was in shock but now I can’t get it out of my head. The store filed a report but I doubt anything will be done about it. I am terrified now because I live 5 minutes away from the store and if I run into him again there will be no security guards to protect me. I decided to go to the police today and file a report. The store has cameras and I’m sure they got the creep on tape.
Hopefully I can get the surveillance video of the creep and post it as well.
Submitted by Tais
“Hey, baby,” he said, as I rode my bike down an idyllic block in Brooklyn on a hot July day. Of course, I ignored him. I dare assume that most women have heard this or something similar as they attempted to go about the mundane. For me, this was the 5th “Hey,:: insert something I don’t want anyone but my boyfriend or grandmother to call me::”, in only about ten minutes into my first bike ride of the summer. I swerved past him and around his car and continued on riding down the block, hoping that he understood the look on my face and my tensed body to mean that I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t enjoy being hit on, and I just wanted this to end.
Instead for him, he was turned on by my ignoring him and eventually peeved that I wasn’t responding. His comments, during the 3 block span of time that he FOLLOWED ME [I know he was following me because his car was poised to make a right, and instead upon my arrival and his lascivious comments, he decided to go straight. He later made a u-turn back to wherever else he was going,] ranged from, “Don’t you hear me talking to you, girl,” [don’t ever call me girl. I was now not only scared but pissed] to “Ride that bike like you need to ride my dick,” [I see you’ve mastered the English language, you fuck] to “I’m gonna make that ass fold over my face just like that,” [I hope you burn in a fiery single-car crash on your way home tonight, you asshole.] Increasingly violent and verbal, he had his bumper literally inches away from my tire. I considered slowing down, turning around and saying, “why are you doing this?” when images of old “Unsolved Mysteries” episodes flashed through my head— I didn’t want to be the girl who went missing because she was dumb enough righteous enough/smart enough/fearless enough to try to defend herself. Instead, I shut up and shoved my rising tears deep down inside of me along with the feeling that I needed to take a shower, bow my head, and hide in a corner of my dark room. I kept riding until I found a block that was person free and stopped, took out my phone and called my boyfriend.
There are few things in this world as demoralizing and frightening as sexual harassment. It’s a mental, emotional and often, a physical violation. I cannot name the amount of times that someone has grabbed my arm walking down a block, or felt up my sister’s ass “accidentally” on the train, or touched my best friend’s shoulder or hair. The worst and most common of these offenders, get confrontational when we say, “Stop.” Must be nice. Male privilege, that is.
I’m sick and tired of going to the gym/ /buying tampons and Midol/going to the doctor’s office/reading a book/bumping to my iPod and GETTING HIT ON HARRASSED. I’m tired of wearing my best dresses to parties and getting the expected uncalled for touches and comments but then going out in sweats, drool, and head wraps and still getting the “psssst” and the “yo.”
Men: Do you randomly approach, touch, and threaten other men? Do you say things like “I will loosen dat ass up” to other dudes? How does it make you feel to know that you scared someone so much that they had to stop on a corner and take a breather? I bet it feels really powerful. Do you gaze so hard at other men that it makes them feel like you can see through their flesh and bones into their souls? Do you get livid when other men ignore your “compliments’ on the street? Do you wonder why [insert generalizations: black women] always look “stank”? It’s probably because she just walked down a block and every fool between the ages of 12 and 92 said something [looks can talk, too] offensive. Probably not. If you have done these things to women, it’s because you’re a sexual harasser. A sexist. A predator. I beseech you:
LEAVE US ALONE.
When I’m on the treadmill at The Y – it’s not an invitation for you to tap my shoulders and chat me up. When I’m carrying groceries it’s not an invitation for you to make some sort of gross innuendo [they always find a way, don’t they?] These are not compliments and it isn’t chivalry and we aren’t stupid: they aren’t benign offers. Go ahead and call me a man- basher and a “feminist” [you know, implying that being a feminist is bad]. Go ahead and tell me to wear something else, or that I’m being overly sensitive, or that women need to learn to take a “compliment.” All I want is to be left alone to live and exist—and the issue isn’t with me, it’s with you [men]. I needn’t my female- bodiedness to be a scarlet letter. I just want to live and not think twice about whether my mini is too short, or if my hair frames my face too well, or if my jeans accentuate too well. I don’t want to weigh sides of the streets to determine which side I should cross to in order to avoid the most men. I don’t want to walk with my head down and my headphones blaring to protect myself from nonsense. I don’t want to judge all male-kind and be afraid for my future daughters, my mother, my 4 sisters, and my best friends. I do not need for a man to tell me to “smile” as I walk down the street with my only weapon in this war, my scowl. You have no rights to this body [also, you don’t know me.]
I just want to live and be treated with equality and respect. I want to be viewed as human—with emotions and purpose—rather than some lifeless museum exhibit for your petting and leering pleasure. I want to not feel threatened in my everyday life. I want to not think twice about my body or whether it’s my fault that I get catcalled. I’m happy that I live in a place where being a woman means I can work and have kids or do neither of those things, and that I can vote, and walk around [in theory] without a chaperone. But, I need to live in a world where I am not touched against my will, where I am not labeled a crazy bitch for complaining about inappropriate behavior, and where people see me as more than my ass and my breasts. I haven’t surveyed all the women in the world but I can say confidently that very few of “us” enjoy this kind of attention. So stop it. We are fed up.
To my girls: START SAYING SOMETHING.
I’m not going to blame us. We have strength and presence as victims but as with every other ill in the world, nothing gets changed with silence. The more often we ride our bikes off onto empty streets and call our boyfriends, the more often we pull down our skirts and tie sweaters around our waists, the more often we “laugh it off” when our bosses lean too close, the more often these people will do what they do because we’ve taught them that it’s okay. Silence is allowance. Your body is your own and no one has any physical, mental, or emotional rights to it. I refuse to remain silent. I refuse to feel dirty and used and ashamed because someone else doesn’t understand limits and because some male- bodied person takes advantage of, dismisses and underestimates the value of me being female- bodied. I refuse to be a second- class citizen in regards to race, economics, disability, and age but for far too long, I’ve done nothing about my second- class standing as a woman. This… this is my protest—the voice I didn’t have earlier today. This is the kick that, I hope for you, will be the catalyst.
We will be empowered and fearless. This stops today.
I appreciate a good compliment every now and again. “Sis, you are beautiful,” “I like your unique style,” “You have a nice smile.” I’m not a grinch and I’m not impossible. But I need for the invasion of the female form to cease and I need for the boundaries, respect, sensibility, and the humanity to be put in its place.
The stinker of today is that as I rode my bike on the sidewalk [instead of the street] to avoid the weirdoes in cars following me [there’s something about people saying threatening things in a stronger, faster vehicle that added a whole new layer to this experience] I was stopped by a googley- eyed, ambulated policeman who ticketed me for riding my bike on the sidewalk. No, my protests of “I’ve never done this before” [I really have never ridden a bike on the sidewalk before] did not get me out of a ticket. Nor did, “I was trying to avoid the men who were harassing me” work. The man had a job to do but if that doesn’t say something about society I don’t know what does.
Submitted by A.E.
Thank you, passengers on the Kings Highway-bound F train at around 5:45 this evening, for your stunning demonstration of bystander effect when you all silently watched a man grind against me muttering about what he was going to do to my pussy and then, when I told him to get away from me, continued to silently watch as he screamed in my face, calling me a fucking bitch and asking if I thought I owned the world, grabbed my wrist and raised his hand to me, “How about if I smack you, bitch?” Thank you for absolutely not intervening while I stood there frozen like a mouse in a snake cage unable to do anything but say, “Get away from me!” while a stranger put his hands on me and threatened to hurt me. Thank you further for continuing to stare disapprovingly at me, not at him, the rest of the way while I fought back tears, except for one older lady- and thank you especially, ma’am, for approaching me not to see if I was all right or if you could help me find a police officer, but to compliment me on my hair. I hope you all forget to turn off your ovens tonight.
Submitted by Lucy
p.s. thank you also Dad, for not only insisting when I told you about this incident that it was MY fault for not walking away (even though I told you we were on a moving train and that the dude HAD HIS HANDS ON ME) and for insisting that there wasn’t anything anyone could have done to help me and that at least the lady said SOMETHING to me, but also for slut-shaming me on account of the outfit I was wearing today and then getting upset with ME because I didn’t appreciate being lectured on what I should have done when I was visibly traumatized. I’m so glad I have such a supportive and aware male parental figure in my life, you know, to whom I feel safe relating these kinds of horrible experiences.
I was walking down Broadway between 145th and 144th today at around 1:30 pm when I saw two guys walking my way. I knew immediately from the lecherous expressions on their face that they were preparing to catcall me, so I braced myself for it. Sure enough, out come the “Heeeey seeeexy” and “You look good in that dress” comments and the lewd, full-body eye scans. I immediately stopped in my tracks and put my hand up to signal “stop.” They were so surprised that they actually jumped back! I told them they were being really disrespectful and that I didn’t solicit or appreciate their comments. They responded predictably, with one going on the defensive (“I just said you look nice in that dress. What’s wrong with that?”) and the other continuing to make sexual comments to me all the while. I started off on my way again, repeating for a final time that they should learn to treat women with more respect and dignity.
I crossed 144th and about 3 seconds later was confronted AGAIN by ANOTHER catcaller. This guy was handing out flyers for some business. I waved my hand to refuse the flyer (I wish I had taken a copy, though, because it would be good to let his employer know about his bad behavior) and as I did he began making lewd comments. Again I stopped and told him he was being disrespectful and that I didn’t appreciate his comments. I hadn’t even finished my sentence before he blew up, yelling, “You best walk away! I just got outta prison! I’ll smack you across the street!” He moved closer to get in my face, continuing to issue his barrage of threats and altering his stance to try to make himself look more dangerous, but I held my ground and called him out on his phony threats, pointing out that we were in broad daylight, so even if he did try anything stupid it would lead him straight back into prison. He said he didn’t care, and I replied, “Well then I’m sad for you. That’s a sad life you’re leading if you really want to go back to prison that badly.” He continued making threats as I walked away, and I yelled back, “Women are people too!” and “What would your mother think?!?”. After I finished my lunch I came back out, with my iPhone ready, and I took these snapshots of him.
Submitted by Carey, who also submitted My Chat with some CatCallers