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I knew that working in India as a single, light-skinned woman who did not speak a word of any Indian languages would not be a walk in the park. However, I was not expecting the onslaught and veritable inundation of street harassment. I live in Goa, which is known to be one of India’s most liberal, progressive provinces. But stepping outside my home near my job, I would never know it.
At first, I thought the constant calls of “Hello, beautiful!” and “Be my girlfriend!”or “Give me your number!” were just harmless fun, trying to grab the attention of an obvious tourist. I had a rude awakening of that when a man outside my apartment complex told me he loved me. I laughed it off as he reached out to shake my hand. When I gave it to him to shake, he wouldn’t let go, and took my hand and attempted to shove it down his pants. I managed to get away and ran back into my apartment, where my roommate, a Ghanian man, was as shocked about the ordeal as I was.
That’s another way we’ve been harassed here in Goa. As we’re living together (we’re colleagues and work at the same NGO), my Ghanian roommate and I go out to eat rather frequently. I’ve grown to accept that people will stare at the two of us when we’re together or when we’re alone, but people will also say very racist things to the both of us and constantly take pictures of us, with or without our consent. Again, at first I didn’t mind this and attributed it to the fact that we were a novelty. However, as people continued to treat us like we were some toy to be played with, I became a little less happy with the situation. This experience was epitomized by one night when my roommate and I went out to a club. People were constantly asking for our pictures, and finally, wanting to have a good night and not pose for photos the whole time, we started saying no. Instead of accepting that answer, locals would grab us by the arm, leg, and (I can’t say they did this to him, but they definitely did it to me) butt, and drag us into pictures and dances. Men kept taking my drinks from me, drinking out of them, and throwing them on the floor. I started to flip off the camera or do the “WoW” symbol with my face every time they forced me into pictures with them unwillingly, so if you see any of those on the internet, know that I didn’t want them taken and those people are not my friends – in fact, from the way they treated us, I sort of doubt that they considered my roommate and I as particularly human. After about two hours of being paraded around as some sort of carnival freaks merely because of the color of our skin, a security guard noticed and escorted US out, saying we were causing too much of a stir – doing nothing about the others. All of this happened at the biggest (and perhaps most touristy) club in Baga – Tito’s Beach Club.
In the town that I live, I’ve been followed down streets, photographed without my consent, chased after, grabbed, and groped. Men have tried to pay me for sex constantly, offering 400 rupees (about $8) if I’ll have sex with them, and not relenting until I start yelling. In perhaps what was the scariest instance while I’ve been here, I took a wrong turn on the way back from work. I’d been working late, so it was dark, and I was alone. First, a security guard tried to force me to come into an apartment complex, saying that it was where I lived. Because I am not an idiot, I knew was not mine. Luckily enough, a cab was nearby and I hopped inside. My fears were not quelled as the driver took me on some roundabout, clearly incorrect way of getting to the place that I was going. As I knew where we were and were going into a much less populated area, I demanded he let me out of the car. He wouldn’t, but when I opened my window and made a scene he started to drive directly towards my apartment. There, he wouldn’t let me out of the cab, insisting we go get coffee or that he let me inside. I wouldn’t do it, and was struggling to find the lock for the door when the security guard from my apartment complex came over and asked what was happening. After a conversation with the cabbie in the local language, the cabbie demanded my phone number and he said he would leave, if I would go to get coffee with him tomorrow. I didn’t see that I had any choice, so I gave him my number. Since then, he has called or texted me saying he loves me every single day, trying to meet up. It’s been 2 weeks. I’ve blocked his number, but he keeps calling on friends’ phones or getting friends to call me and ask me if I’m still in Goa. At this point, since he knows where I live, I’m actually pretty worried he’s going to show up outside my apartment. I really wish I’d gotten his license plate.
I knew that working in India as a white female wouldn’t be easy. But really, it would be a breeze if the harassment would stop.
I was leaving my bank the other day and a man standing outside yelled “Hey pretty lady!” I ignored him and started to walk away, he said “Oh, no love? How about a kiss then?” I said “Fuck no,” and turned around to walk away. I got two steps when he screamed “BITCH!” The sidewalk was full of people, most of whom stopped to stare at the man, so I turned around and yelled back “If telling sexist assholes like you to fuck off because you think you can make comments about how I look makes me a bitch, then you bet I’m a huge fucking bitch!” The man obviously didn’t have the brain power to respond and just stood there, and three women standing nearby clapped. Serves him right.
Sorry guys, this a long one. I have a lot to vent about today!
I have experienced street harassment on a regular basis since I was thirteen years old. Since the tiniest hint of a figure first appeared on me, I have been cat called and wolf whistled at more times than I care to remember. Now, at twenty five, I like to think that I have a pretty thick skin for these sorts of things. I can usually manage a hearty FUCK YOU or at the very least ignore the person until they get bored. My most recent experience with street harassment happened this morning and was too much even for me to handle.
I usually ride my bike to work. It’s a nine mile commute into downtown which, despite the hills and the occasional 6:00 a.m. creeper (why yell at a sweaty, sleepy girl toiling uphill on a bicycle?!), I thoroughly enjoy. I get some excercise AND avoid taking the bus, and even better – avoid bus stops. But this morning I woke up and didn’t feel too hot. I am getting over being sick/stressed for the past few days so I figured I would conserve my energy for my shitty service job and take the bus.
In order to get to my job I have to transfer buses at 3rd and Pike – a stop known by every Seattle-ite for its constant and horrid retinue of bums, thugs, transient workers, street kids, crackheads, and the small smattering of normal people just trying to get to work. So this morning I walk out of the bus tunnel onto the crowded sidewalk and steel myself for what awaits.
I was kind of hoping it wouldn’t be as terrible as I remembered. It was so darn early … who would have the energy to bother someone? As it turned out, a lot of people did. Here is what happened in the less than five minutes I spent waiting for my bus: two workers drove by and the man in the passenger seat made a kissing face/noise at me; a man asked me for money and insisted on trying to hug/kiss me when I refused; a man stared openly at me and raised his eyebrows in a leering manner, then followed me onto the bus and sat directly across from me, staring at me until he got off. All this on top of feeling sick and exhausted. By the time I finally made it to work I was nearly in tears.
This is not ok. It’s not ok that when I want to take the bus to have a more ‘relaxing’ morning I wind up feeling objectified, demeaned, and demoralized. It’s not ok that when I ride my bike I am made to feel like a rolling piece of meat. It sickens me that I can’t walk to the grocery store or wait at a crosswalk without being openly stared at. Even in a city of lonely tech nerds where guys haven’t interacted with a woman outside of OKcupid, reddit, or 4chan … This is not alright. Seriously, Seattle. Let’s end this shit!
I was sitting in the park, reading a book, and a car drove by. One guy stuck his head out of the window and made a horrible noise. I ignored it. The car went around the block, I presume, because it came back and all of them yelled stuff like “Fags are GAY!” “I HATE YOU!” Scared the crap out of me
I was sitting at the gate waiting to board my flight when a group of men and one woman sit near me. I was listening to music and trying to watch a video that my friend had sent me when I noticed the men kept trying to interact with me. I wasn’t sure if I had dropped something, so I took out my headphones to see what they had to say. One of them said “my friend here has been checking you out since we got here. Now I’m not gonna lie, I have been too.” The woman told me to “just go with it”. I nodded and looked away when they kept asking me about where I was going and where I was from. Alone and scared, I panicked and I began to lie about my name, where I was from, and where I was going. I stood up and quickly walked away, trembling and confused. I didn’t know if I should tell anyone, but my friend was texting me telling me it would be okay and to just get near people.
I was exiting Dollar Tree when I noticed two men (30’s or so) staring at me and muttering to each other as they entered another store. I walked across the street to another business, and was recommended to the store back across the street. I entered, got the estimate I was looking for, and I turned to exit when I saw both men walking towards the door. One of them opened it, and I said “Thanks” and as I passed them, the other one said “What a gentleman.” And the man who opened the door said, “What a LADY!” both loud enough so I could hear. They both leered at me as I walked briskly away.
I was waiting in line outside a concert venue and this drunk man made his way through the line talking to different people. He got up to me and kept saying I pretty I was and kept leaning in really close to me. Asking if he could hug me. I said no and told him to back away from me and he wouldn’t. Eventually he did walk away but it scared me a lot. And no one else in the line said or did anything even though they saw what happened.
I was walking through Cal Anderson Park after a very stressful morning. I walked past some guys sitting by the water fountain. They yelled at me and called me beautiful and told me that I sure have a pretty smile and they would be happy if I smiled for them all the time. I did not acknowledge them and continued walking. As I got closer to them they kept telling me to smile and as I walked away from them, still not smiling or acknowledging them they started calling me a fucking cunt and an ugly slut. One even stood up and I got scared to walk past them so I started walking faster.
The park was full of people and I know a lot of them heard and saw what happened but no one said or did anything.
I was walking back to where my boyfriend was working on the truck, hoping no one would yell at me, but then some guy starts talking to me from behind. He rolls up in a bicycle asking me questions. I try to ignore him but finally tell him to fuck off. He, of course, doesn’t. We both yell and curse at each other for a minute, during which he tells me he’s going to kick my ass, and also that I should learn to respect people. I keep trying to walk a different way but he follows me on his bike.
I’m a freshman, and my school’s campus is in the center of my city’s CBD. So I leave school when the bell lets out, I start walking down the street, and almost immediately i notice some older guy is walking behind me in an almost forcefully casual manner. He’s a ways off behind me, so to check I stop and pull out my phone, pretending to shoot a text, and he stops too, leaning on the wall behind me. I keep walking, and so does he.
I pick up my pace quite a bit as I continue walking, making a point to unnecessarily cross a busy intersection and cut through a populated plaza in a effort to shake him. This does nothing as I see him reappear when I reach the street i need to be on. I try staying calm, text a friend that there’s some freaky fucker tailing me, and continue onto where I need to be: the bookstore.
When I get inside I feel safer, because the guy doesn’t appear to have followed me in. I head upstairs as I usually do, find a windowsill to sit in (I choose these because it’s especially inconvenient for anyone to try shooting up a conversation with me there), and begin reading.
Maybe ten minutes later, the guy shows up again. And he’s done with subtlety–I watch him out of the corner of my eye, trying to act immersed in my book, as he grabs a random title from one of the shelves and then pointedly takes a seat in the window sill across from me, even swiveling in my direction.
Still, I try to ignore him. As I try to act like I’m reading, he does the same with considerably less effort. He holds the book in his lap and hardly looks at it, eyes shooting from the pages to me in second intervals, figure tense and alert.
Now, I’m fucking pissed. I stop trying to pretend I’m reading the book, and when I see him staring at him again I stare back with daggers. This is a defense mechanism that usually works in my favor–as a girl in heavy boots with bright pink hair, I hold a certain amount of intimidatory power when wielded correctly. Unfortunately, this doesn’t sway him in any way. He doesn’t even avert his eyes, only continues staring.
When my dad texts me that he’s outside, it’s a godsend, and I hurriedly shove my book in my backpack and high-tail it the fuck outta there, sprint down the escalator and all.
For the rest of the week I chose to walk from a different entrance out of the school and hang out at other local businesses, just to be safe. Whatever that guy’s goddamn deal was, I did not want him to know my daily routine.