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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.
I have very short, bright red hair and people often compliment it. A guy with his two friends, a very affectionate married couple, said he liked my hair. I said “thank you” and kept walking. He added “grow it longer, it’s too short to pull on now.” I stopped, turned, and completely dead-pan asked “why? Do you know anyone strong enough to pull it?” His friends laughed at him and he was too shocked and embarrassed to say anything else.
I was in the library of the University of Central Oklahoma, working on a research project for one of my classes. This guy was sitting about two computers down from me, about twice my size. He was giving me the creeps because I could see him staring at me, so I shut down the computer and grabbed my messenger bag to head to my car. He got up too and started following me. He asked me if I wanted to go grab a cup of coffee at the student cafe, but I smiled politely and invented the excuse that I had to meet my mother for lunch. I chalked up his creepy staring as just being socially awkward, because God knows I’m a failure when it comes to social interaction, and I figured that it would be nicer if I turned him down gently.
Nope. The guy just kept asking me over and over, and eventually I just snapped at him to leave me alone. Then he got angry and started to call me a “bitch” and a “fucking cunt”, that he just wanted to get a cup of coffee and I didn’t have to act like an “uptight bitch who needs a good fucking to fucking relax”. At this point I’m in total shock; I couldn’t believe someone would act like this. I just wanted to get away and get to my car, so I just began to ignore him. That only made him madder, and he grabs ahold of my messenger bag strap crossing my back and just yanks me back towards him. I trip over my feet and I go crashing into his chest, and that’s when it hits me: I’m only 5’3″ and 135 lbs, and this guy easily overpowers me and do whatever he likes. It was a horrible feeling. I tell him that if he didn’t let go I’d scream, and the instant he did I booked it to my car. Once I got in, I just sat there and cried. I had never felt so helpless or scared in my life.
I ended up filing a police report to the campus police, but now I’m furious that this jerk even thought that this was something he thought he could do.