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I walk 2km to the library at least once a week, going past a park, some stores, and a few busy intersections. Usually no one bothers me, which is amazing, because I’m androgynous and short, which seems to give some peope the impression that it is safe or okay for them to comment on my appearance. But mostly I worry about getting hit by people who are driving their cars with their butts.
Not anymore! Some people can’t leave well enough alone when a genderbent person has the temerity to use the sidewalk.
“Hey, *giiirl*, gimme a smile.” It is lewd and leering and said right in my personal space. Being called “girl” makes me see red at the best of times—I’m an adult person and it’s deliberately misgendering.
“Mind your own business!”
He laughs, I flip him off and yell “F**k you!” and just keep walking, furious. I’m scared he might be following me, or some other creep will appear, so I call a friend—who immediately gives me a huge line of bullshit about “taking a compliment” and “not a big deal” and “that’s how men are”.
It’s minor in the grand scheme of things, but I walk this way all the time, I’m a recovering depressive and I need the library. And it’s my god damn sidewalk as much as anyone elses’! I already can’t go places after dark or past the clumps of loitering men that surround the grocery store. If I get harassed on this route again I’m going to flip my shit. Thanks for this site and its tip-of-the-tongue techniques for dealing with sexist aggression and the people who enable it.
Ok, this isn’t exactly a story. Well, it is, but it’s also a question. Sorry if it’s a little long!
So, I am a women who was born with a disability. I am a little person, but I am a proportional one, so I basically look like a little kid. (I think it’s due to an auto-immune disease). I also have Crohn’s disease, which is unrelated, but results in me being unable to eat and digest food properly, so I’m pretty skinny as well. (Now I’ve got some meat on my bones, because I’ve been in remission for almost two years. Go me! But I also swim, so I’m still pretty tiny). Besides that, I’m pretty conventionally attractive. I don’t say that to brag, but just to sort of give a context for my life–as in, I think I would have it worse if I wasn’t conventionally attractive, and it also draws more people to me. (Because society sucks that way)
People often compliment me on various things–my complexion, my hair, my body. Or they will ask/remark on my differences–which is annoying, but tolerable. However, they will then sometimes reach out AND TOUCH ME. They’ll stroke my cheek, or try to run a hand through my hair, or put their hand on the small of my back (still can’t figure that one out). It happens a lot at work (I’ve actually posted about it before.) The worst was a few weeks ago when a man grabbed me on both sides where my neck and shoulder meet and SHOOK me. I don’t know why. Everyone asks, and I honestly could not tell you what the fuck was going through his head.
It’s sometimes women, but it’s mostly men who do this, and my question is two-fold. 1) Is this more of an ableist/opportunity thing, or do you guys think there is a sexualized element to it as well? (When it’s men) 2) Do you guys think that I would experience the same thing if I were a man? (Are there any male posters with experiences of this?) I’m not sure why it matters–I guess I just want to be able to identify the type of harassment, in order to respond properly.
Thanks and sorry this was so long!
I was waiting to board my bus home after work – by the back door, because the Metro bus I take is notoriously busy (and gross, but that’s another story). I stepped slightly to the side, as I always do, so that others could de-board before I got on the bus. One man stepped off, and said an awkward, “hi” as he passed me. The next man, whom I’m assuming was with him, reached out and grabbed (rubbed, really) my breast as he walked past me. I was SO shocked, I continued to step onto the bus. I couldn’t believe that had just happened. I had a weird moment of disconnect, like I was just watching his hand come at me. I don’t know if anyone saw, but if they did, no one said anything. I was angry/totally freaked out/sad that I didn’t even SAY ANYTHING to him. I didn’t even get a good look at him, so I had no description. I called the police to report it, because I felt so terrible that he got away with it because I didn’t scream at him or react in any way. I was angry. The police couldn’t do anything, obviously, since I had zero description and it’d happened hours earlier, but I felt better having reported it so SOMEONE. Now, I cross my arms as I board the bus, and today boarded with my cell phone camera at the ready in case something similar happens again. This was a rude awakening that I need to be more alert, ready to use my voice, when downtown and on the bus.
I was walking with two male friends and we happened to be walking very close together. I’m female-bodied but present ambiguously. A car drove by and slowed down, calling us “A bunch of faggots,” and then sped away really quickly.
This is on my walk to work every day. And every day, there are three or more men that sit on this street corner. Not just on one side, but both. Sometimes one stands in the middle. So when you walk through, you are surrounded. And every time I walked down the street, the harassment would start about half a block away. One would see me and nudge his friends. All would turn to look until I got closer. One of them would call out, “Morning, sugar.” Relatively harmless comments grow less so as I walk through. “Looks like you on the catwalk this morning.” “Sexy, girl.”
I have since switched to walk a longer route to work every day to avoid this specific group of men. I hate that I have altered a daily component of my life because of them, and I usually get harassed more innocuously anyway on my half-hour walk to work.
“sexy” as I walked past in the street
Oh just walking to work and a man a block away starts staring at me….and rubbing his nipples. Shocked and disgusted, I continue walking toward this loathsome creature, and as I pass him (yes, he’s still vigorously rubbing his nipples), I say, “It looks like your nipples itch. You know they have a cream for that, right?” I NEED A SHOWER.
My roommate and I were walking down the street back to our apartment from our local Kwik Trip in t-shirts and athletic shorts around 11:45 pm. We were minding our own business, clearly, simply walking and talk about our plans for the rest of the evening. As we crossed and intersection a car turned, slowed down, and a young male (presumably college age) yelled “SLUTS!” at us and him and his friend proceeded to laugh at that. As I turned around to respond– to be honest, i didn’t even know what I’d say– they were already gone. My roommate and I didn’t speak for a few moments, embarrassed and hurt by what had happened. When we got home, we turned from embarrassment, to anger, to sadness. My friend showed me this website after I posted the story to my facebook page. This is what I posted:
I am deeply distressed and frustrated with the fact that as a 22 year old female college student I cannot even walk down the street with my roommate in a t-shirt and athletic shorts without being called “SLUTS!” by passing cars. Besides pointing out the fact that there is a very blatant double standard being promoted with that comment, one that is still incredibly evident in our society today, I have a few more things to say.
FOR REAL?!?!? I know this type of shit happens everywhere and to everyone, but it is upsetting regardless. To the guys who yelled that at us tonight, how did it make you feel? Did it make you feel better about yourself or more empowered? Do you REALLY think its OKAY to yell at two girls walking down the sidewalk from YOUR CAR without giving us a chance to respond?! What if someone said that to your sister? Your female friends? Your mother? Or other women in your life that you love and respect dearly?
You don’t even know us, dude. Not a damn thing about us. And I’ll admit, it hurt my damn feelings and I don’t even know YOU. But these things happen. And I’ll recover, while you’ll remain an insensitive and disrespectful individual.
So while you can laugh about this with all your friends for a mere second and probably forget about the whole incident, I will not. And I’ll use it as motivation to keep spreading my truth, keep studying what I’m studying, and keep on my path of treating others well, even strangers walking down the street. It is NOT OKAY to yell degrading comments to women. EVER. It’s not funny, it’s hurtful and silencing. Peace and Love, yo.
I think this website is absolutely amazing. Thanks for being a place where I feel I can be heard. Infinite love
When I started reading through the stories on this site, my first reaction was to sympathize and think, ‘wow, this is terrible. I’m lucky to have never experienced harassment like this myself.’ I’m a bit of a shut-in and, because of this, I’ve lived a pretty sheltered life until recently. I figured I just haven’t been in many situations where harassment could take place.
But the more I thought about it–the more /this site/ got me thinking about it–the more I realized I was wrong. Even with my life as a shut-in, I /have/ experienced harassment.
When I was in sixth grade, I used to go walking in the woods with a friend of mine. On one such occasion, we wandered into a previously-unexplored part of the forest and found the remains of an old treehouse. Someone had left a pair of extremely feminine lace panties there–my friend and I were too innocent to think of /why/ they were probably there. We merely found it funny in sort of a surreal way.
Then these three boys showed up. They began taunting us, shouting at us, insulting everything from our looks to our intelligence. One of the boys picked up the underwear; he mockingly asked if it was mine, and threw it at me. When we tried to leave, they followed us or blocked our path. My friend and I were frightened, angry, and humiliated. I remember I was shaking. I was almost crying.
I had been carrying a large, solid tree branch as a walking stick, so in a moment of rage and desperation, I swung it at one of the boys. At almost twenty years old, I now understand that assaulting someone who’s harassing you isn’t exactly well-advised, but at the time I was younger and upset. I felt so helpless; no matter what we did, the boys refused to leave us alone. Luckily the boys backed off. As they backpedaled, one of the boys called me a ‘psycho bitch’, and then they were gone. Still shaking, My friend and I ran home.
For years afterwards, I categorized the incident as just some other kids being dicks, and dismissed it. In retrospect I realize that if my friend and I had been /boys/, we almost certainly would have been left alone. These boys harassed us because we were two /girls/ alone in the woods, and much of what they said involved sexual slurs.
It’s not exactly a ‘street harassment’ per se, but it strikes me because those boys were roughly two years younger. By fourth grade they already had the idea that it was okay to demand our attention, harass us, block our path. It’s a little scary how young stuff like this starts. My friend and I never went back to that part of the woods again.
My sister and I were visiting our cousin and her boyfriend in D.C., and we were taking the metro back home around 10pm one evening. We are all in our mid- to late 20s. We had a fairly long ride so we were sitting and chatting, and the car was relatively quiet, with about 15 other people in the car with us. At some point I notice a fellow around our age, by himself, trying to get our attention. I can’t really understand what he’s saying but it’s clear that he’s a) drunk and b) only interested in us girls. My usual tactic in this type of situation is to just ignore – in most cases, people like this give up quickly. So I try to continue our conversation as normally as possible. However, the man gets more agitated and walks up to us, getting pushy and asking why we won’t talk to him. I respond by saying in a lighthearted but firm manner that he’s being annoying, and we’re just trying to have a conversation amongst ourselves. All the while, there is a middle-aged couple sitting in front of me with their heads down – literally (thanks a lot, guys!). The man becomes more aggressive, calling us bitches, remarking how white girls are all stuck up, telling us he wants to make a porno video with us, telling my cousin’s boyfriend that he “must be gay” and then takes out his smartphone and starts videotaping, shoving it in our faces and daring us to say something back to him. I am freaking outside because I am incredibly angry, not to mention going into Mama Bear mode because my younger sister and cousin are there and I am feeling overwhelmingly protective of them. I didn’t want to do anything stupid, but I hated the feeling that I was being pushed around. However, I’m in a city I’m not familiar with – don’t even know where the emergency stop button is, or if there is security on the train or the station. I just kept trying to convey strength through body language, without directly interacting him in the event that he was armed or otherwise dangerous.
I actually don’t even remember why he eventually left us alone, I think at one point he moved away and we moved further down the car. After the guy left, one of the other passengers came up to us and said (smiling) “Like, what did you guys do to him?” At the time he said it, I just wanted to shake the whole thing off, but afterwards I was so angry at that random guy – where was he when it was actually happening? What made him think that WE had done something to start it all? It was his attitude that upset me more than anything. I understand that the other passengers may have also been scared, but there were more of us than him. And I imagine most of the other people were DC natives and knew what security options there are on the metro. That’s why I chose to share this story – harassment is awful, but it’s just as awful (or maybe worse) when other people witness it and do absolutely nothing.