One blistering-hot day when i was 9, i was sitting on a city bus at the bus line’s terminal, where the driver got a 15-minute break. A woman came up to the stop just as he was getting off, and he wouldn’t take an extra 10 seconds to let her onto the air-conditioned bus. The door operated with a handle on a lever, so while he was in the cafe i opened the door so the passenger could go ahead and sit in the air conditioning. When he came back, he saw her on the bus and laced into me about how i could have accidentally released the brake (possibly trying for Most Laughable Lie of the Year) and killed someone, etc., etc. I simply fixed my precocious-nine-year-old gaze on him until he ran down, gave up and went to his seat. Then i winked at the other passenger. She smiled shyly, and we went to our respective homes; her stop was before mine, so he didn’t give her any bs.
one time i was walking down the street with some friends and i passed this man who was leaning against a wall, staring at women as they passed by.
he wasn’t interested in me (praise be to the gods) but he was interested in a woman that was walking past from the other direction.
he watched her and said (while staring at her ass), “mmmm.. lookin’ good. lookin’ real good.”
the woman ignored it, but i was just too repulsed to leave it alone so i stopped on the sidewalk, turned around, and caught him square in the eye with such a look of disgust that imagining it now seems sort of comical. he already seemed caught off guard, but i added, with as much feeling as i could muster without shouting, “ew!”
he seemed genuinely embarrassed. he broke eye contact and stared at his feet until i stopped looking at him and moved on.
I am training for a marathon and while out running I passed a car full of what appeard to be high school aged boys waiting at the intersection. They yelled out that they liked my ass. I ignored them and kept running. When they drove passed me after the intersection they called me a slut and threw a can of soda at me. It missed me but went so close to my head I could feel it flying past.
I was sitting on the train home from uni, minding my own business. It was evening but still the rush hour train so it was packed. There I was looking out the window minding my own business and listening to music when these to guys get on the train. I payed no mind to them until I started to feel observed. I looked up and sure enough they were staring. I considered changing seats but the train was packed and I live at the end of the line. So I turned away, two other girls get on and sit across from them which for a moment deflects their stares. unfortunately the girls get off one stop later and I’m left with them sitting across from with a row between us. I start to notice how the one directly in front of me has stretched out so his legs are touching mine from under the row in front so I pull my legs closer to me and start to freak out. They continue talking and staring and I’m getting angrier and angrier. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when one of them pulls out his phone and it looks like he’s taking pictures. I get up out of my seat, tell them that they are vile disgusting creatures and basically tell them to sod off, basically screaming how they have harassed me for the past half hour and stomped off further down the train. I was so afraid to do that at first because I was afraid how other people would judge me for telling them off but couldn’t stand being treated that way for any longer. I felt much better for having said something.
I was on a job interview, like an on-the-job one where I observe an experienced seller and also try some selling myself. I was paired with the assistant manager of the office I was applying for. It was just me and him on a rainy weekday afternoon going door to door on a pretty much empty street.
To begin with, he was just being brusque and patronising, but I thought it was just to get me off balance and see how I cope under pressure.
Then he started invading my personal space, flirting with me, making really inappropriate , frankly quite racist comments and stuff like that. The worst thing he said was ‘you’d be great for porn you know’. I was just looking for an excuse to leave. Then my dad rang and asked when I would be home. I pretended that he was asking me to come back home and I left.
He insisted on walking me to the bus stop and carried on harassing me when I was there. When the bus arrived he felt my arse and said ‘chin up. you’re pretty you know, for a black girl’.
I cried my eyes out when I got home and I haven’t been on a job interview since.
I was going home by bike, it was after 10 o’clock in the evening and it was already getting quite dark. I was waiting for the traffic lights to change at the bikeway at the crossroads.
Right in front me, a bus stopped and a young woman stepped out of the bus and went down the street.
Suddenly a male voice (one of a group) shouted out of one of the cars waiting at the other side of the street: “Wow, she is so hot!” (tried to translate it as best as I could). I think it was directed to the woman, not to me (I’m female as well) but I’m not completely sure.
She walked on without reacting (visibly). When the traffic lights turned green, I drove on and again the man started shouting, this time – it seemed – at me. I gave him the finger. The I drove home as fast as I could.
I’m sorry that I didn’t stop to ask the other girl if she was ok or if I should escort her home or something. I was just so shocked myself and couldn’t really think clearly until I was home.
Cross-Posted from Travelling Legally
Caution: The following includes some liberal use of four-letter words. Be aware, read with care.
When I woke up this morning, I planned for this to be a pleasant post about how nice it is to go to a familiar church when living abroad.
Not so much, now.
I don’t go to church when I’m away from home. I usually try to go when I’m back in Calgary, mainly because I’ve known the congregation there since I was five and I like to catch up with everyone when I’m in town. But through the magic of Google, I found that there’s a church of my denomination here in KL, and three weeks ago I decided to see what the service was like.
I had a lovely time, met some nice people, and decided I would try to go back soon.
Cue this morning. I got up, went to church, enjoyed an interesting service with lovely music, and was planning to meet some new people over tea afterwards before heading out to do some souvenir shopping.
No exaggeration – as soon as I walked out of the sanctuary, I had four different guys try to pick me up in the space of ten minutes. One didn’t even bother telling me his name before asking for my number. After dealing with that one, I was so flustered that I gave away my actual email address to two guys because I was too thrown to figure out how to get them to leave me alone.
Particularly noteworthy was this conversation:
Guy: So we should talk again some time.
Me: Oh, um, I guess.
Guy: What’s your number?
Me: I lost my phone when I was out last night. [NB: not true.]
Guy: Okay, what’s your email?
Me: Um. I guess I could write it down for you.
Guy: So did you come here alone?
Me: Uh, I’m living with some friends.
Guy: But did you come to Malaysia alone?
Me: … Yeah, I guess.
Guy: You’re my kind of person.
Trust me, there is a lot of subtext to be read when a strange man asks a young woman, “So did you come to this country alone?” In this circumstance most of that subtext was not pleasant.
Look, this isn’t me complaining about people in Malaysia, or churchgoers, or even this church in particular. I had a really nice time the first time I went; there are clearly lots of nice people at this church. I also happen to love plenty of churchgoers generally, and most of the people I’ve met in Malaysia have been truly wonderful people.
No, this is me complaining about the kind of men who think that it’s a good idea to treat women like pieces of meat after sitting through an hour-and-a-half long sermon about how we’re all heritors of Christ’s goodness because we are all equals as children of God. Are you kidding me? So long as I can walk out of a service and immediately get accosted by a guy whose first words to me are “You’re so beautiful, I really enjoyed sitting beside you,” we are not freaking equals.
I am so sick of men (and yes, it is only ever men) acting like they have the right to get in my space, ask for my personal information like it’s on offer, and make me feel unsafe. And believe me, this is not just about Malaysia. Let me tell you about the time in Ottawa that a guy followed me all ten blocks from a friend’s place back to my apartment at 2 am. Or the other time in Ottawa that a drunk guy came up behind me on the sidewalk and just grabbed my ass while I was walking home. (When asked “Did you actually just grab my ass, you fucker?” his response was “Hell yeah!”) Oh, or the time in Edmonton I was crossing the street on my way to a party and some dude in a pick-up truck took it upon himself to lean out the window and yell “FAGS!” loudly and repeatedly at me and my friends. The uncountable number of times men have decided they get to comment on my appearance just because I have the audacity to be a woman out in public.
I will say this as clearly as I can: if you comment on the appearance of women you don’t know in public, you’re a jerk. If you ask women for their phone number before you ask for their name, you’re a jerk. If you make women feel like they have to giggle uncomfortably and keep talking to you while looking around carefully for an exit, you’re a jerk. If you know anyone who does these things and you don’t tell them to stop, you’re a jerk, too.
Seriously. Stop it.
The worst thing about these incidents is that the way they happen leaves you with a vanishingly small amount of space to respond. Sometimes it happens so fast that by the time you’ve processed what’s happened, the guy is gone. Sometimes you feel so scared to do or say anything that you just pull your jacket tighter and keep walking. Sometimes you try to call the fucker on it and his response is “Hell yeah!”. It makes you feel powerless, and it makes you feel weak.
I can’t do much about these incidents, but I can do something so I don’t feel so useless whenever I’m not able to directly respond. From here on out, any time I get harassed on the street, I’m donating $5 for each gross jerk to Hollaback, a non-profit dedicated to ending street harassment. Maybe it will help us end this crap sooner rather than later.
Pretty mundane, I suppose, but as I was walking to work the other day, in a modest though flattering outfit, I passed a man outside a bodega who regarded me with “mm mm mm mm mm!” – the same intonations as a Quizno’s commercial. Perhaps the product placement wasn’t exactly the connection he intended to make, but I literally carried for the rest of the day the fact that the man had the same response to MY BODY as a SANDWICH COMPANY would like you to react to their subs.
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.
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.