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I had just finished hanging out with a guy I really liked at a restaurant down town and decided to walk the 200 feet to the public library to wait for my dad to come pick me up. I was dressed pretty cutely as I had just been on a date. It was raining and I was about half way to the library with a hundred feet or so to go. I stayed close to the Butler Center, (a public research outlet) under the eave, out of the rain. I saw two apparently homeless men approach me. “Hey pretty lady”, the first one called out as the other shot me a lecherous grin. I gave them my best ‘get the hell away from me’ look but they only came nearer. They essentially had me trapped up against the building. As someone who follows the Innocent Until Proven Guilty mindset I didn’t want to cry rape. What if they just wanted a little money? But now they were far to close for comfort. I was scared shitless. I couldn’t take on two men, and no one was out in the rain. But, out of nowhere another man was merely walking from one building to another like I, and saw the whole situation unfold. “Leave the young lady alone” he commanded the two men in a stern voice. They glanced at him but did not move. “I said leave her alone” he reiterated. At that they turned and walked on. “Thank you!” I cried out to my hero before booking it to the library. There, with my knees knocking, I phoned my dad and requested that he come inside and walk with me back to the car. Though I was not hurt it was terrifying and I hate to think what could have been.
Today at a corner store in San Francisco my sister was grabbed by this man, whom she had never seen before. He cornered her and tried to hit on her, pulled on her skirt (like one does to see how full the skirt is), then grabbed her hand and kissed her all the way up her arm. She was terrified and broke away, but he followed her when she went out of the store. She called me in a panic. My sister lives in one of the most progressive cities in the country, and this is the second time this week she’s been harassed.
Taking one’s style of dress, appearance, or demeanor into account is irrelevant when talking about sexual harassment – NO ONE wants or invites or deserves this kind of behavior, no matter what they dress like or do on their own time – but even so, my sister dresses conservatively and told the man she had a husband at home. It didn’t matter, he kept going. No one in their right mind could say that this is acceptable behavior or that she “asked for it.”
Street harassment has happened to every woman I know. It’s happened to me. I’ve usually been too scared to say anything: it’s only recently I’ve learned I can tell a man “that’s not OK.” But I shouldn’t need to say that. Women deserve to feel safe when they go to the store. It’s something this schmuck should have learned in preschool: keep your hands to yourself.
Cross Posted from Hollaback! Boston
I’ve been looking for a way to describe this feeling that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. It’s this feeling of always being on guard, of bracing myself for harassment, of anticipation and expectation of my boundaries being disrespected and breached. And I found exactly what I’ve been feeling described more articulately than I would be able to describe it myself.
Men who want to flirt with women have to realize: Women live in a state of continual vigilance about sexual safety. It’s like having a mild case of hay fever that never goes away. It’s not debilitating. You’re not weak. You’re not afraid. You just suck it up and get on with your life. It’s nothing that’s going to stop you from making discoveries, or climbing mountains, or falling in love. Sometimes you can almost forget about it. It doesn’t mean it’s not there, subtly sucking your energy. You learn to avoid situations that make it worse and seek out conditions that make it better.
If a female stranger is wary around you, it is not because she suspects you are a rapist, or that all men are rapists. It’s because a general level of circumspection is what vigilance requires. Don’t take it personally.
If this frustrates you, try to remember that women are blamed for lapsed vigilance. If a woman does get raped, everyone rushes to see where she let her guard down. Was she drinking? Was she alone? Was she wearing a short skirt? Did she go to a strange man’s room for coffee at 4am?
A woman must be seen to be vigilant as well as be vigilant. If she is deemed insufficiently vigilant, she will be at least partly blamed for any sexual violence that befalls her. If she’s regarded as downright reckless, that “evidence” can be used to completely exonerate her rapist. If it comes down to a he said/she said dispute over whether sex was consensual, as so many rape cases do, the dispute becomes a referendum on whether the woman seems like the sort of reckless person who would have sex with a stranger.
If a woman does go back to a strange man’s hotel room at 4am, even if she only wants a coffee and conversation, she’s more or less given him the power to rape her. No jury is going to believe she went up there for anything but sex. So, don’t be surprised if a stranger reacts badly to that suggestion.
My mother always taught me to wear loose clothing, jeans, and high-neck shirts when walking around. I think it’s because she knows people, and knows how horribly they act with young women. However, I go to school in a different area of the state and have become very comfortable running to the store with a summer dress with no sleeves and a lower top. I’ve never once dealt with something like this there, so it was surprising it would happen so close to home.
In a period of a twenty minute walk, I was repeatedly honked at by drivers, some of which slowed to leer at me as I walked to and from the local convenience store to get some milk for my mother. I was with my younger sister, which truly terrified me. She’s only 14, and I don’t think she’s ever seen people act like that. I can also say with certainty (as I lived in a big city for most of my life) that I’ve never felt so uncomfortable before. I’ve never felt so unsafe.
I think the worst part was I left my phone on the counter at my house, so I couldn’t even snap a photo of the guy who really terrified me, or call the police or some of my friends. But you know what scares me more? The fact that I can’t walk a mile in a summer dress without being verbally assaulted and followed around. It’s scary, and I don’t like it. I would even say I live in a decent neighborhood. Now, I don’t feel very comfortable anymore.
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At school the males always smack the girls butts or even grope our breasts and other things. We are only in 7th grade I think It’s completely uncalled for and the teachers don’t do anything! I think I am about to stand up for us!
I had just left an interview for a summer internship with one of the top International Development Consulting groups in the world. I was excited and anxious about how it went, I called my best friend in California to tell her all about it as I walked home. Nothing could have stopped me in that moment, I felt so empowered, that I could do anything and handle anything. I was wearing my favorite black dress and a beautiful red cowell neck scarf my mom had knitted, I felt comfortable and great.
Anyway, I was as happy as a clam walking back home. I turned left onto P Street, because it was the fastest way for me to get home. As usual I was minding my own business, so wrapped up in the events of the morning to be distracted or bothered my anything. Then I noticed three male construction workers coming up Hopkins Street up to P Street. They were all staring at me, so I ignored them and looked forward, knowing that I would be in the safe, respectful, cozy walls of my tiny studio very soon. But they were staring like they had never seen a girl before, really guys? Never seen a girl in a dress and heels walking around before?
As I got closer, one of them said “All eyes on you.” My face got hot and I just thought “Ew! Ew! NOT EVEN in your dreams, guy!” I typically walk pretty fast, so I thought I would pass right by them, but for some reason we all met at the corner of P and Hopkins at the same moment, so I had to walk through the three of them to keep going. Another one said something to the effect of “Why don’t you say hi?” And I thought “Because I typically avoid talking to creeps and people who don’t respect me!” I just made a disgusted face and I did not say a word and I kept going on my way, tall and with my head up.
This happened a few months ago and to this day I wish I had turned around and said “You should respect women!” or even something less composed as “Get bent, a**hole!” When I got home, I did not feel vulnerable or scared, I was 85% fiery, angry, so riled up and 15% uncomfortable. Those men do not know a thing about me. They have no idea who I am at all, yet they judged me about my body and my appearance. I dress for myself, not for others. If I decide to wear dress and heels, it is for me only.
I was getting on my bike outside the English Faculty in Oxford and some gross guy yelled from a blue car that I was a “stupid slag”. Considering he was missing half his teeth, I think I’m still winning here.
I went out today for a walk–I was going to a nearby park to play my kalimba by the pond, then go the library and read. Just a block from my home a construction worker on a house called out to me, “Hey Girl…” I instinctively raised my hand in greeting and he stands up and says “What’s up?” This is a nice neighborhood and I’ve never had trouble before so I had instinctively assumed he was just a neighborly person, but when I realized just what his attitude was I tersely responded, “Walking” and kept going.
Then later on the way back from the library a car slowed up and honked at me. That’s not flattering, it’s just startling and annoying.
It’s ridiculous–I’m just trying to chill out and be in my community and people are going to act like this? Not cool.
I walk by this location twice a day on my way to and from work.
There is a group of bike couriers that hang out in front of the establishment, either inside the patio area or just outside of it. There are usually five or six men. I have worked a few blocks away for 6 years and these guys have been there, harassing women, for as much of that time as I can remember.
It is virtually impossible to walk past them without some sort of comment. The worst of the comments can be vulgar. “I want to break your little body.””Are your pants tight enough?” Other times the comments aren’t quite so vulgar. “Hey gorgeous.” “Hey baby.” But even just “how ya doin'” feels like an assault after knowing as you approach the spot you’re going to get some kind of comment.
I’ve considered changing my route. I’ve called the police a few times. Today I even spoke with the manager of a bakery nearby. He was extremely sympathetic and it turns out he has gone to great lengths to try to deal with this – asking them to leave, calling the police, obtaining some version of a restraining order against the worst of them, finding out who their employers are and calling to complain and then, when their employers were unhelpful, reporting them to the Better Business Bureau. He feels that there’s nothing he can do. I’m not sure either what more I can do.