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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.
Hello! I want to share this cover image I made for facebook users. Please feel free to use it and empower yourself and others around you!
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.
Guy drove past in van, hollering and tooting his horn. I ignore and continue walking, eventually crossing the street. Then from the other side (the side I was on originally) he appeared again! Waving and tooting his horn. It was almost as if he’d turned around in order to harass me again.
Later I realised he’d been driving a Council vehicle! When I tweeted the council for an explanation I got nothing, just silence.
Beginning in November of 2009, I have been stalked by a man named Gerard (aka Jerry), who is a resident of a group home near my art gallery in Lambertville, NJ. When I began my business, he would stand in front of a nearby building and stare at me. I thought there was a bus stop there, but there wasn’t. He would stare at me every day. To me, he looked like anyone. I assumed he was a tourist.
By November of 2010, he was trying to talk to me outside of my shop. I had an exhibit of photographs, and he told me he related to the photo of a homeless man sleeping on a bench in Baltimore. He told me he was from Baltimore (which was untrue, I know the accent). I knew he wasn’t playing with a full deck by the way he was talking. He would speak low, but I wasn’t about to get closer to him. I just walked away from him.
In the spring of 2011, I was hanging a show, and he was watching me through the windows. I wasn’t sure who he was; I thought he was a real tourist. He told me he was from Connecticut. We had a few conversations, but then I started to get rid of him. After that, I started to put it all together.
He seemed to know my routine. I would open at 11, and then have a smoke at 11:30. I would see him make a beeline across the street, right to my shop, every day just about, with a half-smoked cigar in his mouth. It was getting on my nerves. I knew he wasn’t going to buy anything ever, and he was creepy and not good for business.
By the time of a popular street festival, I began commiserating about this guy with my fellow merchant/friend located on the next block. She also had been watched (and creeped out) by the same guy and at that point both of us had thrown him out of our respective businesses, for good.
I would occasionally see him around town. He tried to speak to me at a local eatery one time. I did not respond. When I told one of the employees that he made me nervous, she told me he was better than he had been. Apparently, he used to sit and stare at women in there, and laugh. They considered him a customer, and didn’t feel right kicking him out. Stopping in to see another gallerist in town, she had not been bothered by hi m, but told me he was always sitting on any of the benches on the street, staring at women.
At one point, on a busy Saturday afternoon, I was waiting to cross the street downtown, and he was making sure he was directly opposite me, moving to whatever corner I would be crossing, so I would HAVE to walk towards him. After several minutes of that, I went another way quickly, and lost him in the crowd. I took a circuitous route back to my shop, quite scared.
Lately, he’s been increasing his stalking of me. He has walked in front of my car, and even came very close to me as I was exiting the car. When he followed me into a local pizzeria and loomed over me at the register, that’s when I decided to talk to the police.
The police were very helpful, and took the matter seriously. The detective found him, and told him to leave me alone. If the creep sees me, he has been instructed to go the other way. Now if he follows me again, I’m supposed to call them and he will be arrested for harassment.
Let all of your friends know about what is happening to you. You’d be surprised at the support, and some of them might have been bothered by the very same person. And don’t be afraid to go to the police. They can help you, and it is good to get the creep onto their radar. Sometimes the police don’t know about a bad person.