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Why I’m giving $20 to Hollaback today.

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.

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Sarah’s Story: “The man had the same response to my body as a sandwich company would like you to react to their subs”

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.

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Mollie’s story: “We kept saying we weren’t interested, and he kept asking us”

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.

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Claire’s story: “The fact that they were younger than me did not stop me feeling intimadated and uncomfortable”

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”:
“Fifty quid?”
“Nah, more like 50p.”
More laughter.
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.

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Lili’s story: “I want my neighborhood back”

I’ve lived in happy valley, hong kong my whole life, and because it is my home, my neighbourhood, i have usually felt very comfortable here. but for the past few months, i have been harassed by these dudes and this lovely neighbourhood which used to be one that i could walk around aimlessly with a popsicle is now one in which i need to think about my route to the train station, policing where i walk in an attempt to avoid this harassment. i hate this. it royally, seriously sucks. i don’t know who these dudes are but whenever i see them, they leer and stare at me and will occasionally stop in the street and watch me walk past them and away. it’s disgusting. it makes me feel like garbage. i have tried reasoning with them, arguing with them, screaming at them. nothing has worked. when i yelled at them on one day when i was too hot and frustrated to think straight, one guy called after me ‘hey bitch.’ a few days later, the other dude came running after me on the street and asked me to explain why i got so mad. i did. and he just…didn’t get it. he didn’t understand why their actions would bother me. WHY IS THIS SO DIFFICULT TO UNDERSTAND?! just leave me the hell alone. do you want someone to wink at you, leer at you, stare at you when you walk down the street? i highly doubt it. why can’t you afford me the same damn courtesy. i want to wander down the street, running errands and not thinking about who will be around the corner. i want my neighbourhood back.

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Adkkathryn’s story: “If this ever happens again, I will think to get the driver’s license plate”

Driving home, north on Interstate 87/Adirondack Northway in upstate New York with my sunroof open, I noticed a truck driver looking down at me. As we continued, he stayed with me. If I sped up, he sped up. If I slowed down, he slowed down. Ultimately, I took an exit quickly so that he didn’t have time to also get off, then waited a bit by the side of the road to give him time to continue on ahead of me. Then I re-entered the highway and continued my journey home safely.

This happened about a year ago, and only now am I learning about hollaback. Next time, if this ever happens again, I will think to get the driver’s license plate or take a picture or contact hollaback. Thank you for the good work you are doing!

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Sophie’s story: ” It’s not fair that we have to suffer for what they did”

I go to high school in SA, and for those who have not heard, several of the junior girls from our school decided it would be a good idea to film a video in which they offered sexual services in exchange for small amounts of cash. This video then went viral and has been seen in at least 10 other countries. Despite the fact that the girls are sorry, this has opened students from our school up to a whole range of abuse from the public. I personally have been yelled and at had eggs thrown at me (but missed) whilst other girls have been yelled at, had juice tipped in their hair, had money thrown at them and one girl was even grabbed by a guy, but luckily she managed to get away. These girls made a mistake, but it’s not fair that we have to suffer for what they did.

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Dez’s Story: “He had that coming for months”

I used to work at a high-end gift shop. It was a great place to work for the most part, except for one person there who liked to touch the women’s tramp stamps, bump into them and place his creepy dirty-old man hands around their waists. We didn’t deal with him that much and most of us needed the job so we didn’t really contest. Then, I noticed him being prone to raging out on people. He’d call us morons and humiliate us in front of customers for kicks.

As my job prospects improved in other areas, I began to get more and more bothered by the man’s behavior. I’d change direction if I saw him coming my way in a narrow space. It got to a point where I would just replay the many times I recall him humiliating me but my fellow colleagues. One night after two nights on — one night helping the joint out because someone quit on the spot a few days earlier (something that happened a lot), I spied the tramp stamp molester putting his hand’s around a 23-year-old employee’s waist. He’s old enough to be her grandfather.Ick. When he decided to pick at me at 11 p.m. at night after three nights of exhausting work, that is when I had had enough.

Right after he humiliated me in front of a customer over stupidity, I informed him that he abused his employees. He didn’t understand why I would make such a statement. I didn’t bother arguing, went to the back and clocked out and didn’t look back. he had that coming for months. I was a fortunate one because I had other employment opportunities. I’m just hoping my other former colleagues get the opportunity to leave soon.

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30+

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Kay’s Story: “It’s so ridiculous, they can’t be serious”

Typically, I can shrug off cat calling, because half the time it’s so ridiculous, they can’t be serious. My responses vary from laughing, a WTF look, and a cold “Don’t fuck with me, I carry a weapon” glare, depending on how threatened (if at all) I feel.
The best example of complete ridiculousness came one evening, walking through town with one of my girl friends. We passed a group of young guys having a conversation, when one of them turned around and said, “Damn girl, your hair’s like a fistful of fuck yeah!” and then resumed his conversation, as though we never walked by. We laughed uncontrollably as we continued toward our destination, wondering who he was talking to, what that was even supposed to mean. It’s even become somewhat of an inside joke to us.
Personally, I still believe, that in some few and far between cases, laughter truly is the best remedy ;)

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Kate’s Story: I never experienced something so vile

I’ve been on an online dating site before but I never experienced something so vile. I started an account with Okcupid last Thursday night. This man messaged me and expressed interest. I read his profile and he seemed like a nice guy BUT a shirt he was wearing was sexist, it had a silhouette of a naked woman on it. So I expressed my concern and figured well he will probably say “oh I’m sorry didn’t know that was offensive” because not many people know that kind of thing is sexist. What happened next was horrifying. He was so unbelievably gross. He asked me if I would “take his 8 inches”  then when I refused he said “make me a sandwich!” then I reported him to the dating site. After I told him I reported him he replied saying that OkCupid would do nothing because he makes so much “revenue” for them by laying “mediocre girls” like me!

Things might have ended there with me blocking him. BUT the dumb ass used his actual name for his online username. A quick google search and I found his linkedin profile and where he worked in my community. It was a prominent business.

The next morning armed with the JPEG of our conversation and my laptop with his picture from OkCupid. I went to his place of work. I asked if he worked there, when the receptionist said yes, I asked to see the General Manager. When the GM came to meet me, I said I had a concern about an employee and he immediately took me back to his office. I showed him the picture and the GM confirmed that he was their employee. Then I showed him the conversation that I had with him. I said, I am concerned because his identity is so easily found that his online actions could be damaging your business. The GM said “OH I am right there with you, this hurts our image and reputation in the community.” The GM first stopped me and made sure that I was okay. He asked me over and over, are you okay, do you feel threatened? He was genuinely concerned for my well-being. He told me that he could only handle his behavior from an employer perspective, that he couldn’t change his personal behavior as much as he disagreed with it. But he was pissed and he took said he would face disciplinary action. Finally the GM said “I agree you are not the first woman this has happened to,” and his last words to me were “I’m so glad you came in, you are so brave.” That made me really happy.

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