Athens GA, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Denver, Des Moines, Duke University, NC, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Flagstaff, AZ, Houston, Iowa City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Lubbock TX, Manhattan KS, Muncie IN, New Orleans, New York City, Oneonta, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Providence, Richmond VA, San Fernando Valley, San Francisco, Twin Cities, West Georgia (University)
BY EMILY MAY
There is nothing like a fresh batch of hate mail to get me motivated. Back when we first started Hollaback!, hate mail made me feel so crappy inside. What can I say? I was socialized to be a girl and make everyone like me — even the people I didn’t really like. It took a while for me to re-socialize as an activist and realize that you’re not making change unless you’re pissing people off.
Allow me to geek out on nonprofit-performance-management stuff for a second, but it is really hard to measure social and behavioral change in society. Is Hollaback! succeeding when we get more stories or less? How do we know when people have the “click” moment that makes them stop harassing? How do we know how we contributed to it? Hate mail seems like as good of a metric as any. So bring it, haters. We’re quite pleased with ourselves that our vision of a world without street harassment has made you so deeply uncomfortable.
And now, a message from our hater of the day. Typos were left intact. Oh, and I should put a RAGE warning on this:
“WOMEN KNOW WOMEN ARE ALWAYS TO BLAME. WOMEN ARE THE TROUBLE STARTER. WOMEN ARE ALWAYS GUILTY. WOMEN HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE ON THIS PLANET. YOU KNOW WHERE YOU BELONG. WHY DONT YOU LEAVE… I AM USA WASHINGTON DC CAPITOL DISCTRICT OFFICIAL. I AM USA LAW. I SEE STRAIGHT THROUGH THIS HOAX OF WOMEN. YOU WOMEN ALWASY ASSAULT AND BATTERIZE EVERYONE. YOU WANT EVERYONE TO BE YOUR SLAVE. YOU ALL ARE SO EVIL. OTHER THAN EVIL WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO? QUIT SLAVING THE POLICE AROUND THE TOWN LIKE CLOWNS.”
I was walking home from the grocery store wearing my running clothes (I run there, walk back) and was waiting for the walk signal to cross the street. A guy driving yelled something out of his window at me, and I didn’t respond. Unfortunately, he was then stuck at a red light next to me and continuously yelled “whore” and “slut” at me since I didn’t acknowledge what he called his “compliments”. It’s pretty intimidating to be stuck on a corner while someone screams at you, and definitely not flattering or a compliment. I found this website out of frustration from this interaction. Thank you.
I was riding my bike and when I stopped at a red light, a guy on a scooter told me “You have a nice ass.” I gave him a nasty look and he said “What, isn’t that why you ride a bike?” I told him “That’s rude, you don’t even know me!” and rode away. But I still feel angry about it months later and think about all the reasons I ride my bike and how it is so not about getting “complements” on my body parts from random strangers. I also felt afraid at the time that he would follow and continue to harass me.
It’s May of 2010. I and a group of my classmates, primarily female, have just finished our last final of the semester. For many of us, it is our last final of our college careers; we’ll be walking across the stage to claim our diplomas in only a couple of weeks. We’re jubilant. We’re exhausted. We’re ready to celebrate.
We gather at a bar a few blocks from the edge of campus. In the early evening it’s quiet, a bar/restaurant that doesn’t mind us shoving together enough tables to accommodate more than a dozen people. As the night wears on, the downstairs area becomes a nightclub and the crowd in the bar becomes thicker. Around midnight, most of our group trickles outside and we prepare to go our separate ways.
Two of my classmates had gone downstairs to dance maybe half an hour earlier, and we’re not willing to leave without at least telling them we’re going and making sure they have a way to get home. I elect to go back inside and collect them. There’s a man holding open the door and grabbing at girls as they walk in and out, a buddy of his watching idly from a few feet away. I dodge left and slide inside, irritated but more intent on my goal than on dealing with him.
I find my classmates a few feet inside the door, gathering their things and already on the way to join us outside. They go out the door and I follow, and as I’m stepping by the man he grabs for me again. His fingers snag on the skirt of my dress before I step away. He says something to me, more-or-less inaudible over the noise coming out of the bar but pretty obviously a come-on of the “hey baby, why are you so cold?” variety.
I blow him off with an “oh, *hell* no,” and take a few steps toward my friends, where they’re chatting in a circle a little ways away from the door.
He’s annoyed now. He accuses me of failing to find his advances charming because we come from different ethnic backgrounds. Except he doesn’t say that; what he says is, “Why not, bitch? Is it because you’re a racist?”
I fire off a response without really thinking about it: “No. It’s because you have fucking grabby hands.”
His buddy is laughing now, and that seems to push him from “annoyed” right into “pissed off.” He steps toward me. I step back, placing myself squarely between two of my friends. They both happen to be former Navy. One of them taught women’s self defense for a while. Neither of them is inattentive after noticing what’s going on. He steps back, because he’s a little less willing to harass — or assault — a woman when he realizes that she’s not alone, that there are people watching.
I don’t like to think about what he might have done if we *had* been alone. That, for me, is part of why Hollaback! is so important. It makes sure that people are always watching, and that this kind of harassment doesn’t go unnoticed or undocumented.
Holla-ing is a display of power and the culture of harassing women has long permeated into our day and age. So much so that the YMCA by my house has a designated “Women’s Workout Area” tucked away at one end of the greater equipment room, around the corner and out of view from the rest of the gym.
This may seem like a positive thing (a safe, harassment free space for women who want to work out) the problem with the existence of this space is that the male dominant gym culture has literally pushed women out of “their” space with the common, lecherous acts and comments. I’ve been victim to these before and I will continue to because of the lesser equipment that fill the “Women’s Circuit” area of the gym. Can’t we make all the YMCA a safe space?
I have plenty of stories about street harassment, but I would like to share one that has always stuck by me, and that still upsets me a little to think about.
It was the first time I ever got catcalled. I was thirteen years old and on my way home from the bus stop.
I lived in a pretty calm neighborhood at the time. The street I was walking through was empty, except for a guy who was about to get in his car, and an older lady across the street.
As I passed the guy he suddenly yelled at me and said something that roughly translates to ‘Sweetie, if we were alone right now, the things I’d do to you!’.
At the time I didn’t know what to say. I was thirteen years old. I’d just started wearing eyeliner so people wouldn’t see how insecure I was about, well, everything!
I guess what still doesn’t sit right with me is that I just walked away. I walked away from something that, right now, sounds a whole lot like a rape threat to me.
Which is why I want to say this. Street harassment is not okay. It never has been, and it never will be.
Which is why I will never stand for it again. Not when it happens to me, not when it happens to someone else. And neither should you. Hollaback!
My roommate and I were walking to CVS when a man crossed the street and said, “Hey, beautiful,” as he walked by my roommate.
One day when me and my best friend were riding to work in the bus that the company we worked for provided, I was sexually harassed. There were four guys sitting across from us. One was making jokes, and I faced forward, trying to ignore them. He was saying that my parents had sex last night, that I was a mouth virgin, but was experienced everywhere else. I had my name tag on, and he repeated my name over and over again in an antagonizing manor. When I continued to ignore him, he stuck his hand out in the aisle, and waved it around. Eventually, my friend turned to him and said:
He didn’t stop. After we arrived we talked to the bus driver who reported the incident to the company. A few days later when I came into work, I discovered that he had been fired, and I read the note of apology that he had written. I am so thankful that my friend was with me. I’m really shy, and its hard for me to holla back on my own.
I was waiting in the chippy by my school to buy my lunch. I had just bought a bunch of stuff for my history club’s Christmas party so my hands were full. The salespeople were busy trying to meet a big order and the shop was otherwise empty. I had time so I didn’t mind waiting. Then, a man of about 45-50 came in a stood next to me, a little closer than is comfortable. So I moved away. And he moved close to me again. He lent close to my ear and whispered ‘what’s a fine young African goddess like you doing in here?’. I looked down and kept my mouth shut. He told me not to be so shy and commented that I must be a ‘freak between the sheets’ and grabbed my butt. I told him to stop touching me, but he wouldn’t. The salespeople were still busy so, instead of making a scene, I decided to just leave. When I looked back he was still leering at me. As soon as I got back I dumped my stuff, ran to the bathroom and cried. It probably should not have bothered me so much but I felt awful and violated. This is the second time I’ve been groped (outside a pub/club) this year and the umpteenth time I’ve been leered at or had my body (and usually race) commented on. I just wonder what I did to deserve this kind of treatment. I know I’m not the only black girl to suffer from this, but it just doesn’t seem fair or just to me.
I’m a twenty year old, five foot three, one hundred twenty pound girl, and I don’t dress to blend into a crowd. I have a shock of platinum blonde hair styled in a mohawk, and I love my eyeshadow heavy, dramatic and smokey. I wear skinny jeans and skintight leggings and tanktops to reveal the tattoo on my right upper arm. I’ve got a bold form of self-expression, and I expect it to draw attention to me. But that doesn’t validate harassment, unwanted sexual attention and even outright hostility, least of all when I’m in the driver’s seat of my vehicle.
Which brings me to my story. There I was, taking a drive on the highway. My windows were rolled down. The music was blaring. I was having a good time. All of a sudden, I notice a blue van approaching my car fast from my rear view mirror. An unmarked police vehicle? No way, I thought, glancing at my speedometer: I’m travelling five miles under the speed limit. (Lame, I know.)
The van pulled up alongside me and the passenger side window rolled down. There was a man in the driver’s seat. He looked to be in his forties. He kind of looked like a skinnier, coked-out Maury Povich in dark sunglasses. He yelled over the wind whipping against our cars. At first I couldn’t make it out, so I turned down the volume on my radio, still suspecting an off-duty cop. No such luck.
“Hey babe, where you off to?”
“Goin’ my way, sugar?”
“Need some gas? I’ll hook you up.”
Unbelievable. This complete stranger pulled up alongside my car on the highway to flirt with me.
Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I don’t think it’s a stretch for a guy who thinks it’s okay to flirt with me while I’m in my car and presumably going somewhere to, say, sideswipe me or brake-check me to force me to pull over. So, I immediately merged into the lane to my right and picked up speed to hide behind an opportunely placed sixteen-wheeler. I noticed him keeping speed with it, expecting me to pass it so we could resume our conversation. He eventually got the hint, however, and sped off in the distance.
I’ve had my ass smacked, my waist grabbed, my hair played with, and very creepy, unwanted comments made toward me by complete strangers before, but nothing compares to that kind of desperate horniness backed by several tons of steel and horsepower confronting you unawares on a typical afternoon drive.