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.
A few months ago, I was in Paris on a school trip. We were on the RER (metro) traveling to Versailles and the tube was packed, so packed I couldn’t even see any of my friends or teachers. All through the journey there had been a man staring and smiling at me. Then, about five minutes before I was due to get off, I felt something brush against my butt. I ignored it. Then I felt a hand close around my butt cheek. That man was still staring and smiling, but he had an almost hungry gleam in his eye. His hand was all over my butt and I didn’t know what to do. Normally I’m a confident young woman who is far from afraid of speaking my mind but then, I froze up. I barely speak any French and I didn’t want to cry out. Thankfully, I got off before things got unbearable.
I didn’t tell anyone for weeks afterwards because I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed because, even though I felt dirty and violated, a small part of me was flattered. One small, dark part of my brain was flattered that someone could find me attractive, even in the most base, perverted sense. Not only that, I but felt as though it wasn’t a big deal, that it didn’t matter. Even now I don’t know why I’m sharing this, because in the grand scheme of harassment it’s pretty insignificant.
I don’t know I’ve let it affect me so much. For weeks afterwards I shuddered a little when my boyfriend touched me and to this day I get apprehensive when I get on packed buses and trains in not-so-sunny Liverpool. I feel weak, and I feel stupid because I can’t get passed one little bit of sexual harassment.
I am a 22 year old women working as a geologist in the mining industry, in northern Ontario, Canada. I experience sexual harassment on a consistent basis. I have been cat called on the walk from my car to the office. I have been blocked access to my car by an employee in a truck, because I was a women, and the man I have never met before wanted to ask me out. This person has continued to stop me at work and bother me. On a related note, former coworkers have accused me of only being promoted because my boss “had the hots for me”, instead of for the hard work that I do. The list goes on. The latest, and most serious instance I have experienced was Friday night at my company Christmas party. After being introduced to the CEO, he continued to thank me for working hard for the company, and that he is happy there are more women. He went on to tell me how men really like it when women are my height (he was refering to the fact that I had taken off my high heel shoes). He told me that men also really like girls with curves like me. He kept asking me if he could buy me a drink- which I refused. He also went on to tell me how he really wants to have a slow dance with me, and grabbed my lower back, but said that since he is the CEO, and there were too many people there, so that he could only fast dance with me. I also refused. He said many things along this line, and finally I managed to get out of talking to him when someone else came up to us and I made my out to the bathroom. I walked away from it very upset, and told a male friend of mine what had happened. His response… “Get used to it, it’s a part of the mining industry and you know what you were getting yourself into.” Unfortunately the response didn’t surprise me at all. Sexual harassment is a widely accepted part of the mining industry. My friend also told me, that in my lifetime I will never see it change. I’m taking that as a challenge, and will try my best to promote equality and respect of people of all gender in industry.
One of the first times I experienced street harassment around the age of 12. Shouted at as I walked along the road by men in a car.