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Sitting on a street cafe, sipping my latte in trendy and cultured Central London on a hot summer’s evening, I thought it couldn’t be any better. I paused from reading my novel to admire the smells, sights and noises of the streets – only to find a group of young men, dressed in jeans and brash confidence, staring at me from the opposite side of the street.
I blinked, turned away and automatically pulled down the hem of my knee-length blue summer dress; not exactly provocative, but even when wearing something revealing is no excuse for sexual harassment, it was my first instinct. I tried to ignore them, but out of the view of my peripheral vision, I could see them still gawking.
My breathing quickened as I glanced at them, and saw them crossing the street and coming towards me. I stopped, to find the cocky ringleader demand my number, claiming that he saw me “checking him out” and that I want him. I calmly said no, but was taken aback; he knocked my chair back so that my dress flew up, displaying my underwear, which his friend caught an image of on his phone. They heckled and sauntered away. Another young man sat near me helped me up, and then chased down the street for the gang! He pushed the ringleader into a wall and warned him never to do anything like that again. They left sulkily.
The kind young man returned to the cafe, making sure I was alright. Seeing that this was the example all men should follow as he was such a gentleman, I fell in love and we got married a few years later
There were two men in their mid 50′s in the elevator. As soon as I get in I hear “sexy, sexy, sexy”. I did not react because I had just finished dining with my dad and cousin and the last thing that was crossing my mind was that I would have to deal with sexual harassment. The old man became quiet right after my dad entered the elevator with me. Then, my dad noticed they were drunk.
Lesson I learned today: Sexual harassment is UNEXPECTED, I have to be more aware of my surroundings, and carry my pepper spray at all times!!! If my dad would have not been there, the harassment could have been much worst!
Michigan State University is known for being a “party school”. This is not why I attend, however many young ‘men’ I have met take pride in this reputation and find it necessary to act immaturely on campus.
My freshman year I was walking to a nearby bus stop to go to meijer. It was about 5pm and already getting dark out, and I was by myself.. I was already feeling wary. As I walked by one of the dorms a pickup truck with 4 younger men inside pulled up next to me with its windows rolled down. I pretended not to notice, but knew they would say something.
The boy in the passenger seat yelled at me “my buddy here wants to take you out back and rape you!” I’m not kidding. I can’t remember what went through my head, but I acted like I ignored them and kept walking. When the truck was out of sight I realized what just happened…I started shaking and crying, and dialed my best friend right away.
Over a year later this plays over and over through my head. I wish SO bad that I had gotten the license plate number and turned the boys in to the police. WHERE do boys learn that it is ok to stalk a girl BY HERSELF and harass her or threaten rape?? (the ‘out back’ thing confuses the shit out of me too)
To the young women out there: there are evidently men out there who think it’s ok to do things like this. if something like this happens to you, CALL THE COPS IMMEDIATELY.
I was dressed in baggy sweats, but I’m sure that the moment they noticed my gender, they made me a victim.
I was walking to the CVS and saw a man standing there leaning on a railing near the store. He looked very unkempt and I tried to walk past without making eye-contact. As I walked by him he literally yelled “Why you teasing me like that! Why you teasing me like that!” Then he shook his entire body (like someone would do if they were cold) to make his point.
Then as I entered the CVS, he asked me if I could get him some food. Not to be unkind, but after I have been harassed, how do you expect me to want to give you food?
When I left the store, I took the opposite route from the one I had taken before to avoid the man. And even then it seemed that he had been waiting for me to come out because he shouted after me. I was relieved that he didn’t follow me.
As a woman I have been harassed on the street too many times, and I am just fed up. I’m tired of feeling uncomfortable in certain situations simply because I am a female. And I’m tried of how brave and arrogant men can be on the street. They behave this way because they know that nothing well to be done about their behavior.
I’m tired of always being viewed as a piece of meat by certain men on the street even though I never provoke or do anything to warrant that kind of reaction. I’m also tired of men thinking that cat-calling/verbal harassment on the street is ok. I sometimes want to tell the men off but I’m afraid of what their reaction will be.
I’m so happy that I have this sight as a forum to speak out about this.
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!