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It happened so fast.
It happened before I could think.
But, it happened.
It was a little thing, I guess, in the scale of street harassment.
But it was big too, because every little act of disrespect and aggression adds up to something larger in a world where being a female out in public makes you sexual prey.
Which is why I wish I had done something to protect the women he might do this to in the future.
Cause most women don’t like to be sniffed in public. That’s right I said sniffed.
Yeah, SNIFFED. Like a dog.
Here’s how it happened, girlfriends.
I was standing outside a grocery store in another town when a man came up behind me, got as close as he could without touching me…..and sniffed me.
Yeah, SNIFFED me. Like a dog.
My back had been to the store, so I didn’t see the man until he walked around me and went to his car. He shot a creepy smile over his shoulder, letting me know that he knew exactly what he had done.
I stood glued to my spot on the sidewalk, stunned by the guy’s brazen disrespect in such a public place. I watched him get in his car, still smiling his creepy smile. I watched him drive away, laughing to himself. I was pissed, but mainly I counted myself lucky that it hadn’t been something worse. At least he hadn’t touched me, I thought. Or yelled something humiliating. He was just a sad, pathetic guy who got a cheap thrill from sniffing women in public places. I was unharmed and I could laugh about the story with my friends.
But the more I thought about the incident it didn’t make me laugh, it made me MAD! Not just mad at the creep, but mad at myself.
Mad at myself because I hadn’t done anything. I just let him drive away, not even because I was that scared, but mainly because I was being selfish.
I say selfish because in my reaction to this guy I was thinking only about myself. “I got out of it. I wasn’t hurt. I didn’t live in the city where it happened.” Those were my thoughts as I silently watched him drive away.
But really my thought process should have been more like this: “What if he does this to one of us again? What if he does something worse to someone else? We need to stick together.”
The “we” of course, is all women, because whether you believe in the concept of global sisterhood or not, we are all in this together when it comes to street harassment.
When you confront or report a street harasser, you’re doing it not just for yourself, but for the future women the harasser may target. Getting catcalled at a construction site? When you call in and complain you save not just yourself, but all the future women walking by that site from unjust humiliation. When you get harassed by someone in a car? Get the license plate number if you can and call the authorities. You may never see the harasser again but some other women will, and your call could be what gets the harasser pulled over and scared off that type of behavior.
And if you get sniffed?
Well, I’ve thought a lot about what I could have done in the situation. Like I said it happened very fast and I think the first thing you should think about in any confrontation is your own safety.
Thinking back I wish I had at least taken a picture of the guy and his license plate with my camera phone. I would have felt safe enough to do that and I could have turned the picture and a description of the event into the managers at the grocery store he’d been exiting and of course the local police.
Sniffing somebody is strange enough, but all I can think about is how my police officer relative later told me that behavior like that is usually a first step to guys trying to touch women (or do worse) to them out in public.
Could I have done something so that if this guy tries to do something worse to a woman some of his information would already be on file? Or has he already done something worse (and my gut told me he was a pretty serious creep), and turning in the pictures could have helped another woman find justice?
I don’t want to beat myself up asking too many questions. I can’t change how I responded to a past situation, but I can think about how I’ll act in the future. The next time I’m harassed I hope I think not just about myself but about all of us — all the women out there who just want to be out in public without feeling like a target.
And if I can do something to make the next women’s life a little safer I’ll feel like I’ve done my part.
BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
You probably don’t frequent women-hating websites all that often. Luckily, you have others to do the dirty work for you! A blog aimed at college-aged men called Barstool Sports, showcases a slew of dehumanizing attitudes toward women while disguising itself an entertainment website: “By the common man, for the common man”. By portraying their degrading attitudes toward women as some sort of normal, socially acceptable viewpoint to hold, they participate in the continuation of women being treated as nothing more than objects to be rated by their appearance alone. This winter, the group has been hosting a “Blackout Party” tour near college campuses throughout the East coast and the Midwest.
Just a few of the shining comments to come from Barstool Sports’ site:
PS – Just to make friends with the feminists I’d like to reiterate that we don’t condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties in mid-January. However if a chick passes out that’s a grey area though.
Even though I never condone rape, if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right? I mean skinny jeans don’t look good on size 0 and 2 chicks, nevermind size 6’s.
Thankfully, there is a new group in town called Knockout Barstool. We applaud a letter they wrote earlier this week, taking down the rape-culture promoting blog and “Blackout Party” tour. There is a big difference between allowing free speech on college campuses and turning the other ear to the hate speech of an organization. Today, Barstool’s “Blackout Party” tour comes to Boston. Here at Hollaback!, we fully support Knockout Barstool’s requests that Northeastern University denounce the hate speech of Barstool Sports:
We demand Northeastern University and its administration stand for women and denounce Barstool Sports and the NU Blackout Party. These organizations do not represent the values of our community nor our institution. As President Joseph Aoun said in a recent email to the university: “While we should actively engage different opinions and points of view — and this may result in strong and intense discussions—we will not tolerate any conduct that creates a hostile or intimidating environment for members of our community.” Barstool Sports and their blackout party creates a hostile and intimidating environment for women. We must demand an equal and safe university culture.
A recent post by Barstool Sports about the work of Hollaback!’s Executive Director, Emily May revealed the tired occurrence of insulting a woman’s appearance because they took issue with what she had to say. In so doing, Barstool tried to reinforce the notion that the worst possible thing a man could say to a woman is that he does not want to sleep with her, rather than choosing to have a civil conversation with her.
Thank you, Barstool Sports, for providing us with such an apt example of why we must continue working.
–You might notice we did not link to Barstool Sports’s website, as we do not wish to give them the satisfaction of more site hits. Please enjoy the following screen shots instead (misspelling of “harrassment” included).
BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
Come “Meet Us On the Street”, for International Anti-Street Harassment week, from March 18-24, to take a stand against street harassment! Last year’s first International Anti-Street Harassment Day was so successful, with over thousands of people participating in 13 countries, that this year, the folks of Stop Street Harassment are dedicating an entire week to raising public awareness to end gender-based verbal harassment.
In speaking out against catcalls, sexist comments, public masturbation, groping, stalking, and assault, you will help to create a sustained dialogue surrounding how women, girls and the LGBTQ community must endure a level of verbal and physical street violence that continues to be an inevitable reality for far too many people. The widespread acceptance of gender and sexuality based street harassment has created a silent suffering that wrongfully places the burden of street harassment onto those receiving the harassment, leaving harassers free to continue. In the past, a casual acceptance of street harassment for LGBTQ individuals, women and girls has created a stigma of shame and silence. International Anti-Street Harassment Week is a way of countering this. By making this a part of the public discussion, we can change the culture of acceptance surrounding street harassment. No one should have to change the way they walk to school or work, or worry if their clothing might draw unwanted attention. This week is about calling for the right of everyone to be treated as equals in all shared public spaces. Just as sexual harassment is not tolerated in schools, work or at home, we should not accept it from strangers on the streets, either!
Meet Us On the Street offers many ways for how you can participate, whether by taking to the street on March 24th with your friends and community, bringing up street harassment in conversations, to tweeting about it (#NoSHWeek) and changing your Facebook photo during the third week of March. You can also organize action in your community and submit it to the map so others in your area can find out about it.
In 2003, my childhood best friend and I took a trip to NYC to celebrate her birthday. We got second row tickets to an amazing play, staring her favorite actor. It was supposed to be an amazing trip for us, something to remember for a lifetime. Sadly, I will remember it for all the wrong reasons.
We took the subway during rush hour to get to Times Square in time for what I think was a 7:00 performance. We were all dressed up, each wearing cocktail dresses among a sea of bland commuters. The train was utterly packed to the gills. We stood, sharing a pole, facing each other on the train. When there are that many people cramped in a tight space, you are bound to get bumped and jostled by backpacks and suitcases. I found my rear being repeatedly “bumped” by what I initially thought was a suitcase. I began to get suspicious and used a technique that my friend and I had employed many times in the past. I made it clear to her I was a little suspicious about what was going on behind me without saying a word. I quickly stepped to the side, so as to leave whatever was going on behind me immediately exposed to her line of vision. The look on her face was not at all what I expected to see, as it reflected what she had not expected to see—a short man with his pants unzipped, and his erect penis hanging out.
That “bump” was him continually rubbing his penis up against my rear end. Thankfully, we were coming to our station. I was completely shocked and had no idea how to react. I will be forever grateful to my friend for grabbing my hand and running up the steps. We started screaming “Rape” on the top of our lungs. Disturbingly enough, the man began to follow us. Somehow we lost him in the crush of people.
Disoriented and upset, we made it to our performance. I was too disturbed to leave my seat during intermission. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone getting close to me in the lobby. After the show, we had a wonderful experience meeting the actors. I was so bothered by the thought of getting back on the subway, I called a male friend of mine from nearby and he escorted us on the train back to our hotel. While waiting for him, a mounted police officer happened to come by. I stopped him and asked if I could tell him something, even though I knew he couldn’t do anything about it. He was so kind and understanding and his attention to me in that moment actually helped.
I am not the kind of woman to not react–especially to this kind of abuse. This is just evidence that any one of us can be so taken aback that we don’t know how to react. To this day, I am totally paranoid about using public transportation of any kind. This is in part due to a bus driver that harassed me in my home town shortly before the subway incident.
All told, that (literal) jerk-off took a great red cocktail dress from me, a feeling of safety on public transportation, and what should have been an unmarred vacation with my best friend.
I work at a restaurant. At work last weekend, a male patron called me “darling”. I find this very offensive, objectifying, disrespectful to my intelligence, and dehumanizing – I am not his significant other and he is a total stranger.
I told him: “Don’t call me darling.” He responded, shocked: “What?!” I said, “Don’t call me darling. I’m not your girlfriend.” He said, “I didn’t know!” I said, “Now you know.” He began arguing: “I call everyone that!” I said, “Well, now you know not to call me that. We’re done.”
When he left, he shouted at me, “Thanks a lot, Toots!” I replied, “Don’t call me Toots either!” as he walked away.
I told my manager about it and asked if we could ban him from the restaurant. She said no, because this wasn’t “sexual harassment” as defined in a course on workplace harassment she recently completed. She told me to just suck it up as there was nothing that could be done.
In her response, I heard several undertones: that either she really did believe she had limited options in responding to such incidences, and/or that she thought I should just sit down and shut up – relax and “learn to live with” offensive, derogatory, gender-based remarks, simply because I work in a customer service-oriented industry.
I don’t know what to say to my boss, aside from the fact that I feel (am?) entitled to stand up for myself against unwanted gender-based verbage from patrons, and disappointed that she didn’t have my back in this particular exchange.
I was walking down the street at about 1am on Saturday after having a celebration with a group of friends. I was with one friend who is male and slightly shorter than me (I am 5’6″). Approaching us was a group of four larger men. I didn’t think anything of it as we walked past them, and then one of them smacked me on the butt as we walked past. I did not even look at their faces because my friend and I were having a conversation — and it took me a few seconds to even comprehend what had happened. I told my friend that it had happened, but I am very angry at myself for not advocating for myself in some way. I didn’t yell. I didn’t explain how unacceptable his behavior was. I just kept walking. And that makes me feel very victimized and subservient. Yuck.
I’ve been living in Sri Lanka for several months now, working as an English teacher. The verbal harassment that foreign women (and I suspect Sri Lankan women as well) endure on a daily basis is disgusting. I can’t walk ten feet out my door before comments like “hey sexy,” “I want to f**k you!” and other extremely forward comments are made. It has made me feel bad about even walking out of my door, and I sometimes don’t even go out because I don’t feel like dealing with the harassment. The worst part is that public shaming does not work here. If I call someone out on their harassment, they behave as if they’ve done something to be proud of, or, as I walk past, they laugh at me.
I’ve never experienced such horrible harassment before coming here, and I would love to find some way of stopping it.
I live in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, a city I love. The people here are incredibly helpful, hospitable and kind, especially to foreigners like me. I’m very independent, and have always felt safe here.
But earlier this week I saw a woman nearly have her purse stolen. The would-be mugger jumped into a taxi before I, or anyone else, could take action.
So I was a little on edge when, entering a covered pedestrian overpass, I noticed a young man walking a little too closely, and too directly, behind me.
I slid my arms through both my backpack straps, thinking he might try to grab it off my shoulder. But that’s not what he had in mind.
I was wearing a skirt and tights, and before I knew it he had his fingers between my legs.
I spun around to face a surprisingly clean-cut, well-dressed young man. He was turning away from me, but I grabbed him, furious.
I started shouting horrible things at him in English, having forgotten all my Georgian curses in the heat of the moment. “You f**king piece of shit!” I screamed as I started beating his head and chest. “What the f**k do you think you’re doing, you waste of f**king space!” I punched his ear, slapped his face, pounded on his arms and shoulders.
He started to walk away, in the direction I needed to go. This only made me angrier. I grabbed him again, inflicting more verbal and physical abuse.
What struck me now, in hindsight, is how shocked and confused he looked. He didn’t fight back, didn’t say anything – he was frozen. What did he expect to happen? What would a Georgian woman have done?
When he finally started moving in the opposite direction, I screamed, “Get the f**k out! Get the f**k away from here!” and finished crossing the underpass.
That’s when I started crying.
As I walked home from school 2 years ago when I was in the 9th-10th grade, I would be harassed by men who were old enough to be my grandfather and some of them were in their 20s passing by in cars saying things to me and even slowing down and screaming things to me from their cars and followed me as I walked along the side walk; I turned to say nothing to these men I ignored them yet they kept on.
My experiences were so horrific and disturbing that when I told my parents,they stopped me from walking home and made it a point to pick me up from school and drop me off to make sure nothing like it ever happened again.We also found out that there are a number of registered sex offenders in the area in which I had to walk to and from school;a lot were for rape…
At first, I was too scared and shaken up to even tell them about it. It felt like a part of me was being taken every time these old men would say such disgusting things to me even though they clearly knew I was a minor and not interested because I had on my school uniform and I looked my age.
No one should ever have to go through this sort of thing..
I was waiting at a local bus stop close to my apartment building, around 9pm, when this guy who was up the block a bit saw me and followed me to the bus stop. He asked for the time, and I thought he would be on his way, but then he stood very close to me, facing me, and would not move. I didn’t want to run or make a sudden move, so I just stood , my phone in my hand, ready to turn and walk when I looked down and he had taken his pants off and was completely exposing himself. It was horrific and disgusting, and I just turned and calmly walked away. I looked over my shoulder, and the creep had already run off somewhere and was out of sight. I’m not sure why anyone would think it’s ok to do something like that in public, but if I ever see this individual again, I will call the police and use my pepper spray.