Today is the gay pride festival in Amsterdam, which is widely celebrated! But every year it gets used as an excuse to party and get drunk, and not as a celebration of acceptance and lgbtq’s. So the vibes on this day are never that great, but I decided to go out for an evening stroll anyway. I wanted to go out for 15 minutes or so, but I returned after 5, because in those 5 minutes I had been made to feel like shit.
I walked past a square where a party had just ended so it was emptying out. First a group of boys walked past me, way too close for it to be acceptable, and made a comment to me in French. FIFTEEN meters further a man in his late 20s came up to me, and started asking me why I was looking so angry and where I was going to. I felt pretty uncomfortable and annoyed, but I didn’t dare to tell him to just leave me alone. So I just answered his questions vaguely, while he made some pretty sexist comments to me. He claimed that if he could get a good look at me, he would be able to see if I was a lesbian, which disgusted me even more. After a couple of minutes I cut the conversation short and headed back to my house. One minute later, a thirty year old man said something about me being hot, and that he wanted to take me home. All of this happened in a distance of 200 meters.
In the day time street harassment doesn’t occur much here, but at night it can be pretty bad, this was just one of the many examples, ranging from rude comments to being followed. And the worst part? I’m 15.
The clothing we are required to dress in at the clothes store I worked at can be classified as skimpy. They give us these skirts, dresses, and shorts and expect us to climb ladders. I don’t own a skirt except the one I had to buy for work. I had guys look up my skirt all the time in Jr high so I never wore them. It was the end of December and I had come into work with a skirt, tank top, and a sweater on, cold, I may add..and the lights in the store make any location you are at very hot. Well this one girl, who works in the store with me, had her attire of a tank top and shorts. She was cold and I felt bad (I also was only working there for 2 months so I was trying to make friends) so I gave her my sweater. My manager stuck me in Dudes 1 (or the front room to greet people). When I greet people, I greet them with a smile and this guy I guess took it as though I were flirting with him. He stayed in my room for 30 mins just checking me out. Then the girl in Betty’s 1 (or the girls front room, which requires to have someone in it at all times) asked if I could watch her room while she runs to the bathroom. So I agreed. I was in her room for 20 minutes (little long to be at the bathroom) and the guy came into Betty’s 1. He was staring directly at me so I smiled and continued working. I was just standing there fixing a back table near the jean wall and he walked into the next room that was behind me. I thought it was odd that he was in the girls area but I had a lot of work to do so I shrugged it off. 5 seconds later he comes up behind me, gropes me underneath my skirt and says “see yah later baby”. As he was fast paced walking out of the store I yelled “You never treat a woman that way, ever!” And as soon as he stepped foot onto the porch the sirens were going off. My sprint to the door, tears streaming, and my manager on the other side of the porch looking at my tear stricken face as I tell him to, “Go get him!” And he sprints out the store as the guy is running down the mall with a smile on his face. The county police, THANKFULLY, were in the mall that day and helped my manager catch him. The guy ended up stealing 250 dollars worth of cologne. They brought him back to the store. No one knew what happened to me till I told the girl that was supposed to be in Bettys 1. She watched the room so I could go in the back and cry. My manager was MAD that that had happened to me and filled out papers about it and what not but nothing happened to the guy…he was the same age as me, 17 but 1 month short of 18, I had just turned 17…the part that angers me the most is that the store manager did not care. He never asked if I was okay but told me (not so sympathetically) that the guy was no longer allowed in the store..as if we were LOSING a customer. Friends at school, my family, co-workers, all made fun of me through November. I never wanted people at school or work to know but the girl, that I gave my sweater to, had told people I see everyday at school…everyone ended up finding out and taunted me. I couldn’t go into Dudes or Bettys 1 alone for a month without being nervous. Also, I never wear skirts or shorts to work anymore..only jeans. Regardless of what my attire is, that incident should not have happened in the work place!
I had a medical appointment in downtown Seattle. It was Valentine’s Day and my fiance was away on deployment with the Navy, so I didn’t get to see him that day. I had expected my dad to come pick me up when I was finished, but he cancelled on me at the last minute, so I had to take the Greyhound home, which meant I had to spend some time alone downtown when it was getting dark. I stopped in at Gameworks to play Dance Dance Revolution before my bus arrived, so I was a little sweaty on my walk back, which is about 6 blocks away. after about a block I walked by a guy who was clearly leering at me. I ignored it. As I rounded the corner on to Pine street someone in a truck sped past and screamed something dirty out the window at me. I flipped them off. I continued walking and then turned the corner on 7th, only to be met by another guy who started saying all sorts of inappropriate things to me. One of the things he said was “hey sugar, give me a valentine’s kiss”. that’s when I lost it, because it was bad enough to be missing my fiance on valentine’s day, but he had to rub it in. I told him “fuck you!” but he wouldn’t stop. so I sped up my pace. a woman nearby chewed him out saying he couldn’t say things like that to girls. she then tried to apologize to me on his behalf. He had no right to say that. I kept walking and left them behind. The hardest part through the whole thing was that I didn’t have anybody to call. My parents were busy and my fiance’s phone was disabled for deployment. none of my friends were picking up. I felt very alone.
Tonight I decided to go for a walk. It was not my best decision apparently. After being pissed off at a friend of a friend for rape jokes, I needed some air. On my walk, I encountered one man, who was certain I was “his babe” and thought I needed to know how much he found my butt attractive. I didn’t. I told this man to fuck off and continued on my walk. However, after reaching the beach to which I was headed, enjoying myself and returning upon my way, I spotted a rather sketch looking man. A man around 5’6 (I estimate), chubby, light brunette hair and plaid shorts. With his hands in them. I was hoping this man would simply continue on his way and I could do such as well. As I continued walking, however, the man decided to follow me. I walked faster, he walked faster. I crossed to the other side of the street, so did he. I took a knife out of my pocket and into my grip, he slowed a little, but did not cease following. And just as I was going to turn and confront this man, a group of college students around my age came upon the street and saw the man following me with his hands in his pants. They started yelling, he stopped, they continued, I walked faster, he did not follow. Unfortunately, just before making it to my house, I spotted him again, this time across the street though. I stopped on a neighbor’s porch, held my knife and waited. He left. I’m not sure if he saw me this time or not. But this was certainly not the walk I was looking for.
Ocean City is supposed to be a “family based town”. The entire island is alcohol free. You’d think just a simple 45 minute distant run would be no problem…nope! I started running for MAYBE 10 seconds but it didn’t matter because the verbal abuse started. I crossed the street and this car full of guys were yelling things at me like, “hey you in the pink sports bra” and “nice a**!”. Worst part of all was that my younger brothers were running behind me. This verbal abuse makes me not want to go out and exercise.
Apparently men have no age discrimination when it comes to harassment. I was taking a power-walk with my 25 year old sister and my 50-something year old mother. (I’m 22). We were coming up to a house that had three men that look like they were in their early 20’s, all washing the same car. I could feel the tension building as we walked up to them. As soon as we got within 3 feet of them one of them said “Hey ladies, can we walk with y’all?” and then all the guys started laughing. I said “No thanks,” and we kept walking. I felt their eyes burning into our backsides as we kept walking. I felt literally dirty after this happened, and embarrassed that it happened in front of my mother of all people.
Have a way with words? Want to change the world? 100 Thousand Poets for Change is an upcoming international event that celebrates poetry and advocates social, political and environmental change.
Currently, 350 cities representing 70 counties are all planning their own public events, focusing on different topics that reflect local issues. The events will all take place at the same time on September 24 and will be documented through a blog.
AtréveteDF, the Hollaback! chapter in Mexico City, is getting involved and currently accepting poem submissions on sexual harassment and discrimination in public spaces as part of the worldwide event. They will publish these on their site and use them in public action. AtréveteDF is also partnering with the collective Contra La Violencia, El Arte (Against Violence, Art). The deadline to submit is September 5.
As I walked past a group of 3 men, probably in their 30s, they started yelling, “Hey girl”, “Hey white girl”, “hey white girl in the black dress with the nice tits”…I continued to walk past them, trying to ignore them, but one stood up and walked after me saying, “what, are you racist or something? won’t talk to a black man?” I couldn’t remain silent any more…and I responded, “No. I don’t talk to people that objectify and disrespect me.” His cronies on the bench laughed, and he held his hands up and backed off.
Normally we do not post racial identifiers on this site, as per our anti discrimination policy. Exceptions include when the relevance of race is central to the story, as is the case in this post.
I spent the last semester abroad in Morocco. I’ve experienced street harassment but never like this. I was living in the medina, or old city, with a family, and every day my walk to and from school was a total battle. I hoped eventually I would get used to it, or the men would give up. But as much as I grew over the semester, I had to realize they didn’t.
On one occasion I was walking by myself on the main avenue of the “French city”. The sidewalks were crowded, people everywhere, big wide public spaces. Out of nowhere 5 boys went by on rollerblades, ages ranging from 25 to 16. The first one grabbed my breast as he went by. I turned to scream at him and another slapped my ass. A third grabbed my breast again. I screamed and cursed every word I knew in Arabic but no one did a thing. Families simply stared at the white girl causing a scene. The worst part was I was about a block away from a police station.
The actual groping was not an every day occurrence, but it was clear men knew about it. Any boy on a bike would swerve towards you and turn away at the last second with a terrible smile on his face as if to tell you, “I could if I wanted to.”
And the guys on my program never fully got it. They’d say it’s a big deal in the states too, or act as if it wasn’t a huge deal. Or give you tips on how to avoid it as if they know anything about how to deal with it. There is nothing a girl can do that should ever make that okay. It does not matter what she wears, how she holds her head, what words she screams after the fact. It just shouldn’t happen.
Towards the end my boyfriend came to visit. Suddenly, I could walk down the same streets with him and never hear a thing. It made me mad. The second he walked away, it would start up again. The men had no respect for me as a person, simply for my boyfriend and what apparently belonged to him.
In the end, we couldn’t hold back anymore and the girls on my program began verbally confronting men who would harass us. They always seemed in total shock that we didn’t like it. Apparently having someone violate your personal space and whisper obscenities in your ear without your choice is welcoming. I do believe a lot of them meant it without harm, but their willingness to let the cat-calling and following and pestering slide meant it was so much easier for those men who did mean harm to get away with it.
I live close to my workplace and I always like to take a walk to and from it to save gas and get exercise. While I was walking to work early one morning, a man stuck his head out of his vehicle as he drove by and yelled out an indiscernible comment. I thought nothing of it at first since I live on a main street in a city with many people. However, this man drove by me four more times, each time yelling something. The last two times he drove by, he swerved to the side of the road that I was walking on and asked me if I would like to go for a ride with him. The first time he asked me I replied, “No thank you, I am fine with walking.” The second time I told him if he didn’t leave me alone that I would call the Police. I took out my phone to get ready to call and walked briskly away and he finally drove away for the last time. I live close to where prostitutes work but that does not merit his disrespectful behavior. Some perverts just need to know when to quit and leave girls alone.