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I live in Guatemala City and I cannot walk down the street alone without getting stares and comments. When I walk with my boyfriend, nobody ever says anything. But alone, every 2 or 3 men I pass on the street feels he has the right to call out to me, and it makes me angry and scared. Angry because it’s so disrespectful and they don’t have the right, and scared because as a woman walking alone, it could be so much worse than an obnoxious comment. I want to react, to call them out, but though I speak Spanish well (I’m from the States), I’m not so comfortable as to be able to challenge a random stranger on the street, especially since I can’t predict the way he’ll react. That feeling of powerlessness to call them out on their behavior puts me in an even worse mood. I tend to walk around on the street now *trying* to look angry enough to do some real damage in the hopes that it will scare some of them off. Today I finally lost my patience. I screamed the only Spanish-language obscenity I know at an employee of a fancy restaurant who called to me from the door, “Hola amor, where are you going?” (in English) It’s not the worst thing I’ve heard, but it’s what I get so many times a day it’s like a broken record. I’m not sure he heard, but the man on the street certainly did, which I felt a little bad about – it was not directed at him. And then not even 20 seconds later, a man on a motorcycle stopped at a light tried to get my attention with “ch ch! ch ch!” (The sound is used to get people’s attention here, and I cannot begin to fathom how many times I have heard it). Still fuming from the last guy, I flipped him off as I walked by, and then when he sped by he yelled something angry at me. I know that my reactions were immature and probably not the best way to deal with it, but I actually felt a little better afterward. I don’t have the energy or the responsibility to explain to every man who catcalls me why it’s inappropriate and offensive. And most of them probably already know it anyway. I get so frustrated not being able to react, and today, I *was* able to react. I’ll work in better responses, but I’m proud of myself for not feeling helpless in today.
Reading the entries on this site have made me so angry about street harassment, and given mine more context, but it has also helped me feel stronger to do something about it. Ignoring it doesn’t work. It doesn’t stop, it only gets worse, and the people who do it will just keep doing it if nobody tells them off. If they think will get away with it, there’s no incentive not to catcall somebody. Even if you just scream something at them, they know at least that it’s not appreciated nor tolerated by their target and maybe, eventually, they start to think about that… hopefully.
This story is 14 years old, but I never had anywhere to tell it before. I, like 99% of the world’s population, had been on the receiving end of street harassment ever since I was 11 years old, but these incidents occurred to me between the ages of 22 through 25.
I lived with my first serious boyfriend in an apartment off of Route 20 in East Greenbush, NY, but commuted across the Massachusetts border to my job in Pittsfield, MA…a 30 mile commute. Needless to say, I filled up at the gas station about 3 times per week at the station/convenience store right by my apartment complex on many mornings. There was also a bus stop right in front of this store and that is where my Harasser, Vic (I cannot believe I still remember this jerk’s name) found his opportunity to harass me.
I was young, slim, attractive enough so not surprised when men looked at me or shouted occasionally from their cars. I wore professional office attire – power suit or dress with jacket and heels. One morning, as I exited the store to return to my car, Vic was standing right by the door and he said softly, but loud enough for me to hear, “Oooh, those legs!” The way he said it was so gross it made me feel instantly sick to my stomach, like I could throw up. I got into my car without ever looking back at him, I wouldn’t even be able to describe him because I didn’t want to know who he was.
This continued EVERY single time I would go to the store in the mornings. Sometimes, I would see that Vic was getting on the bus before I reached the gas station so I learned that I could adjust my schedule by leaving home just 2 or 3 minutes later and he would be gone. If I saw him waiting on the bus and I needed gas or coffee I’d head to a different gas station just to avoid him leering at me, groaning at me, whispering his nasty comments at me. I hated Vic.
In 1997, my boyfriend & I moved to a different unit in our same apartment complex, then Vic figured out that he and I lived in the same complex! He took it upon himself to write me a letter and leave it on my car which was parked in front of my building! I cannot really remember the content of this letter other than the gist of it. “My name is Vic. I’ve been watching you for years. I want to take you out. Give me a chance. Blah, blah, blah… Please don’t run me over with your car.”
I find it interesting looking back on it now that he put in the line begging that I don’t run him over. He must have known that I didn’t like him or his advances. And I wished at the time I could have run him over, but then I would go to jail for vehicular homicide.
So I was totally freaked out that this guy knew where I lived. I remember expressing my fears to my boyfriend. Our relationship was slowly dying for many reasons, but his reaction to a strange man leering at his live in girlfriend and leaving notes on her car was this: “You can’t blame the guy for trying.” This man harassed me for nearly 3 years and that’s it? He’s just flirting with me?
This was just another one of our many disagreements so I decided to leave a few months later. I moved out in September of 97 and that was the end of dealing with Vic. I’ve never had another experience as creepy as him and I know he didn’t do anything “all that bad” on the scale of bad things. But if I had just had the courage to use my voice back then….I would have:
Yelled at him.
Told him he was a disgusting loser.
I would have reported his behavior to the store manager.
I would have reported his stalking behavior to the apartment complex managers.
I would have called police and at least filed a complaint on him.
I’m nearly 40 years old (about the age Vic was I’m estimating) and I don’t get those cat calls or harassment as I used to. But I swear, if I see it happening, I will speak up, I will Hollaback at all the Vics out there….”Stop it! She doesn’t want to hear about how much you want to touch her legs! You are spreading EVIL with your words and leering glances! Leave her alone!”
I was crossing the street from Old Navy and going back to my car. As I was getting into the car, I noticed a man in a beige SUV filming me with his cell phone. It creeped me out and I just watched him in my rear view mirror for a minute. When I put the car in reverse, he sort of freaked and also started to drive off. I attempted to follow him for a while, but he must have seen me and was flying. I just couldn’t keep up. I felt sort of gross and told my husband about it later. I said I wasn’t sure if he was some kind of pervert or just some weird0 randomly filming people. I’m 5’11” and 265 pounds, so I don’t fit the beauty standard. My husband said that, as a man, he thinks the guy was a perv. He said, “Pervs don’t just go for stereotypes. That you are visibly a woman is enough.” It still creeps me out to think that perv has video of me and what he’s doing with it.
A lot of folks in this town walk places – it’s a college town, we have roads, we walk. Usually I park where I work and walk down to class – I’ve been doing this for two years, no problem. Lately however I’ve been having work done on my car at a place farther up King street outside of the campus area, fairly close to where it stops being Downtown and starts being kinda rural. There are college student’s apartments in the area and some (arbitrary?) sections of the road have sidewalks.
Four times so far I’ve had to walk up a fairly steep hill, it’s a good twenty minute walk, in 90+ degree weather. I’m usually wearing jeans and a button-up shirt and sneakers. And every time at least three vehicles whistle, yell or honk. And I’m not talking just frat boys: these are State-owned trucks going to the construction site down the road, or big ol’ gravel trucks honking (LOUD) and scaring me. This doesn’t happen when I’m downtown but when I get to this part of the road, I get hassled. Every time.
I want to start throwing rocks at them. I flip them off or yell “fuck you.” A guy friend has told me I have a sexy walk and I’ve wondered if that’s the problem – I walk fast and I guess my butt moves too much? I don’t know dudes, I’m just walking. How else should I walk? I’m not the problem. A girl friend told me “They’re just trying to compliment you!” I said “They’re scaring me. If they want to be nice they could offer me a ride, and I’d make sure they know I carry a knife.”
Next time I’ll be throwing rocks.
I went to the beach with a friend and I didn’t want to sit in my wet bathing suit bottoms all the way home. There were no changing rooms where we were parked so when we were about to leave I stood next to my car with my towel wrapped around my waist and changed into a pair of shorts. I changed quickly and easily and I don’t see how anyone watching could have thought I’d expose myself in the process. There was a middle-aged guy standing behind my car fishing, with his back to me, and I noticed he was turned around staring at me. I made eye contact with him a few times in the hopes that he would realize his staring wasn’t welcome, but each time he would turn back to his fishing pole until I looked away, and I’d catch him staring again. Before I got into my car I said “hi” to him in a very sarcastic tone. He looked taken aback and said hi and then I left. The incident wasn’t the worst thing to happen to me by a long shot, but it was still irritating. It was like he had to be reminded that I’m a live person and not a paid actor in a porn film. Nothing is going to happen dude. You are not going to see my vag!
I’m an American living in Cameroon, and I have to walk 10 minutes to work everyday. I can do this by crossing a busy traffic circle and risk getting hit, or walking around and passing groups of guys hanging about. At least once each way everyday I get some form of verbal harassment unless I walk with my dad or brother. They yell ‘mon cherie’ or ‘ma belle’, and often openly gape at me in a sexual way. I’m 17, and needless to say this makes me extremely uncomfortable that I can’t even walk to work without being harassed. Sometimes I will just chance the roundabout to avoid them.
My friend and I were walking to get French fries down the street from her house. As we passed a shopping plaza a man in a car stopped and shouted at us “HEY HOES! HEY! HOW MUCH?? 5$?” and kept shouting. She yelled back that we weren’t hoes and I flipped the finger at him and kept going. And this wasn’t the only harassment we dealt with that night either. Walking home two other men in separate cars shouted at us and another stopped his car in front of us as we crossed the street and gestured for us to get in his car. We firmly declined and continued on our way.
I was loading my car with boxes, moving out of my apartment. While I was bent over trying to stack a box near the front, a young man in a red not-quite-sports car drove by and catcalled. I ignored it. Maybe fifteen minutes later, a guy in his forties was walking by and stopped to comment on my ass. I got out of the back of my car, looking him straight in the eye and said “Your comments aren’t helpful and you’re sexually harassing me. Leave me alone.” He called me a bitch and strutted away. This is not my first time being harassed in my college town of Bowling Green. I’ve gotten stared at and ‘spoken about’ among groups of men just walking down Main street. One time, I was riding home on my bike on the street (it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk), and two young guys nearly ran me off the road in their car and shouted “Get off the road slut!” to me as they drove by. In Cleveland when I was in eighth grade, I was walking home from the bus stop and a group of construction workers- on my home street, just three or four doors down- started catcalling me and asking me where I was going. Now that I’ve got both experience and education on my side, I’m going to the neighbor in the red car (I know who he is, idiot) and leaving a nice note on his car.
Two young guys on a train in Boston, MA. They’re probably drunk, we’re probably heading from the same baseball game. They’ve been hitting on/sexually harassing some college-age girls on the same train car as me without getting any responses.
Next they start glancing over towards me, a butch woman with short hair, and I overhear one of them mutter about my haircut. The other speculates whether I’m a man or a woman. Then the first starts asking “are you a lesbian” first quietly, then a little louder and again, a little louder. Like he’s trying to poke me, force me to react.
I stay silent and plan what to do or say next. I estimate how drunk they are, how heavy they look, and whether I could shove one enough to knock him down if I needed to. My heart’s pounding and I realize this is the third time in as many weeks I’ve faced harassment or derogatory speech for being visibly gay. At the next stop, the guys get off the train and I am relieved, but still angry. I decide that when I get home, I will post this on Hollaback and hopefully my story might help others, or at least make me feel less helpless.
I’ve been scared to drive ever since I was little. So when I announced at the beginning of the spring of 2011 that I was going to get my driver’s license, my friends and family were in disbelief. Imagine their surprise a few months later when at the wonderful age of 23 I proudly showed off my official license.
The first time I drove with my older sister in the car, I pulled up to a stop light next to a black SUV. An ordinary enough occurrence, but when I looked over and saw four boys leaning out of the SUV and making jack-off and cunnilingus gestures at us. I was absolutely stunned at their lack of respect. So stunned in fact, that I unknowingly switched lanes once the light turned green and cut off the person in the red car behind the black SUV full of jerks. The boys in the SUV pointed and laughed out of their windows as the guy in the red car honked mercilessly at me. My sister started screaming at me, saying that she shouldn’t have let me drive. I told her about how stunned I was with the guys making rude gestures at me, and her only response was:
“You’re going to have to get used to it. Guys do that to cute girls.”
I drove the rest of the trip in silence. I don’t want to ‘get used to it’ and I don’t think it’s fair that women have to add one more thing to worry about on the road.
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