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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A guy in a white car: The ubiquitous ‘hey baby,’ something else I couldn’t make out, a jacking off gesture.
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I have so many other stories of harassment. For instance, when I was seventeen (years ago), a friend and I were followed out to my car by a man working at Home Depot (who had approached us in the store, and checked us out back by the tires away from everyone else….. already creepy. He was much older and way bigger). He asked how old we were, we answered 17, and he then asked when our birthdays were. When we told him we had just turned 17, he paused and said, “Well…. I mean, if you girls ever want to hang out, just holler at me.”
Things like that happen a lot. And lesser incidents like being whistled or kissed at from a moving car (whether or not I’m walking with a group or a boyfriend, regardless of dress) happen even more often (just last night, actually).
But what made me want to post was a conversation I had with my current boyfriend tonight. We were at a pizza place and I went to go to the bathroom. While passing the men’s room, I heard two guys talking. “Aw man, the line is longer than the women’s room!” “Well, men are smarter than women, so…” I missed the rest, and I may be overreacting but the tone of his voice… it sounded like he meant it. And whether he did or not, it reminded me that there are men who truly believe that they are more intelligent than all women simply by the virtue of their penis. It bothered me, and when I told my boyfriend about it, he sort of blew me off and dismissed it. “I’m sure he was just joking,” etc.
Later, he asked what was wrong and I explained that it seemed that every time I bring up an instance of sexism or objectification, he doesn’t take me seriously and seems to think I’m making it up (this has happened before). I assured him that I wasn’t. And actually, he understood and apologized. We continued talking and I said, “I have had hatred thrown my way before, but most of what I have to deal with is the kind of sexism that is patronizing, objectifying, dismissive, perv bullshit. But the thing about that is… It’s a weird thing – trying to be tough and strong while knowing that there are men twice my size who, if they wanted to, could throw me across a room or punch me out and take advantage of me. And I can fight, and I would, but I can’t deny the difference in physical strength. And when I am objectified, it disturbs me. If they don’t see me as human, what’s to stop them from doing those things?”
(sidetrack: I just caught myself thinking, “If I were stronger, I guess I wouldn’t have to worry as much.” WTF!? I am 5’0″ and around 110 lbs. I’m in pretty good shape, and I’m fairly muscular. Still, there is only so much I can do for my size. But what bothers me about my thought is the whole “might makes right” mentality that I was JUST guilty of, even though I’m so opposed to it. “Oh, if I were stronger, I’d be safe.” As if we’re animals. Just because a man is stronger than me, that does not give him the right to use that against me. It shouldn’t be about me fending a man off, it shouldn’t even be an issue in the first place. Why is he bothering me at all? You can’t logically promote the idea that men are more intelligent/rational/capable than women (you know us gals and our periods) and then at the same time suggest that they (men) are so overcome by their irrational, savage, animal instincts at the sight of a woman’s [insert body part, depending where you are] that they can’t help but commit a rape. Not only is it misogynist, it lacks consistency and just doesn’t even make any fucking sense. Anyway…)
I think tonight helped him get a better idea of why I take things like this seriously. He’s a good guy and I know he wants to treat others with the respect they deserve. He just needed to hear me articulate what bothered me. I know a lot of men like this – men who just need to hear the women in their lives explain why sexism/objectification is so disturbing to us. Thank you, Hollaback, for providing a venue.
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I was visiting my friend a University of Missouri and we went to a party. Me and my friends were pretty much the only ones dancing so when a strange girl came up and started dancing with me, I was happy that she was joining us. However, she then proceeded to bite me on my neck. Very hard. Shocked I just walked away. I told my friends and they thought it was just as weird as I did and we all kind of laughed at it. Later, I was standing against the walk talking to my boyfriend when she came up to me again. I said to her in a light but firm way “Don’t bite me again, because that really hurt!” She, of course, bit me again. I then tried to slink away but she had me pinned against the wall and started drunkenly pressing herself into me. She touched my breasts. My boyfriend then grabbed my armed and pulled me away.
It was such a weird thing and only now, reading this site, do I realize I totally underreacted. Of course, if a man had done this to me, not only would I have fought back, but my boyfriend would defended me. I was so worried about not hurting her feelings or making it seem like a big deal that I forgot about my self respect. This will never happen again, whether by a man or a woman.
Recently, I was able to use Hollaback!’s Web site as an educational, inspirational and cross-generational tool of empowerment. And they said the Internet wouldn’t last.
The conversation in question happened between a 19-year-old college student and me, her 30-something cousin. I listened as she described street harassment she receives almost daily — at her campus, near her home, in all sorts of public spaces that should be rightfully hers.
She’s already learning that they’re not.
She was asking me how to avoid such situations. How to stave off the “catcalls” and creepers. What to wear. What NOT to wear. Where to go. How to get there. How to come back.
My young, idealistic cousin is already learning that her public world will be a maze of constant avoidance, broken by gauntlets of abuse.
Simply because she’s a woman.
And she wants to walk outside.
And it fucking breaks my heart.
I couldn’t tell my cousin not to worry, that such harassment won’t happen too much — because I know it probably will. I know by the time she’s my age — or much sooner — she might have learned to see every man on the street as a threat, lost count of the times she’s been verbally harassed or worse, and feel an extra stress every time she’s simply walking alone.
I couldn’t tell her these things wouldn’t happen. But I could tell her how to confront them. I could tell her how to HOLLABACK!
So, instead of telling my cousin to ignore street harassment — which is the advice I got at her age — I talked with her about WHY some men harass women on the street, why our culture tolerates it and ways to safely confront the behavior.
Hollaback! gave me the tools to have this conversation. I was able to reference the Web site — which my cousin now reads — as well as email her several street harassment articles I’ve found online, through Hollaback! or on my own.
I think the conversation helped her.
I hope so anyway.
I know it helped me. I know it made me feel better that I had something other to say than “Well honey you just gotta deal with that cause it’s just the lot of women, us givers of life and the heart of societies. Random strangers get to harass us on the street! ”
I think too many women were told such things in the past. They were taught to be passive, how to play defense in a never-ending game. But a new generation of women are taking the offensive, speaking up, and unafraid to fight this war.
Women like my cousin.
She called me the other night with a proud tale of how she’d silenced a harasser on the street.
Yep, that’s my girl.
Not a victim. Not an object. Not a passive, pretty little thing.
But a newly minted foot-soldier with the weapons to HOLLABACK!
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