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!
To help build a world where every girl learns at a young age that they don’t just have to “take it,” donate to our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Only 8 days to go!
This happened a long time ago. I grew up in a pretty, quiet middle-class neighborhood in the middle of the Bible belt. My mom was always watchful. My best friend and I rarely played in our front yard, but this one day we took our dolls out front like this once in our whole childhood. Usually my mom wouldn’t let us play alone out front. A jeep drove up with a slightly built youngish white guy who asked us if we’d seen his puppy, and if we wanted to go help him find it. We were terrified and right away ran into the house. But DEAR GOD!!!! He could have put his car in park and thrown one of us into the back seat, but luckily, he sped off. We never saw him again. That’s one brush with a rapist that I hope I never have again.
The second creepy incident happened at a park with my mom. My mom was walking the track around the small park as me and the same friend played. This was a very hot summer day. We noticed a guy get out of his car, and smoke. He stared at us intently and he was wearing a thick black coat, and black boots. And it was hot outside. He smoked a few cigarettes. He had dark sunglasses on. He watched us. My mom noticed and decided to sit in her car, which was next to hers, and she started it. He had no children with him. He left as soon as my mom got in her car. He left.
Third story. And these are all true, and luckily for us end happily. This SAME friend and I were at her house and went to a park. Alone. Her mom let us go. Stupid, don’t let your kids go to parks alone. These boys that were 12 or so said really gross sexual things to us, but never attacked us physically. We escaped, mostly unscathed.
I just don’t get it. Why are there so many creepy, evil and sick men out there???????? WHAT THE FUCK? It’s so sad. It makes me so angry. So women let’s get angry, fight back and shame the assholes!!!
To help build a world where street harassment is unacceptable behavior, donate to our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Only 8 days to go!
My friend and I were eating at Java House, on the corner of Queen west and Augusta Ave. in Toronto and my friend noticed a guy taking a picture on his cell of a woman walking a few paces ahead of him. We watched as the woman went into a Second Cup coffee place on the other side of augusta and he seemed to watch her go in and wait outside. He paced around and tried to act like he was about to cross the street but when the light turned green he just looked around. Then he looked inside the second cup again and walked on past it further East on Queen.
After dinner my friend and I walked East on Queen and my friend went to catch a street car going East from Queen and Spadina. The man got on the same street car as her and looked around. The woman was on the same street car too and when the man saw her, he sat down beside her. It was obvious they didn’t know each other. When the street car reached College they both got off at the same stop. She started to walk down the street and he ducked into a convenience store. My friend stayed on the streetcar and then texted me about what she’d seen. I suggested she try to report the incident to the police. She called and got the brush off. The police officer said ” we can’t do anything about it now. Next time call when it’s happening” She refused to let my friend file a report or to call a cop car out to that area to see what was going on.
For the record, the stalker was a man about 6’2, average weight for his height, and had ear length wavy hair and kind of a square jaw line. He also had a short goatee or a beard and appeared to be in his early 30s. The woman appeared to be 20s or 30s, with long brown hair down her back, wearing a black tank top, dark knee-length pants, a black shoulder bag and sunglasses on.
I just really wanted to document this since the police took no interest and this guy will probably do something like this again. Makes me feel sick and helpless.
To help build a world where street harassment is unacceptable behavior, donate to our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Only 8 days to go!
There are many more instances that I can speak of, but this one is what I always think of first. I was in Virginia Beach for a cheerleading competition, and I was walking down the main road with my father. I was on crutches with an air cast on one foot, wearing gym shorts & a tank top. As my father and I were crossing the street, a young man drove by and screamed, “I wanna have your babies!” My father was horrified and asked me if that man really just asked that. I didn’t know what to say- all I could say was yes, and changed the subject. I’ve put up with a lot of things being yelled at me in my life, but in front of my father that was just humiliating and I felt awful that he had to witness his “little girl” verbally abused like that.
I’ve been yelled at with sexual things by men my age (19) all the way to old men that look like they’re in their eighties. It’s disgusting and disrespectful, and it ruins things for those few good men out there. I’ve been in situations in which guys are really just trying to be friendly or helpful, but I expect the worst at first because of past experiences.
This is a wonderful campaign and I truly hope it makes a difference.
To help build a world without street harassment, donate to our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign today.
I was on the phone and a man came up behind me and grabbed my torso and quickly walked away before I could say anything. I was on a business call so I couldn’t just stop my conversation. I am furious!
I’m a fairly traditional southern woman, raised and homeschooled by extremely conservative parents, and sheltered from the world. Or at least I was. I started college at Tarleton State in the fall of ’09, and a lot of things change. I’ve learned a lot about harassment, first hand, that I hope none of my friends never have to learn. I could write about getting groped on my way to a club/bar, or screamed at by some idiot in a truck on my way home, or even a more violent incident that happened later that year, but I won’t. Instead I give you this little jewel, the incident that truly showed me how comfortable these ‘normal’ men were with their behavior, and just how acceptable it really was. I was attending a womens volleyball game with some friends, supporting our school in the regionals I think. Some guys behind us started harassing the opposing team and screaming some very vulgar things at them. A male friend took offense to that behavior, and warned them to quiet down. When they started being rude to him, I piped up. I don’t remember what I said but it must have made an impression. They were quieter for the rest of the match, and we watched in peace. Afterwards, I refused a ride home and decided to walk, because my dorm was less than half a mile away and the night was beautiful. I didn’t even think twice about my decision. I tried to call my boyfriend of the time who lived out of town, to enjoy a walk and talk under the stars. Just as I heard the busy tone, I began to hear yelling. It was three of the drunk men from before, trying to get my attention. I tried to ignore them, they were being just as vulgar as before. I was terrified. They were large men, and at 5’2″, i’m rather not. They continued to follow me as I asked them to leave me alone, and fought off tears. I could smell the alcohol from 5 feet away. I finally snapped when they asked my name again, and told them “It’s get the fuck away from me”. They just laughed and asked if it was “mexican”. They followed me to the door before losing interest. There were half a dozen other people in the parking lot when they started harassing me. Talk about turning a blind eye.
If you want a world where no one EVER turns a blind eye to verbal or physical violence, donate to the “I’ve got your back” campaign. We’ve trying to raise another $15,000 in the next 8 days and we need your help.
I’m usually the person targeted for harassment, since I’m tall and multiracial (and confident), and therefore the most visible woman on any given block. But just now I witnessed an egregious harassment of another woman, and I followed up with the harasser, as I would hope others would do for me (but have NEVER done.)
A big man (at least 6’2″, maybe more, and maybe 220 lbs or more) lurched out of an alcove at a small woman (at most 5’4″ and 120 lbs, maybe 25 y/o or less) who was walking down the sidewalk. He went at her fast, but slowly enough that she could get out of his way. But, since he held his arms out in front of and behind her, she could only get out of his way by going sideways. He pushed her across the sidewalk and into a car, where she ducked under his arm and kept walking. She bumped into me because she was busy looking behind her at the man, who was leaning into the car, laughing at her.
This all happened too fast for me to react to it. Now, as you can tell from the photo and video I’ve included, the man is poorly dressed and dirty, clearly down and out, possibly a drug addict. I do understand the rage and the invisibility of men like this, especially when you add on the racial component and the pressure and invisibility that comes with that.
HOWEVER, it is NOT OKAY for an oppressed man to take out his rage on a woman, or on anyone who is more vulnerable than he is, or on whom he can become violent.
I had a few seconds to decide what to do. He was still lingering just a few steps ahead of me, adjusting himself to the success of his harassment. At moments like this, I have to figure out if I’m going to be harassed myself. If I see a potential harasser up ahead, I’ll generally cross the street to avoid them. But this time, I decided to take the initiative, because I was so angry about what he did to that woman.
I stood still on the sidewalk as I thought about it. During this time, a family of two women and two little girls came down the sidewalk and the man lurched out amongst them, although I’m not sure this time if he intended to scare them or if he was just substance-addled. But that was the last straw for me.
I pulled out my phone, switched to camera mode, and walked past him, glaring at him as I went. As I expected, he started to follow me, saying something to me (I don’t know what, I had my headphones on until I turned my camera to video mode.) I started snapping pictures of him and, as soon as he saw me doing it, he walked away from me. He kept ducking into the building alcove, hoping I’d walk past. I tried that one time, but he just came back out and continued following me, so I continued snapping pictures.
Then he turned down a street to get away from me. Unfortunately for him, I’d remembered my video camera and switched to video. I turned the corner and did a little interview with him, which you can see in the video. Of course, he denied it all. Too bad I didn’t get pictures of the harassment.
He took off down the street and I followed him for a block and a half. He kept looking back to see if I was following. I stopped taking pictures, but I kept my phone held up. Finally, he walked down an alley to get away from me and I let him go. I wonder if that’s the first time in his life he’s had the tables turned on him like that. He sure didn’t like being harassed or followed.
Let me emphasize here, though, that it was the middle of the day, there were lots of people around, and I’m pretty tall and imposing-looking. I don’t necessarily recommend that other, smaller women turn the tables quite so thoroughly on a big man who was willing to get physical with a woman. It could be dangerous.
To ensure that every bystander is as amazing as Claire, donate to the “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Claire has already donated, as if she wasn’t already badass enough.
Every day I take the Metrobus to and from my college campus in Austin, Texas. Our neighborhood is pretty far away and my stop is the very last stop that bus takes, and I have to change buses three times to get to and from school. One Wednesday afternoon, around four o’clock, I transferred from the second to the last bus. I had been waiting at the bus stop for a good twenty minutes, but when I got on, some guy appeared out of nowhere and got on with me.
He was in his mid to late forties, it seemed. He tried to sit next to me even though there were tons of other empty seats, but I shook him off. Instead he sat in a seat across from me, and attempted to talk to me in Spanish. I just gave him a look and pointedly avoided his gaze, though I could see that he kept staring at me throughout the fifteen-minute ride. I was infuriated.
He finally got off at the bus stop before mine, where a tiny subdivision is located. I breathed a sigh of relief and got off at my stop, located at a tax building across the street from my neighborhood. I crossed the street and got to the entrance, when I noticed a car that was driving very slowly into the neighborhood. When I approached, I stared into the car, heart beating faster as I slowly came to realize that it was the same man from the bus earlier.
He only drove a little ways into the neighborhood, then pulled a u-turn and drove out of the same entrance. I was walking in, and I looked into the driver’s side and it was the same man, giving me the creepiest smile I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life. I had never known blood could literally run cold, but mine did that day.
He waved at me and pulled out of the neighborhood. I walked down the street backwards, watching his car. To my dismay, he was turning around at a stop-light and coming back my way. Horrified, I sprinted like mad to my house, thankfully fast enough so that he didn’t know where I lived. Nobody was home, and I hovered nervously next to the window. As I stared, the exact same car drove slowly around the street– He had been circling the neighborhood, looking for me.
I have never felt this outraged, violated, and humiliated. Knowing that he is practically my neighbor, that he would even try such a thing on a nineteen year old girl by herself absolutely infuriates me. That was a little over a few weeks ago, but I am still paranoid and I check that tiny neighborhood for his car every time I pass by, since I know he must live there.
Stories like this should never happen to anyone. Especially not 19 year olds. Help build a world without street harassment by donating to the “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. The campaign ends July 7th, so act quickly!
It was just gone half past ten at night, a Monday evening in Bristol and I was standing alone at the bus stop waiting for my bus home. I was texting on my phone. A drunk man approached from behind me – I don’t know how long he had been there but I’d been there about ten minutes. He called me “lovely phone lady” and tried to engage me in conversation. When I calmly gave him the brush-off he asked if I was a criminal lawyer (huh?) so I told him no, but actually I live with one – hoping to intimidate him but of course feeding his sense of entitlement to converse. After that I didn’t give him any conversation but he carried on regardless. He asked if I had a boyfriend and then he explained to me that I shouldn’t be out alone, that if I was going to get a taxi or a bus home alone it wasn’t safe, that anything could happen to me and that he would wait with me. I said firmly that I was perfectly fine and he should leave. He repeatedly asked me to tell him where I live. He asked me whether I watch “Midsomer Murders”. Perhaps he wanted to spook me or perhaps he is a bit-part actor in it. He refused to leave, told me he had sisters and he would never ‘let’ them travel alone at night. At this point the bus arrived and I told him again to go. Instead, he stood just by the doors as I got on the bus. I wasn’t going to ask the driver for my destination with him listening, so I stood there waiting for him to go away. He then shouted to the driver “Look after her” and “I love her”. I just stood there with my back to him. Then the driver asked, “Is he your boyfriend?” at which point I said no, he is a creep who I have never met before in my life. Only then did the driver close the doors and I could ask for my ticket.
This man invaded my personal space and my privacy. He assumed he had the right to do this – and to tell me not to go out alone at night. I happened to think he was a prick, but he had no way of knowing that I wouldn’t be very scared by him.
I’ve been holla’d at several times in the street. It’s not new to me. Quite the opposite, actually. But the two instances that stick out to me I will recap for you.
The first one was when I was in eighth grade and walking home from school. I was crossing a busy road at an intersection, and as I was halfway across the street a black truck pulled up behind me. The cab was full of rowdy teenage boys. The boys started screaming at me to “get in the car little girl!” because “we have candy and puppies!”. This shocked me. At the time I did not consider myself a little girl. I look back on it now, and yes, I was young. I have a sister in seventh grade and she seems like a little girl to me, too. But the fact that these teenage boys thought it was funny to harass some strange little girl, it angers me. If they had tried that on me at this age, I probably would’ve screamed at them.
The second time was just last year for me. My bus stop was on an almost busy road. It was usually quiet there, and this bicycle path we call a “Ravine” opened up on either side of the road. Every day at about the same time this old man would drive by on his moped giving me this creepy “I’m so undressing you with my eyes and damn, I’d tap that!” look. It was unnerving, but not much I could do. After maybe two or three months my bus stop was transferred to the other side of the road and it would come a little bit earlier. I didn’t see the old man for a while after that. But I did see him once more. Me and some friends were walking down another street. The two boys of the group decided to remove their shirts and see who had the biggest manboobs (They were incredibly fit, abs and everything, so there wasn’t much to compare) and the old man drove by again. Not only did he check me out, but he oggled my guys friends as well. Needless to say, I did not enjoy being looked at by a seventy-something old creep.
It really sucks when people start doing this and you feel you can’t speak up. We need to put a stop to this. And thanks to these stories, I’m able to make up some good comebacks to certain holla’s. I’m creating my own arsenal of rude comments for those special “friends” of ours. We should all Hollaback!
To help build a world where everyone has the right to feel safe and confident in their own neighborhood, learn more and donate to the “I’ve got your back” campaign.