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When I was 13, and a nerdy bookish 7th grader, I was picked on by the other kids from my neighborhood because I was a) overweight, b) smart than them, and c) didn’t shave my legs yet. At one point, they called me “Congo” and told me to go shave my legs. This went on for about a year or so.
One day, a boy said, “You should shave your legs!”, and 14-year-old me looked him straight in the eye and, without missing a beat, said, “Why are you looking at my legs?”
They never bothered me again.
UGH!!!!!!!!!!!! Sitting on the porch smoking a cigarette only to look up and find a CREEP jerking off directly across the street from me under a street light! I told him “F*#$ off! I’m calling the cops!” Which I did. They didn’t find him.
I’m 48 now, and I’ve been dealing with this crap for well over 30 years. So much so, that it’s become second nature to me. If I walk past a group of workmen, I automatically tense. I keep my eyes down as I walk past, I try to be invisible. It’s just ‘what we do’ right? But recently it was all brought home to me. The utter wrongness of this state of affairs, the injustice of it, the fact that in all my years in the women’s movement, many things have changed but this, this daily attack on our civil liberties, remains the same.
My then 12 year old daughter (now 13) came home from school one day complaining about “all the men who shout at me in the street”. At 12, TWELVE, she already deals with daily catcalls, car horns, leering looks and unwanted attention. And what could I tell her? Sorry honey, this is now a part of your life. You’re becoming a woman and, wherever you go in the world, whatever you do, however you look, there will be a certain type of guy who considers it ok to force his way into your personal space to tell you that you do/do not meet with his ‘approval’.
Do you know how that makes me feel, as a mother, to have to tell my beautiful, innocent daughter that this is the way the world works?
So I’m teaching her to hollaback (and how to do that and keep herself safe) and maybe her generation will do what mine failed to do, and make this shit unacceptable.
I’ve given her the link to this site and it’s inspired her. She’s even sent in her own story. So keep fighting the good fight.
Awesome name tag courtesy of Hollaback Buenos Aires!
When I was in high school (one of the many private, Catholic, single-sex high schools in Cincinnati), I was very involved in theatre. Our adult staff was on the small side, so we occasionally hired outside people to do additional music, tech work, etc. Several times a guy named Rick (who happened to be a friend of the director’s) was a guest musical director, and all the girls dreaded having to work with him. He very much gave off that creepy old man vibe and often made borderline inappropriate remarks. He was the kind of man other men brush off as “quirky,” but who women recognize immediately as being a threat- we could tell from the way he undressed us with his eyes. I tried to stay away from him as much as possible and to be cold if he ever tried to speak to me, so for awhile my experience was secondhand. That didn’t last.
He was walking by a group of us as we were listening intently to our director; it happened so fast I didn’t say anything, and I couldn’t leave to confront him without attracting attention. He “dropped” something on the floor next to me and, as he was bending over to pick it up, put his hand on my hip, letting it linger there for a few seconds after he’d already straightened up. Then he went on his way like it was nothing. I was so shocked- I had no idea what to do. As soon as I could I told a few people what had happened. They were sympathetic but thought that maybe he was just steadying himself so as not to fall over. Um, excuse me, he was NOT old enough to have to do that, and besides, that’s what walls and chairs and other OBJECTS are for, not people. Since I didn’t know how to respond, I just stayed away from him.
Later that day a friend told me she’d had a run-in with him too. She was standing backstage and could hear Rick and the director talking. He pointed to my friend (who has pretty large breasts) and said, obviously not thinking she could hear, “Girls like her are why I could never teach at this school.” That was enough to push me into taking action. I knew I couldn’t complain to the director about him- he responded to this remark with an awkward laugh and nothing more- so we went to the assistant director. He listened carefully and then told us that, while he shared our concern, we were a week away from opening the show and he couldn’t possibly find a new music director in time…. surely we understood his predicament. I was taken aback but asked him if that meant he would take it up with him, the director, and our principal after the show was over. He promised he would.
Almost four years later, he is still doing shows there.
That is what baffles me- that a man so universally unnerving, with a history of inappropriate remarks (and touching!), is allowed to stare at underage Catholic school girls to his heart’s content. If that isn’t a lawsuit in the making, I don’t know what is. How was that not taken more seriously?? I wish I had had the courage and foresight to take this further, to push until something happened to him, but I didn’t. He still does music directing and sound mixing for schools all over Ohio- if you happen to run into him, PLEASE report any inappropriate behavior so that it gets documented. He needs to not be allowed to be around underage girls.
One night I was walking home from the campus gym, caught up in my own head. As I hit the last sidewalk intersection on my way home I started hearing calls of “hey blue shorts…” the first three times I thought “god, I would be livid if someone was talking to me like that!” and looked in front of me for the blue shorts girl, but she wasn’t there. So I looked back, just a rowdy group of 6′ plus men hollering for Blue Shorts. Then it hit me. I looked down. My shorts were blue.
They kept it up, 5 and 6 times, calling out my hair style, asking if I was too good to talk to them, so I got pissed off. I spun around and let fly one of the nicest flows of cusswords I’ve ever made. I asked them how their mothers would feel, to know that their money was sending them to college so they could scare girls on the way home from the gym. I asked them if this was some f*cked up game to them, and then told them, with gusto to f*ck off. As I spun around they got irritated and told me that “bitch, I couldn’t talk to them like that” so I turned back and said “bitch yes I can! You yelled at me like a dog. I can say anything I like to you!” and stormed off to my dorm.
I was still terrified the whole last block, but I’ve never been harassed like that again.
Cab driver #640 picked me up, along the way he…
1) Waved his gun at me 2) Told me his “self help book” didn’t work, that he’d found it near impossible to in it’s suggestions to remain calm 3)Told me he “literally” wants to murder the next person to pay w/a credit card – in his shed, or he wants to put his pepper-spray in their mouth, lock them in the cab drive them to his house and kill them. 4) Told me I saved my own life by paying in cash, while his hand was cocked like a gun 5) Was twitching his head left & right because he’s crazy; while letting me know he wants to murder someone – while slamming the glass plate divider in anger 6) Told me Jesus wants him to kill people with credit cards – all the time 7) Told me his shed out in the suburbs tucks between his yard and the woods – so no on would see him kill 8) Told me “i don’t mean to scare you but…” followed by 5 minute rant about hurting people
I was walking through London yesterday, and a man in a van shouted out, “Nice tits, love!”. I gave him the middle finger and continued walking, and he proceeded to stop his van and roll down his window and say, “Whack ’em out! Come on, babe! Whack ’em out for me!”, whilst he and his friend were laughing and making sexual gestures. I shouted at them to leave me alone, and the man who drove the van got out and proceeded to come up to me angrily. I was so scared, I was shaking. The man got right in my face and said, “I was only having a bit of fucking fun, sweetheart. No need to get rude is there?” His tone was so aggressive, I went home and cried for hours. He could have raped me. I could have been a rape victim. It’s all that keeps going through my mind.
“Fat ass”. And when I didn’t stop running or turn around, there it was again, “Fat ASS”.
I’ve been living in New Haven for about two years and was nicely surprised by the lack of harassment received from builders on the street, men outside pubs and bars, white van drivers, and the like. I’m from England: in my home country, these kinds of men are often more liberal with their commentaries. So when I’m running in New Haven, whatever does come my way resonates that little bit more strongly. And there is a difference between receiving a wolf-whistle or a car horn honk: non verbal appreciation can at least be explained away by me into more positive categories of admiration. As a runner, I find some of the street responses come from a genuine respect for a woman who runs in all weathers, as when a car horn honks at you during a downpour and gives you the thumbs up. That’s fine.
But “fat ass”? Really? I’m turning the corner, I’m sprinting, I’m wearing lycra because it’s more streamlined and comfortable and warmer, necessary for that time of year (January). And this guy yells this at me. And repeats it. Louder. And what’s worse, I don’t know if it’s a compliment and he likes the butt I have, or its derogatory, in which case, he might consider that running would help it. Either way, my ass is not fat, and it’s not for his viewing pleasure or censure either.
A few years ago I was visiting my friend who was studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France. She had warned me before I arrived not to speak English loudly in public, so I wouldn’t draw unwanted attention.
We were walking down a pedestrian walkway to get to her University. It was broad daylight. There were plenty of students scattered along the length of the long walkway. A large group of young boys(18-19 years old) approached us but I didn’t pay any attention to them. One of them came up to me and said “You are so beautiful” in French, grabbed my breast than walked off laughing with with his friends. It happened so quickly all I could do was make a disgusted noise, which all the boys mimicked and laughed at.
The thing that gets me is that my friend and I were walking silently together. He didn’t grope me because I was speaking English or drawing attention to myself or because I was a tourist. He attacked me because I was a woman and he wanted to put me in my place. And he knew he could get away with it.
Once we arrived at the University we told her friends what had happened. They tried to comfort me. One of her male friends said that a French man would never do that, so they must’ve been Arab immigrants. He said a French man would yell or say things to me, but never touch a woman. That did not comfort me at all. And sure enough before my trip was over “real” French men catcalled me without groping me. I felt violated and disgusted when that happened too.
On another note, it seems to me that a lot of catcalling is initiated when a woman accidentally makes eye contact with a man (though this wasn’t the case in my story above). As result I try really hard not to make eye contact with men on the street. But I wonder how much that I (and other women) miss when I am looking at my shoes or staring off into space. Do I clumsily walk into things more often than necessary or put myself in danger just because I can’t look forward like a normal person? Or even am I just deprived of enjoying the sights and scenery around me? Maybe this has just been my experience, but I’d like to know what other things do Hollaback readers and contributors think they miss just because we are forced to look away?