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This happened a long time ago, but I remember it vividly because it was the very first time I hollaed back.
I was 18 and living in Paris at the time, and as all Parisians, used the subway to get pretty much anywhere. I was coming back from a long cramming session at the university library, mid-terms were coming up and I was studying non stop. It was around 23h30, when a bulky bald man sat next me. I smiled quickly and went back to my book. A few minutes later, I felt something against my leg; I was wearing a skirt and tights. When I looked down at my thigh, I saw a finger circling a certain spot on my leg. I was confused for a few seconds, I looked at the man’s face and he was looking forwards as if nothing was happening. The subway wasn’t crowded, the guy wasn’t even worried about getting caught.
I stood up and ordered him to keep his filthy paws to himself, and told him I was going to contact security as soon as we reached the next stop. I was speaking loudly, making it a point of others hearing, although I don’t do that often. I was just so angry and disgusted. I told him I might have been barely eighteen but I was big to enough to stand up for myself and to know that there was no justification for his behavior. At that point he tried to get off the subway, and another passenger stepped in and told the guy he had already pressed the emergency button and security would be there in a few minutes. That same guy offered to escort me to my stop, I quote “but I’m pretty sure you don’t need it, I wish more women did what you did”.
Since that day I always answer back. Why is it that we are made to believe that answering back is rude or a sign of lack of class, and don’t even consider the behavior that prompted such reaction in the first place?
There is nothing rude about reminding a jerk that you are not an inflatable doll with no brain or willpower. Holla back every single time!
Submitted by Patricia Camelo
I’m 40 damn years old. I thought by now I’d get a break from this crap.
Went into supermarket the other day. At front door saw a man I sort of knew, he was at a booth selling phone plans. I recognized him as the husband of one of my husband’s associates, if that makes sense. The four of us had had drinks together a few months ago.
Because of that connection, I gave him a fulsome “Hey, how you doing?” and stopped to chat. He took the opportunity to say, “Wow, don’t you look good enough to eat? All fit and everything too, wow and you’re stopping to talk to me, whoa how sexy.” Giving me the creepy up-and-down stare and licking his lips.
I was dumbstruck. Seriously, I stood there saying, “What?” Like, was that a joke gone wrong? Had I misheard?
He said, “Have we met?” and I said, “Yeah, my husband and I had drinks with you and your wife. Your wife and my husband are on the town council together.”
He was like, “Yeah, uh, we’re not together anymore.” BIG SURPRISE. Clearly he couldn’t remember meeting me. Maybe he’s a drunk, or crazy. Who knows. (He actually seemed funny and perfectly nice that night we all went out. Go figure.)
I could kick myself: I should have just turned on my heel and left, but I felt so bad for him I let him give me one of the little phone pamphlets before I left.
Fast forward to today: I have to pop in the supermarket. Just as I was pulling in the parking lot I thought, crap, what if creepy guy’s there? Oh well, if I change my shopping schedule, the terrorists have won.
Sure enough, there he is, in his little booth at the entrance. He waved and I gave him the breeze-by, and I heard him shouting after me. Good lord. Then, I’m doing my shopping, and I see him hurry around a corner, notice me, and then come trotting up to me.
Dude accosts me at the damn dairy counter, saying, “Is something wrong?”
I didn’t look at him, but used my Mom Voice to say, “EXCUSE ME PLEASE” while turning and walking away. I decided that if he followed me I would go to security. He didn’t.
Now, I’ve dealt with way way worse, as have most of you. Somehow it just gave me a flashback to all those times of being groped and having strangers or acquaintances accost me and ask to cum on my tits or whatever, for years and years. Can I ever get a rest from it?
Submitted by Iola
Among the reasons I am leaving my job is the sexual harassment. It makes me uncomfortable and angry. At the supermarket where I just finished my last day (thank god!) I am hit on in subtle and not-subtle ways, and have been since I started working there.
The guys in produce stare at me whenever I have to go there. I used to have little conversations with them, to be friendly, and to break language barriers, and just be nice and make connections. But all these old guys (30s and up) smile in that sickening way, indicating that this is not a normal conversation, but that they want to fuck me. I can tell.
Same thing with the deli guys, old men hitting on me and giving me more smile than makes sense for the situation. I hate it. It makes me feel dirty and attacked and sexualized when I don’t want to be. It makes me feel like I can have a normal nice conversation with a man at my job (only with a woman), because they will imagine fucking me while I am talking to them. It disgusts me.
On top of that, when I first started working there, my manager Victor kept hitting on me and telling me how “sexy” I was, when I was completely insecure in this new job. I think I said something back to him…but honestly I don’t remember, because I’ve blocked it out.
Victor does that to all of the new girls and it is fucking unacceptable. Recently a girl was talking about telling the bigger manager, Tommy, about Victor (as if he doesn’t know! as if he’ll do something about it). She talked about a sexual harassment lawsuit if Tommy wouldn’t do anything about it. I told her I was behind her and would talk to him and do whatever if she would. But I don’t know if she did anything, we never talked about it again and honestly I would rather just get the hell out of that place.
I also have customers bothering me and hitting on me. The other day I was in the park by my house and this guy passed me and started talking to me, he’s a customer that always goes on my line, is 40 something maybe, and I made the mistake of having a friendly conversation with him at some point in the past. So now he knows a little about my life! Oh god. He knows I’ve been to Germany and he always talks German at me when I see him, and gives me the creepy smile. That same goddamn creepy smile, that seems to be intended to make me despise all men. So that guy passes me in the park and starts talking German at me again. I wanted to shout “I hate you and I hate that fucking language!!” (Because it reminds me of Nazis and the holocaust). Instead I just said “I don’t understand you” as he jogged away, and I avoided looking at him every other time he passed me.
These harassments remind me off all other harassments and worse that I’ve been through. I feel powerless and furious at the same time. I feel attacked from all sides. I hate it. I wish I could do something, and I know I can, by talking back to them, yelling back at them, or shaming them in front of other people. But I still feel horrible every time something like this happens, which is sadly almost every day.
Submitted by Emma
My friend and I had gotten on the wrong COTA bus to go to the local movie theater. Instead, we ended up downtown after business hours. The area was completely deserted except an older drunk man who proceeded to sit right next to me. When he started to talk to me, I didn’t want to be rude so we had a short exchange. But when he asked “is your hair real?,” and then started to touch my hair, I knew things weren’t going in the right direction. He wrapped his arm around me and started kissing me on the side of the face, and all I could do was quietly mumble, “I don’t know you, this is so awkward, I don’t know you.” When he began yelling at me to take out my septum piercing and verbally insulting my friend (telling her to “do more situps”,) I was terrified. I didn’t even know what to do. I was afraid to even walk away in case he would try to hurt me because he was very, very drunk and belligerent. After minutes of excruciating groping, a series of COTA buses rolled up and he just wandered away. I don’t think he was even taking a bus. He just stopped over to sexually harass me.
Right after, all my friend and I could do was laugh about the weirdness of the situation, but I was secretly uncomfortable and afraid. I still feel uncomfortable now when I am alone at night, and I am always afraid that I am the type of person that is too afraid to stand up for myself.
Submitted by Kathryn
This happened a long time ago, when I was 15, but it still sticks out to me as one of the creepier things that has ever happened to me.
I was walking home after school, it must have been April or May and it was warm out. There was a Mr. Softee ice cream truck on the corner on 2nd ave and 11th, and I wanted to buy some chocolate soft serve with my leftover lunch money. I walk up, and the ice cream man takes my order. He gives me the ice cream, I give him my money, and before I can start to walk away he asks me my name. I lied and said “Nancy,” he told me that that was a very beautiful name. He asked me where I lived and I said “in the neighborhood,” then I smiled and started to walk away. I was walking downtown, in the direction of traffic, and moments later I realize that *he is following me in the ice cream truck.* He yells out the window and asks where I’m headed. Completely freaked out, I turn around and walk against traffic without responding.
I was 15 years old and I only wanted some goddamn ice cream, but instead I was made to feel completely disgusting. Thanks, ice cream man.
Submitted by Syd
When I was around fourteen or fifteen I went with my Latin class to Italy, and we took a day trip to Pisa to see the tower and cathedral there. From the train station you have to take a bus to get to the more touristy attractions, and it was on that bus on the way back when I noticed a man standing a little too close to me from behind.
Every time the bus lurched he would press into me, and I could feel his erection – he was wearing baggy sweatpants of a thin material. I kept inching away from him but the bus was crowded and I couldn’t move much. I was completely petrified – although I was already used to men making comments about me (which seemed to happen especially frequently in Italy, although I was living in a small town at the time where I was kind of an “alternative” kid and didn’t “fit in” so maybe it’s an unfair contrast) no one had ever touched me like this before. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, one of my friends’ mothers was a chaperone on the trip, and she caught on to what was happening and offered to switch places with me.
I have been lucky enough to have traveled extensively, but almost everywhere I’ve been it seems like someone is going to harass me – including the time, during my second trip to Italy, a young man told me he “loved my boobs” – while I was walking with my mother.
I’m now attending college in New York City, which isn’t really a reduction in the harassment. I love New York but I’d really like to be able to go a day without a wolf whistle or a comment.
Submitted by Li
I was on a family vacation in Las Vegas, being 15 at the time and i always looked really childish with chubby cheeks and a baby like face and i was going down the escalator with my mom talking on the phone right next to me!! I’m looking away towards all the stores and I hear “Hey,Hey,Hi,Hi” I look to my left and the guy riding the escalator up is waving at me and saying hi so I look around and noone seems to notice him and he’s staring straight at me, not my mom or anyone else. I make a weird look and he still is staring at me and i run down the escalator being so scared. My mom had no idea what that guy wanted and she thought he mistook me for someone.I doubt that. But he gave me a stare that looked so evil and like he wanted to harm me. I feel like I can’t even be safe with my mom next to me. He looked about 40ish and was balding. I can’t get the mental image of him out of my head.It still scares me so much. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…or not.
Submitted by Vicki
This was long ago, but I was maybe 12 or 13 and had just moved into a fairly pricey, secluded suburban neighborhood that was still building new homes. I had my own bathroom with a window that happened to face a house being built next door to mine but alas, I lacked a proper window shade. I would shower at approximately the same time each day a bit after getting home from school when one day I had the most awful feeling and peered out my bathroom window. Not just one construction worker but a few others were just standing there, looking right back at me. These perverts had presumably been watching me get into my shower for several days. Freaking pedophiles! Gross! I still feel the same indignities every time a dirty man slows down his vehicle while I’m walking down the street, every catcall, leer or lewd gesture. I despise the fact that some people have no shame or decency.
Submitted by Liz
I studied abroad in Holland and loved almost every second of my semester in the country of gouda, tulips and tall, tall men. Almost. It’s sad that I’ve grown to accept the fact that verbal street harassment will forever be a part of my transit. I reluctantly came to terms with their format – usually verbal and often racial. I learned that the word “ni hao” meant “hello” in Mandarin, not through a book or friend, but because from an early age, it was so often shouted at me in passing. Of course, I no longer expect any of these men to suspect that they actually coexist with a diverse range of Asian Americans, but that never prevents me from responding with an forceful, “I’m not Chinese!” or keeping it sweet and simple with a flip-off.
It’s true that aggressively responding to such harassments can be reckless and lead to escalated incidents, but I’ve never been able to shut up the voice inside my head, which tells me that no man should be allowed to make a woman uncomfortable in her own city and not at least have his stupidity met with clear resentment. This is weird, but I seriously think about my nonexistent/hypothetical daughter during each catcall and refuse to think about her growing up in an environment where these actions aren’t met with some consequence. I don’t want her constantly on guard and uncomfortable in her own world when the only thing she should be thinking about is getting from point A to point B.
So, I might have not been fine with the state of street harassment, but for the most part, I felt physically safe when confronted in public areas and city streets. Unfortunately, my perceptions were skewed when my mom and sister came to stay in Amsterdam and my sister and I were making our way back to the hotel. We were taking a very crowded tram when I noticed that a man was staring at me from across the car. I glared back at him as he continued peering around people to continue smiling at me, raising his eyebrows up and down, etc. When it got to the point where I felt the need to mouth something obscene to him, his smile faded and he became noticeably irate. My sister and I exited the tram on one of the busiest tourist spots in the city and were immediately followed by our new friend, who began shouting obscenities and things like: “What’d you say to me, China?!” He followed us down the street until we took refuge in a theater venue. We made the decision to ask for security when we saw him pacing back and forth outside the box office and were directed to a back door exit. We made our way back to the hotel with our eyes darting around faster than our feet and never relayed the message to our mom.
I may not be proud of my gut reactions and the situation wasn’t all that bad in retrospect, but what if my sister wasn’t there to back me down or what if we had chosen a more desolate tram stop? Words cannot describe how disparaged I feel when faced with the harsh reality of what my gender so often deals with on a day-to-day basis. Much of my frustration is rooted in the simple fact that we cannot retaliate without taking at least some physical risk. I hope websites like Hollaback! continue to act as a channel for women who want to retaliate with a cell phone photo or simply share their story. I remain optimistic that more people, both women and men will empathize and understand the need to shed serious light on the issue. After all, I’m not the only one with a nonexistent/hypothetical daughter in mind, right?
Submitted by Melanie
I don’t even know how to classify this assault type.
When I was 18 I went to Rio for a job interview and I was going to meet a friend afterward to catch a movie in the Odeon cinema. The interview was postponed last minute and my friend was busy so I decided to go ahead to the cinema and watch one of the previous movies from an animation festival going on. It would be finished just in time for her to arrive. The screening room was quite full and I sat in a seat I managed to find and left the aisle seat spare. I regret this so much now…
As the room got dark and the lights dimmed a middle aged man — around 40-50 years or so sat next to me. I was very interested in the movie but in the corner of my eye I could see movement in his groin area. I was too afraid to look directly or do anything but in could tell his cock was out and he was masturbating right there! His hand was on his thigh and he would extend his pinky to touch my leg and I would move away. It felt so gross. A million things went through my head, I was afraid to get up and walk past him, I was afraid he might follow me, I was afraid he would start touching me more, for some reason I was embarrassed to ask for help from the person next to me… I was just stumped and scared. The whole time I wanted to punch the guy and stomp on his balls or do something to cause him physical pain but instead I stared at the screen and moved away from his gross stretching finger.
At the end of the movie as the lights went on I did something! I yelled PERVERT at him and as he walked away and blended into the crowd people asked me what happened, if i was ok etc… I wish I had done it AS SOON AS he pulled it out… word of advice: HOLLABACK! the sooner the better!
Submitted by Lissa