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Being stared at, catcalled, greeted by a random male stranger is a regular occurrence as I walk through the streets and parks of the small city where I work. The two most particular comments that I hear are that 1) I have pretty eyes and that 2) I should smile. I quickly realized that the best strategy is to carry my Iphone in my hand and stick in my earbuds. Even if I’m not actually listening to music I can pretend that I don’t hear anything.
However, two recent incidents still upset me when I think about them. The first: I left my house to walk the short distance to the bus stop. Between my home and the bus stop is a convenience store; outside of which was a man standing by his motorcycle who I could tell was waiting for me to walk past. How could I tell? Because he had just pulled up to the store as I stepped into the street and instead of going in he stayed outside and stared at me as I walked toward the store, making what takes less than 30 seconds feel like an interminable length of time. As I walked past attempting to ignore him because I already felt uncomfortable, he spoke, so I spoke and kept going. Here’s where things get scary. I got to the bus stop and a split second later the man drove past, turned around, and pulled up to me on his motorcycle. This man followed me to tell me that when I speak to people that I should smile! My first reaction was anger until I realized that he was so close that if he had wanted to hit me I couldn’t have avoided it because I was stuck between him and the edge of the road, which fell away into bushes and brambles. I quickly edged away, told him to have a nice day, put in my trusty earbuds and ignored him until he drove away. And this was not the first or last time a man that I did not know pulled up to me on a motorcycle at that bus stop way too close for comfort.
The other incident makes me seethe because, although not scary, I was with my son at the time and the impotent feeling of having a strange man touch me, suddenly grip my arm in front of my boy and I wonder how that affected him to see my anger and frustration and shock and I wonder if he was scared or angry. I have never talked to him about it. I just swept it away so that we could continue to enjoy our day. Also, because my child was with me, not being able to respond the way that I would have if I had been alone or with another adult, foul-mouthed and possibly committing an assault of my own on this man. The fact that I still occasionally see this wastrel as I walk through the city and remember his incredulous response when I yelled at him not to touch me, as if he had the right, that it was okay because he didn’t mean it in a negative way. How dare he?! HOW DARE HE?!
I had gone with my girlfriends to rainey street in austin and I was waiting outside the club in line talking minding my own business, when behind me I hear screaming of someone saying OH MY GOD this ass !!! this is perfection its the perfect ass, you are beautiful girl. I was not aware this yelling was directed to me until I felt a hard slap on my ass it hurt so bad that I turned around so angry, the guy saw I was not happy and just said ” Sorry I had to” and left.
Let me point out that even if I was wearing a short skirt or dress this is not ok, but I wasn’t I was wearing pants and a long shirt. Who thinks it’s alright to slap someone ? cuz you “had to ” ?? really ?
I can’t remember the street because I was a tourist and it was 29 years ago, but it was the most blatant I’ve experienced of street harassment short of back ally.
I was six months and obviously pregnant. There was no mistaking it. I waddled. I was wearing a maternity sailors dress to my midcalf.I was not in anyway in a “come hither” fashion so any detractors can tuck that argument away. As I climbed the metro subway stairs to get to the sidewalk it was crowded but one man kept jostling me and I was afraid I would fall. He was very rough and I had to keep gripping the banister. I glanced back over my shoulder and he just looked at me and as we hit the top, he darted around me grabbing a fistful of my ass as he did so. He was gone into the crown before I could even get over my shock and humiliation. I just stood there feeling naked.
Something about being pregnant and alone made you a target for lewd behavior. I was asked to spend the night, things like, “Hey, don’t act so innocent. We know your aren’t.” and told by one guy “At least I can’t get you pregnant.” as he laughed with his friends. A drunk man at a cafe began talking to my belly and rubbing it and tried to kiss it before a Coast Guardsmen pulled him away from me.
Between these and some more personally deep history, people wonder why I believe in certain laws, or give my teen daughter pepper spray.
I was riding the A train downtown around 9AM on my way to work, holding onto the metal bar which situated me directly in front of 3 sitting individuals. Specifically, my body was facing was an older man who was sitting reading a newspaper. When we arrived to our first subway stop, I felt what I thought was the outside of his fist- very lightly- run up the inside of my thigh. I remember thinking “was that what I thought it was?” and looked down find him still inconspicuously reading his newspaper. I quickly dismissed attributed it to the corner of his newspaper. Either way, these things can accidentally happen on busy subways in close quarters. The next stop was Fulton Street. Before I could move out his way, he stood up and as he did he ran his fingers all the way up the inside of thigh. At that moment, I knew the first incident wasn’t his newspaper– it was intentional. I remember thinking “okay, that was a little close for comfort” and watched him step off the subway car ahead of me. I walked up the stairs and jumped on the up escalator. The escalator was so packed that morning leaving no left hand walking lane. So I stood still the whole way up. Just as I am about to reach the top I felt something on the inside of my thigh run all the way up to my butt cheek. It took me a second to register that it was a HAND! I turn around to find the SAME disgusting man from the subway!!! I probably flew about 3 steps forward before turning around and giving him the death stare. I wanted to scream & humiliate him for what he did.. but I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth. So instead, I RAN as fast as I could. That morning was extremely traumatizing. I was scared to ride the subway for weeks, especially during rush hour, and I became paranoid that I would see him again on my morning commute. It’s taking me a little time, but I have become so incredibly self aware because of this. Word of Advice to ladies in NYC: when the subways are busy, always check your surroundings (in the front and the back of you). People will take advantage of the close quarters whether its touching you, taking camera pics under your dress or skirt, or just plain standing too close for comfort. Always be cognizant of what’s happening around you on the streets and the subways. Most importantly, if something like this happens to you, MAKE A SCENE- SCREAM, YELL anything you can do to bring attention to yourself. Don’t let the person get away with it. Every so often I cave with the catcalls and lash out at the guilty person. Sometimes, I get attitude back and other times laughter, but most of the time the dudes are silenced & dumbfounded by response. “Yes- I talk. I am a human being not an object.” I can’t find the strength to respond every time, but when I do.. it’s an incredibly satisfying feeling.
While running early one morning in Barcelona I realized I ran by a massage place that offered for 1 hour at 25 euros. I thought it was a great deal, but it wasn’t open so I decided to take a picture of the opening hours and name. While taking a photo a man with a shopping cart passed me from behind and slapped my right butt cheek with his hand. I was fuming, but I didn’t say anything. He was laughing sinister like, and I just prayed for God to bring justice to him one day.
Was walking downtown on a Sunday afternoon when I noticed someone close behind me and getting closer. I quickened my pace and moved to the side of the sidewalk when he groped my ass. He apologized and I told him to fuck off. 20 minutes later I saw him again, I took his picture and yelled at him, he told me not to take his picture and I told him not to grope women. He looked terrified. I reported it to the police and they did not even want to look at the picture.
This happened just now. On my way home, a man (or boy? he seemed younger than me!) passed me on his bike and – slapped my butt! I was stunned and speechless for a second, then I couldn’t think of anything better than asking him if he’s nuts… then I started running and almost caught up with him as he was going really slow, and shouted “Better drive more quickly or I catch up on you and smash your face in!” And that little *** started pedalling for his life. Then I shouted an insult at him that I am not very proud of and I could suddenly see his breath vaporize as he took the next turn in a hurry. I am so mad, and that is why I’m almost glad I didn’t catch him. I wouldn’t have been any better if I had really tried and hit him.
I was standing outside a club waiting for a cab, when two men in suits pass by. One taps me on the side, near my breast, and says “hey beautiful.” I point at him and shout, “Hey! You! Don’t touch me! Don’t touch women on the street!” He kept saying “I didn’t touch you, I didn’t touch you,” (my response: “yes you did, asshole!”) as I pointed him out to a completely apathetic crowd. There were even cops nearby, and they did nothing. Nobody even seemed to notice at all.
I grew up in a small town of 1500 people, it wasn’t really an everyone knows everyone kind of place, or if it was I didn’t notice because my family minded our own business for the most part and didn’t do much socially in town. I was maybe seventeen and I was pumping gas at the only gas station we had. It was spring I think, I was wearing a pink top with short sleeves and jeans and a grey jacket. It was warm out so I started taking my jacket off when some guys sped past me down the main street and shouted “Ow!” out their car window at me. I had my back to them but I didn’t turn around because I was sure it was just some high school jerks making fun of me. I didn’t feel like I was attractive enough to merit an “Ow!” just for taking my jacket off so they must have been making fun of me. I didn’t turn around because I wanted them to think I didn’t heard them, I didn’t want to give them any satisfaction, not that it mattered, they had already driven away. It didn’t upset me too bad at the time, I didn’t feel like I was a particularly pretty girl back then but I wasn’t really bothered by my plainness. I didn’t feel demeaned or harassed, some guy was being a jerk and then he was gone, that’s all. I didn’t know I’d remember it forever as the first of many catcalls I would hear over the next decade or so but that’s how I think of it now. As an introductory lesson to gritting my teeth and ignoring the harassment I would soon experience on a regular basis. It didn’t start for me in the big city, walking near a construction site in a short skirt, or running in the park in a tank top. It was a small town of 1500 people and I was taking my jacket off.
I was nineteen and I had an apartment in the city about a half hour from home. It was my first place of my own and I loved living alone, I have always craved independence. I didn’t know a lot of my neighbors, I kept to myself. One day I was walking to the mailbox, just about five minutes from my front door. I was wearing jeans and a purple shirt with short sleeves and a flower embroidered over the left shoulder. A car went by me driving too fast, and a middle aged person (I can’t bring myself to call him a man because he isn’t one) put his head out the passenger window and bellowed at me “Whoo! Hey, girl! Look at them titties!” I was nineteen. I was a teenager and a middle aged person had just loudly and publicly commented on my breasts in the rudest, grossest way possible. I didn’t ignore him, I couldn’t, I turned and watched the cowards speed away. I was just shocked. I wanted to put a rock through their window. I couldn’t. They were gone. There was nothing I could do. Its been ten years and I still think of that day, that guy, the thing he said to me, how I wanted to call him out, hurt him, break his car. How even if he hadn’t sped away I wouldn’t have done any of those things. I would have turned my back, gone home. I was nineteen and he was bigger than me and scary. I was a few steps from my mailbox, there was a man there checking his mail. He said “That wasn’t very polite.” No it wasn’t. I was so embarrassed. I agree, “Yeah”, I said. I went home.
I was twenty seven and had lived and traveled around and pretty much heard it all. The honking horns, the drive by shoutings, on the street, on the bus, on my bike, strange men commenting, hollering, commanding, Hey girl, hey beautiful, you’re gorgeous, nice dress, smile, smile, smile, nice tits, nice legs, smile, you’re hot, where you going, wow, smile, where you going, I’ll take you, sweetheart, baby, shorty, great body, smile, honey. And I’ve been ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore, ignore, for years I’m ignoring. FOR YEARS I’m ignoring. But this one day, this one guy, this one fucking guy really put me over the edge. I was walking to the bus stop, I was in a good mood. I had injured my leg a few weeks before and was finally off crutches and happy to be walking again. It was daytime on a moderately busy street and I was crossing when a truck stopped, he was friendly. “Where are you going? I’ll drive you.” I was friendly, too. “No thanks, I’m not going far.” I was wearing a yellow tank top with denim shorts and sunglasses. I passed by his truck, I was walking away. He said “Your tits really bounce when you walk.” My middle finger shot up over my shoulder without missing a beat, without turning around. I’ve heard this shit before, asshole, you’re not ruining my day. I was walking away. He said sarcastically, angrily, “Yeah, I was really gonna rape you in the ass.” I was walking away. It was daytime, I wasn’t scared but I was mad. What if this wasn’t a busy street on a sunny day? What if it was dark and empty? Then I might have gotten in that car, I might have been put in that car. The anger in that person’s voice because I didn’t get in his car, it was like I had robbed him of something he deserved. I will never forget his rage, his childishness, his entitlement. He wasn’t my first harasser or my last but he sure gave me something to remember him by. I told some friends, I never forgot, I found some support, found some women like me, I found out that most women are like me but a lot have it worse. I found out I’m done ignoring and I’m looking for solutions.
I was twenty eight, I was walking home, the ATM wasn’t working, I was frustrated. I was wearing a jean skirt and striped yellow halter top, I was sweaty and gross. A truck went by, honked his horn at me and turned into the gas station across the street. Not today, guy. Not today. I barely waited for traffic to let up before I crossed and made a beeline for the red pickup. He was watching me approach, I don’t know if he was happy or scared to see me coming at him. “Hey, did you just honk your horn at me?” He got really flustered. “I was just saying hello.” he said ” You’re very pretty,” I told him that’s not a nice way to say hello, that its so rude, I should be able to walk from here to there without hearing that. He was apologetic, embarrassed. I felt a little bad after, it isn’t his fault no one ever told him women are people and deserve to be respected, not honked at. Then I got mad at myself for feeling bad because a grown up person should know better and it is his fault. That was the first time I ever confronted a harasser but not the last. I wish I could say I had confronted all of the ones that came after red pick up truck guy but I haven’t. Most of them drive away, a lot of them are bigger than me, I’m almost always alone when it happens. I flip people off more than any other small town girl I know. Sometimes I ignore still. But if I feel safe enough, if they stay in the area I try to call them out as much as possible. Maybe some of them will listen and one less woman or girl will have to endure one less holler. Or maybe it just makes me feel better. Whatever, fuck these guys.
Yesterday, I’m twenty nine, riding the train, a drunk man is talking a woman, asking her if she has a boyfriend and when she’s going to dump him. He asks to sit next to her but she says she’s getting off the train. I wonder if that’s her real stop or if she’d rather walk than sit next to this guy. After she leaves he slurs a conversation with another young woman who is being more polite than I would. When its his stop he puts a hand out for her to shake and when she gives him hers he brings it up to his lips and kisses it and then rubs her head like she’s a dog before he exits. She looks a little shaken, runs her fingers through her hair and moves to my side of the train. I feel guilty, I should have said something to him, told him to leave her alone, spoken up because she wouldn’t or couldn’t. She looks troubled, I wonder if this is the guy she will never forget. That she’ll think about, get angry about, wish she would have told him to fuck off, wonder if he would have hit her if she did. He was a foot and a half taller than her and large and drunk in the afternoon. I don’t think I’ll forget her. I get off the train and man asks me for a lighter, I don’t have one, sorry, as I’m walking away he tells me I have an impeccable body. I’m wearing a white t shirt and shorts. I tell him he needs to keep those comments to himself, that it isn’t nice constantly hear things like that every time I leave the house. He’s confused, I walk away.
I was standing with one of my best male friends and his brother in line to get tacos at the taco truck behind a bar. A group of guys was looking me and snickering at me, but I thought nothing of it. They were obviously immature and doing nothing to hurt me in any way. Then, on of them ran over to me and slapped (groped?) my butt and ran off. The rest of that group of guys were laughing amongst themselves and at me like I was a joke. My friend got so angry at the guys that he wanted to fight them back or go off on them which I knew would only make the situation worse and embarrass me further. All he did was yelled at them, “she’s 15, that’s disgusting”. I wanted to say something to them but I was honestly afraid and embarassed-it was dark and everyone was staring at what had just happened so I just dropped it, got my burrito and left.