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I was sixteen years old and my father sent me into Target to pick up a few things. While shopping I was followed around by a much older man. He would smile at me and he came up to me about three times asking me for my phone number. I tried to ignore him but he got more aggresive when I did. I told a store employee and was informed there was nothing they could do for me. But the part that upset me the most was when I told my father what happened and that I didn’t want to go into places by myself anymore, he informed me that this is just what happens when your pretty and that I just needed to ignore them and deal with the comments.
This is only the most recent story of harassment in my life. It’s not the worst either, not even the worst this month.
I didn’t have enough money to get out of the bus station. My husband had already gone through the barrier and was waiting for me on the other side. I go to pay at one of the atm like stations. While I’m standing there 2 men come up behind me, too close, and I ask them to back up. Instead they get in my face and says he isn’t doing anything, it escalates too fast. I’m terrified, I let my guard down because I was out with my husband so I didn’t have any pepper spray at the ready. I start freaking out and my husband rushes around the corner and starts screaming at these guys to back off. They don’t back off, they say they’re gonna hurt us. I really don’t want to say what my husband did next, but it was pretty obvious that he was going to kill these guys if he had to. I finally start thinking straight & run to jump the barrier and we ran for blocks.
There are too many, sadly, to report here but I’ll relay few of them: There was one good ol’ boy who was somehow in LA and when I walked by said “Mmmmmm, I’d LOVE to have you between my sheets!” One old man asked me “Would you be willing to model nude for me?” An elderly man was walking toward me on the sidewalk and when I smiled respectfully at the old fella, he leered back with “Mamacita!” (I do not dress provocatively.)
As has been mentioned before, I have often experienced first hand that a man can go from hitting on you to insulting you within seconds if you don’t play his game. It is frightening.
The stupidest comment was one time I had cut my hand badly on a broken glass while washing dishes. I was waiting outside on the sidewalk for a friend to come drive me to the hospital; the towel around my hand was growing increasingly heavier with blood. Two young guys walked by me and one of them said pseudo-suavely “Hello, beautiful”. When I looked away, painfully cradling my gushing hand, he lashed back with “Beauty is as beauty does” with a harsh tone despite the corny cliche. A woman can’t even be injured in peace!!!
Then there’s the bus driver who wouldn’t let me out of the bus until I gave him a kiss. It was bad enough but thank Heaven, not as bad as that could’ve been.
I was walking with my friends through Digbeth, in Birmingham. We were visiting a friend and she was showing us this really cool graffiti art. There was 4 of us. So, we were starting to leave the area towards the street when we noticed a man who was just staring at us.
We could tell that he was probably drunk – even though it was around 3pm – because, he was walking really slowly and in rough short movements. He started to walk faster and faster towards us until he was directly in front of us. We had no where to go as he had cornered us (we had linked arms). Then he walked straight up to us, nose to nose to my friend as if he was trying to intimidate her. Then she pushed him away with her hand, so he left us walking away slowly, but still staring. We quickly left the area and did not have another encounter, but we could still see him back there from afar, just waiting.
That is the closest contact I have had with someone before on the street and it was easily the most frightening thing, because we had no idea what he was intending to do or what we was going to do.
I recently came to France to study for a single semester and the 2nd day I was here, I was walking down the street with my new roommate (she and I were going to get some food and chat to get to know each other) and this RANDOM guy (who I’ll admit, I didn’t even notice at first because he was shouting at us in French) started following us and kept calling “Bonjour, bonjour.. Bon midi… HELLO? Excuse me, hello?”. I only turned around once I noticed someone speaking English (as that’s what my ear is used to) and he caught up to us and started trying to talk in French. Long story short, I didn’t understand him but my roommate did and she was translating for me… he kept calling us beautiful, kept saying he wanted to talk to us, kept saying that he wanted to know where we lived, TOOK OUR PICTURE (which I’m pretty sure were showed the most uncomfortable looking faces), then said he was going to kiss us goodbye (on the cheeks – as this is French custom) and wanted our numbers. When we said we needed to leave now, he asked us where we were going and we just said “out for some food” and he even INVITED HIMSELF TO COME WITH US. We obviously said no. But, I felt so awkward and under pressure even though I refused to give him any of our information. So he insisted on giving us his number and was like “promise you’ll call me when you get a French number”. HA, sure, pal. First thing on my to-do list.
Now, I’m not really used to that kind of thing because I’m not seen as a “conventionally” beautiful woman. I don’t have curves, I’m very petite. But this was insane. We were giving him very obvious signals that we weren’t interested and wanted to get away. I know that we stood our ground (to some extent) but we definitely should have been harsher and more firm. I guess that’s the patriarchal conditioning getting the better of me. Don’t wanna “let them down too hard”. I’m not a mean person but I don’t feel like men should find it acceptable to just approach women like that. Telling someone to have a nice day doesn’t seem so insidious to me, but all the other bullshit really gets to me. This experience in France so far hasn’t been repeated, but I was utterly shocked at how intense it was. I don’t want to feel like I have to look over my shoulder when I walk down the street because some dude with a self-entitlement complex feels like because I am female he deserves something from me.
Get whistled and yelled at aggressively while wearing my large sloth t-shirt…. men are objectifying/ sexualizing sloths? NOW It’s gone too far because they surely couldn’t have been catcalling at me, I wasn’t asking for it at 10am on my way to class, not wearing makeup and wearing a simple sloth t-shirt.
In Spain, walking at 11pm by myself through the city of Santander to meet up my friends for a pregame when I see a man in the middle of the sidewalk just standing there. I start getting a strange feeling until he turns to the side and I see his erect genitals. I stop in the tracks, horrified and turn down the closest street I can as fast as I can before he can see me. The fear I felt was intense, I was forced into panic mode to try and get away. It was a scarring, horrible experience.
I have been experiencing this type of “street harassment” and “catcalling” most of my life. Being a woman in my mid 30’s now, I have learned to deal with it and not take it so personally when it happens. Unfortunately, I can say that it has effected me in a negative way over the years. Here are some of the thoughts, behaviors, and ways of thinking that have come out of decades of enduring this harassment; My overall opinion of men has diminished because of the behavior of the offenders. I generally try not to stereotype, but after so many accounts from so many different types of men (old, young, professional, etc.), it’s hard not too. I keep my style of dress more conservative because when I wear more “sexy” or “girly” type clothing (including skirts, dresses and heels) it attracts unwanted attention. I avoid walking on busy streets, someone always honks, yells or whistles.
I’ve been “eye-f@%&ed” countless times, been told to “Smile, you’ll look prettier if you do” and asked “You got a boyfriend?” The most vulgar thing that I can remember being yelled at me was “Damn girl, wanna F@#k!”, and that was in my own suburban neighborhood.
I am so glad to hear that someone is finally speaking up about this and it’s nice to know that I’m not alone in my experiences. Having to deal with this on such a frequent basis really can start to wear on a person’s soul. I wish the yellers and catcallers of the world could feel what it feels like to be on the other side. Would they want someone to do it to their Mom or their sister? What do they expect to get out of catcalling someone, what is their intention behind it? Is it some kind of primal urge to look tough by degrading others in public? It’s frustrating as a woman to be pushed to feel uncomfortable walking around in public at times. I praise Hollaback and support you 100%. Thank you and keep up the good work by spreading awareness!
See that snot mark dripping down my shirt in the attached photograph? It is a crying booger. It came from my nose and landed on my $4 turtleneck from Rainbow. I tried to hold the darn thing in, but alas, it got the best of me with all of the Sprint store on 5th Avenue and 22nd Street to witness the snottage action.
Today is November 11th, 2014. Veteran’s Day. Around 2 o’clock PM, I was on my way to the Sprint store. I happened to be in the Madison Square Park area where all of the excitement surrounding the Veteran’s Day parade was happening. I removed my giant, retro headphones that I wear every day for a specific reason so that I may hear the joyous “sounds of the streets” (I rarely listen to music; I usually just tuck the cord into my pocket, not hooked up to any sort of device).
I’m sure you know what is coming next. I’m a female in my 20’s writing an entry in my blog with a sad-faced photo attached, so of course it is about street harassment (or what some people may not categorize as “harassment”). Typical.
It will never end. People will never agree on the topic, or most topics in general (to be very vague and non-descriptive), and that is okay. Bad things in the world will never end, because not everybody views them as bad things. But, referring to this pathetic picture of myself, the aggression shown towards me and my body did indeed evoke negative emotions in me. It made me uncomfortable, and the comments were unwanted. It plain-old ruined my day. I have lived in this city for almost 6 years, and I try not to let these comments mean more to me than the $USD worth of a processed-cheese sandwich; I have a wonderful family, and my career involves me getting paid to run around in fields like a forest elf; But, some days I break. If this picture is not proof that “street comments” are unwanted and fall into the category of harassment, then I do not know what is.
That pasty sliver of skin where my pants meet my $5 turtleneck from Rainbow was me “asking for it”, according to my assaulter, who was working crowd control at the parade (the turtleneck got more expensive as this entry continues). He didn’t think that stepping in front of my path in an intimidating and aggressive manner and commenting on my belly was disrespectful and wrong. He is entitled to his opinion. And that’s why things will never fully-change in the way that many of us dream of, despite the recent, valiant efforts by “Hollaback!”.
That catcalling video with the modestly dressed woman walking around New York for 10 hours was made by “Hollaback!” for a reason, educational I’m guessing, and I am truly sorry that the response to it included parody videos about NY Jets fans. People love their parody videos. Come up with your own goddamn ideas.
My main reason in writing this entry is to thank the people that stood up for me today. Thank you to the man in the white button-down that took off his headphones and yelled with me. “Good for you!”, he said. And thank you to the woman in the Sprint store that consoled me after 5 minutes of me poorly pretending that I wasn’t super sad and angry. “Stay strong, girl.”
I now feel ridiculous and selfish posting this sappy picture of myself on Veteran’s Day, but I am doing it anyway because today I decided to speak (and write). Thank you for listening.
I need to stop having meltdowns in Sprint stores.
I attended college in a different county back in 2008, Miami Dade College. I would take the Miami bus then I would transfer and take a Broward county bus. When I first got on the Miami bus to go home I was with my bestfriend. As we got to our seats and sat down, she told me that this old man keeps staring at her. She got off her stop first, and then I later got off to walk to my next bus stop. That same man got off and started to talk to me in a very low voice. He had brown rotten teeth and messed up dirty hair. He looked like he was in his 50’s and was around 6ft tall. I’m only 5’3 and was 22 years old at that time. The man asked me, what was the next bus I was going to take? He then said how I look good, while sizing me from the back. The man also kept asking me for my number. Bus number 2 came and I quickly got on and sat next to a young man, so that the older guy won’t sit next to me. That young man eventually got off the bus and that old man sat down right next to me. The old guy again kept asking me for my number. My stop eventually came and I quickly got off that bus. Now I was a 40 minute walk from my house which is about 2 miles. I could easily take a third bus home or walk, but since I just missed the third bus I decided to walk. I didn’t know I was being followed at that time. I called my bestfriend and then all of a sudden the old guy started walking behind me. He walked so close to me that he was brushing up against my back. He kept saying, “Take my number or I will follow you home.” A lady around my age watched from behind along with a middle aged man. They kept saying out loud, “He is following her.” I yelled at the old man that was following me to leave me alone please. He walked away from me and turn back around. I was still jumpy so I walked to the McDonalds since it was right there. I stayed there for 20 minutes until I felt safe enough to walk home.
I’ve been followed a few times after that incident, but never again to that extreme. Now I have pepper spray and a stun gun.