Living in Memphis is a wonderful and terrible thing sometimes. There are a lot of fantastic things about this place, but the sexist and sexually violent attitude that permeates this area disgusts me.
I’ve lived here for nearly three years, and in that time, I have been followed, hollered at, groped, cussed at, and just made to feel like I am “less than”.
This city has a SERIOUS and frighteningly blasé attitude towards sexual assault/harassment and it needs to stop.
On January 26, 2015, on the 7 train (going to Flushing, Queens) at around 3PM-3:30 PM. At the Times Square stop, a man entered the train cart and stood in front of me and another young girl. His zipper was down and he was masturbating. He was holding something on his other hand and using it to cover himself. It was difficult for me to let the train conductor know because he was right next to the conductor’s door so I took his picture instead.
My friend and I (females) were walking home around 1am on Main Street. We were walking behind a man who was following two girls. How do I know he was following them? He was walking too close to them for comfort, the girls were looking behind them at the man frequently while walking very fast, and when they started crossing the street he did the exact same thing. They girls noticed, so they came back to the original side where my friend and I were. He disappeared into the neighborhood.
As a student, I commute everyday through public jeepneys here in the Philippines. Considering that jeepneys are open vehicles, people outside are able to see the passengers inside. Every single day, I get to encounter a few men giving me insulting signals or whistling at me whenever I’m inside the jeepney. I usually just ignore them, although the first time I experienced it I got really scared and uncomfortable. But this one time really struck me that even the littlest types of harassment such as this, has got to stop.
It was 9:00 in the evening and I’m on my way home. The jeepney was stuck in traffic, and I was sitting at the other end at the back of the jeepney, and beside me was a middle aged man. I assumed he was sleeping so I didn’t really mind at first, but then I noticed that his head was slowly moving closer to my chest. So I shuffled a bit, which woke him up, so I politely told him to move a little farther away. He just smiled, which made me uncomfortable. A few minutes later I noticed that it was his hands that were moving closer to my thighs, so I quickly asked the driver to stop the vehicle. As I was gathering my things, the man quickly covered his head, because maybe he thought I was about to punch or slap him. Which made him even more guilty. I just walked the whole way through while crying, hoping it would never happen to anyone again.
As a woman, I’ve obviously faced a lot of cat calling. All of us have, from whistles to grabbing. This one instance isn’t about flirting though… It was about sales! On opening night at the state fair, I was out with my parents and kids. My kids needed a bathroom so I wandered off from my parents while they checked out vendors. No big deal, since I’m an adult after all! On the way to the bathrooms, a salesman for a popular Dish company decided to try to sell me on the service. I didn’t make eye contact, said “no thanks”, and kept walking. He decided that he was going to have my attention, so it was ok to grab the double stroller I was pushing with my two small children in it! Normally I ignore the harassment, but he brought out the crazy mom in me and I lost it on him. He had my attention alright! Stunned, he just walked away, no apology. If I were a man or with a man, he wouldn’t dare physically try to stop me for a sale!
What made this story worse is that I contacted the company they were selling for, and the reply I got? “It was a third party seller.” No investigation. No apology.
Street harassment doesn’t JUST take the form of half-assed flirting. The entitlement isn’t just related to trying to get into bed. It extends into every aspect of a woman’s life. We deal with unwanted contact in our daily life, from “compliments” to sales techniques! It was unfortunate that my daughter’s experienced the gender inequality at a young age, but I am happy that I showed them it is ok to stand up for yourself. We all need to stand up for ourselves and for other women when these types of things happen!
This morning I noticed the man next to me on the subway had taken a creepshot of the woman sitting across from him and was sending it to his friends to mock her. I immediately thought of confronting him, telling him what he was doing was not okay; telling her what had happened. What I actually did was take a creepshot of him as I disembarked, shaking with rage. I’m still really upset about what I saw, but most of all, I’m sorry to her for not helping her.
I was at Starbucks with my female friends sitting by a giant window next to the sidewalk and a group of teenaged boys came walking up. One of them thought that it would be hilarious to start making dumb faces right in front of the window at us. We all felt so awkward and tried to ignore them. He put his hand on the window so one of us could oh-so-romantically have our hands touching with the glass between us, which none of us obviously did. Then, one of them came inside and put his hand over me to touch his friend’s hand and his arm was touching my chest. I told him, “Okay, you’re touching me and I will fucking scream.” He backed off, but it’s absolutely repulsive that boys start doing this so young and that victims feel awkward because they don’t know how to respond. Why should we learn how to defend ourselves when we aren’t the problem?
I used to live in South London, I have moved out of this area now because of the amount of street harassment I used to get. I would get it at least three times a day. It varied from men staring, to wolf whistling, to walking along side me, making rude and inappropriate comments. I have received comments such as ‘c*m on my face you f***ing slut’. I have never known these men and the ages always very from about 18-40. I have been ‘stroked’ when walking past and one man went to grope in between my legs while looking me directly in the eye; luckily I saw it coming and managed to dodge a little and he grabbed my thigh instead. It makes me so angry when it happens but, I never know what to do. I have to bite my tongue as I want to say something to them but, realistically I’m too scared. It’s not worth it, I don’t know who they are or what they might do – and this is the most upsetting thing.
A few years ago I was in a store in the feminine care aisle. There was a guy standing there in front of the brand of pads I wanted for a long time so I went to do my other shopping and then went back to get my pads that I was looking for. He was still there but in a different section of the aisle. I took my pads off the shelf and put them in my basket. As I was walking out of the aisle (which had one exit) he sort of blocked my path and asked if he could “ask some questions” I said no thanks and sort of shuffled to the side to walk around him and he blocked me again. So I said fine ask your question. He proceeded to ask me a series of increasingly personal questions about my love life which I tried not to answer. After about five minutes of this he aggressively asked for my number and I did the old “oh sorry I have a boyfriend” thing. Then he proceeded to give me this lecture about how I should dump my boyfriend for him and all this stuff about how manly he was. I continued telling him I wasn’t interested and eventually he let me out of the isle. I made my purchases and walked back to my dorm feeling quite uncomfortable and shaken up. About a week later I was at my job, the front desk of the building I lived in. And he showed up and kind if hung around the lobby. My next shift he was there and asked if I had dumped my boyfriend yet. He showed up a few times after that and I started asking my friend who lived in the building come pick me up from work (I work late) even though I only lived a few floors above. I was afraid he would corner me in the elevator or stairs or follow me to my room.
I tried walking on a public street to the stores within a four mile radius of my house on three separate occasions recently, but every time I did, at least one person yelled out of car windows, honked at me, or both. I am not pretty, I am just average. I wore ordinary clothing, either t-shirt and jeans or t-shirt and running pants. No make-up. Hair in a ponytail. It didn’t matter. They honked and yelled anyway. I hated it. Every time I was startled and afraid someone would actually stop and get out of the car. So now I dress as a male when I walk on public roads. I wear men’s cargo pants and a loose button-up man’s shirt and a ball-cap. I even bought a chest binder and I usually wear it, too. No one honks or yells at me now. I think we should all start a yearly Dress Like a Man Day as a protest against harassment. If men want to appreciate feminine beauty on the street, let them do it quietly and politely! If some men won’t be civilized, maybe it’s time to take away their scenery.