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.
Buffalo, especially the west side, is a breeding ground for sexual predators. I go to a local college in this area called D’youville and all the young women who go here are subjected to harassment daily. It’s so regular for us that it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore. Every day when walking home or around campus men openly stop their cars to stare at us, whistle at us to get our attention, stop in their tracks to turn around and stare, and yell “compliments” it needs to stop.
I was walking alone to a bus stop. A guy in a truck was going past me and then I noticed the truck again ! It looked like someone I knew and he pulled into a private but still public place so I peered over . He smirked at me , pointed up at me , made a gesture to offer me money like I was a prostitute and motioning me to get in the car!! Mind you I am wearing pants and a t shirt . I walk away but the truck followed me . I ran to the student dorms and hid with my friend.
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?!
In numerous occasions when men would stare and say harassing things, I found it most effective to look them in the eyes and say Ina clear, strong voice:
“Didn’t your mama teach you not to stare?”