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I was outside of a bar with two of my girl friends. For context, I am black and they are white. An older man walks up and starts taking to us. We are polite and try to ignore him. He then turns to one of my friends and says “you know, black and white go real good together.” While this is happening, a group of men surround us and one yells to me “you know black and black go even better together! shit, I’m looking right at you girl.” We just walk away while they talk about us.
I knew that working in India as a single, light-skinned woman who did not speak a word of any Indian languages would not be a walk in the park. However, I was not expecting the onslaught and veritable inundation of street harassment. I live in Goa, which is known to be one of India’s most liberal, progressive provinces. But stepping outside my home near my job, I would never know it.
At first, I thought the constant calls of “Hello, beautiful!” and “Be my girlfriend!”or “Give me your number!” were just harmless fun, trying to grab the attention of an obvious tourist. I had a rude awakening of that when a man outside my apartment complex told me he loved me. I laughed it off as he reached out to shake my hand. When I gave it to him to shake, he wouldn’t let go, and took my hand and attempted to shove it down his pants. I managed to get away and ran back into my apartment, where my roommate, a Ghanian man, was as shocked about the ordeal as I was.
That’s another way we’ve been harassed here in Goa. As we’re living together (we’re colleagues and work at the same NGO), my Ghanian roommate and I go out to eat rather frequently. I’ve grown to accept that people will stare at the two of us when we’re together or when we’re alone, but people will also say very racist things to the both of us and constantly take pictures of us, with or without our consent. Again, at first I didn’t mind this and attributed it to the fact that we were a novelty. However, as people continued to treat us like we were some toy to be played with, I became a little less happy with the situation. This experience was epitomized by one night when my roommate and I went out to a club. People were constantly asking for our pictures, and finally, wanting to have a good night and not pose for photos the whole time, we started saying no. Instead of accepting that answer, locals would grab us by the arm, leg, and (I can’t say they did this to him, but they definitely did it to me) butt, and drag us into pictures and dances. Men kept taking my drinks from me, drinking out of them, and throwing them on the floor. I started to flip off the camera or do the “WoW” symbol with my face every time they forced me into pictures with them unwillingly, so if you see any of those on the internet, know that I didn’t want them taken and those people are not my friends – in fact, from the way they treated us, I sort of doubt that they considered my roommate and I as particularly human. After about two hours of being paraded around as some sort of carnival freaks merely because of the color of our skin, a security guard noticed and escorted US out, saying we were causing too much of a stir – doing nothing about the others. All of this happened at the biggest (and perhaps most touristy) club in Baga – Tito’s Beach Club.
In the town that I live, I’ve been followed down streets, photographed without my consent, chased after, grabbed, and groped. Men have tried to pay me for sex constantly, offering 400 rupees (about $8) if I’ll have sex with them, and not relenting until I start yelling. In perhaps what was the scariest instance while I’ve been here, I took a wrong turn on the way back from work. I’d been working late, so it was dark, and I was alone. First, a security guard tried to force me to come into an apartment complex, saying that it was where I lived. Because I am not an idiot, I knew was not mine. Luckily enough, a cab was nearby and I hopped inside. My fears were not quelled as the driver took me on some roundabout, clearly incorrect way of getting to the place that I was going. As I knew where we were and were going into a much less populated area, I demanded he let me out of the car. He wouldn’t, but when I opened my window and made a scene he started to drive directly towards my apartment. There, he wouldn’t let me out of the cab, insisting we go get coffee or that he let me inside. I wouldn’t do it, and was struggling to find the lock for the door when the security guard from my apartment complex came over and asked what was happening. After a conversation with the cabbie in the local language, the cabbie demanded my phone number and he said he would leave, if I would go to get coffee with him tomorrow. I didn’t see that I had any choice, so I gave him my number. Since then, he has called or texted me saying he loves me every single day, trying to meet up. It’s been 2 weeks. I’ve blocked his number, but he keeps calling on friends’ phones or getting friends to call me and ask me if I’m still in Goa. At this point, since he knows where I live, I’m actually pretty worried he’s going to show up outside my apartment. I really wish I’d gotten his license plate.
I knew that working in India as a white female wouldn’t be easy. But really, it would be a breeze if the harassment would stop.
This happened a while ago (in 2005). At that time I lived next to the university campus which was rather a safe place. That evening on my way home from the nearby grocery store, I was carrying a heavy bag of groceries and another bag of papers and books from school. I was walking along in my own muse when I saw a guy in mid-20s on his bike coming towards me. I didn’t think twice about it. But then as he got closer I found him staring at me. As he passed me by, he yelled, “Too bad you are not white.” I have been catcalled many times before and since then on three different continents. But I am always caught by surprise and disgusted by it. This time though, I was just too perplexed by the comment to even figure out the meaning right away.
Later when I told my roommate and a couple of white friends about it, they said it was perhaps meant as a compliment on my good looks. Right, an unsolicited “compliment” on my appearance while putting my skin color down.
i get harassed repeatably almost to the point I hate going outside.. I’m from New Orleans i just thought maybe it was this city that guys are like that but when i got to new york it got worst, guys stopping their cars in traffic and blowing and yelling until i say something, being called “black bitch” and “ho” for not saying more than hi, and worst of all BEING GRABBED and having to RUN …its like WHY DO YOU DO THAT, where do you get that from…closet full of nice clothes I’m afraid to wear because i know that i will be severely harassed, thing is it doesn’t matter what I look like it or wear —it happens EVERY TIME, I almost go out my way to look as bad a possible not to be shouted/cursed/grabbed… I fear walking down the street, catching the subway, doing anything .. daily.
My story happen this morning/afternoon today March 16,2011 between 10:30 -11:30am. I was walking on the sidewalk going to the bus stop and I notice this guy on the grass. The guy was mumbling and he call me a “bitch” while I walk by and went to the bus stop. Once I stop at the bus stop, this guy walks off the grass and walk toward me . As this guy was walking toward me and getting close to my personal space, the guy was mumbling and he call me a “n*****”. I told him please get out of my personal space and I use my umbrella as a divider. He left half way down the street and he came back so I tried to get help from a guy on a bike but the guy on the bike didn’t help me. The harasser hit my umbrella and left down the street but he turned around and walk toward me again but my bus arrived. I’m anger that the guy on the bike didn’t help me but I also was scared because this guy kept holding his hand over his jacket like he had a weapon. I think something needs to be done about street harassment at bus/subway stops.
Hi, I’m a Muslim girl and proud to be. I wear the hijab (head scarf) every wear I go and I have been told several offensive comments and this is one of one of the many encounters I’ve had with an Islamaphobe.
One day me and my friend were shopping at the mall and while we were walking to the next store we were walking by a man and his girlfriend and while we passed he stared at me and said “BOOM!” and him and his girlfriend started to laugh at us but we just ignored them and continued walking. I know that isn’t nearly as bad as it gets, I’ve known people who have been physically assaulted just because they were wearing a head scarf.
I really want to but a stop to this type of harassment and that’s why I’m here.
Yesterday, I was on the N Line going uptown a little before 3PM today (2:50-2:58?). I boarded on 57th and 7th. Right when I walked in I heard yelling. I had no idea what was going on, everyone in the car (it was a reasonably full car) was staring at a group of 6-7 african american teenage girls in the middle of the car.
I soon realized what was happening– after the victims that they had been yelling at had exited the car, they turned and came back in because a few of the girls were cussing them out (profanely). I saw the victims were a 20-something year old couple: an african american male and his asian girlfriend. It became evident that not only these teenagers were racist— but they saw this mixed-race couple and started an altercation, calling them names and insulting them (BOTH)– especially making fun of the asian girl’s accent.
It was a completely verbal argument, but one that could’ve easily turned physical in any other situation (example, like if the teens were boys, the victimized man may have tried physical retaliation). The victims turned back in after they taunted them after they had exited– but they couldn’t really do anything– they were visibly upset, but they did not/could not reciprocate appropriately.
I assume it was because these girls were all underage, and there was a large gang of them, even though they were just teenagers. Also, of course, there are no cops around and there’s no videocamera. There’s no accountability. Meanwhile, everyone was just staring. The girls yelled at them to get out of the car again, and as they left again, one of the girls wanted to get in the last word, she actually (opened?) the subway window and yelled the couple, “Don’t eat that Chinese p***y!!!!”. But the most terrible thing is that these teenagers liked the fight, they were laughing about the whole thing. My heart just ached for them.
When the doors closed again I realized I had walked into a bad situation– as I am acutally asian myself and I had walked to stand on the car just several feet away from them. I am pretty new to the NYC subway system (I only come in about once a month), so I had no idea what to do. Does each car have an intercom? I felt that if it did, someone on the car should’ve reported it. If the car didn’t have an intercom, it SHOULD. People need to be held accountable for their actions— especially ones of a racist nature. The only way to do that is either have a policeman/security stationed at each platform OR have live video feed OR have an intercom.
THIS was a case of second degree aggravated assault– a crime! But nothing could be done about it. The bystander effect was well in place— everyone (20 people, different races) were anxious and alert, but no one did anything. And once the aggravators have left the subway car, who knows where they will go?? And soon, all the witnesses will slowly disappear as well.
It was one of the saddest, most disturbing experiences– a car full of young racist children taunting and cussing out an older interracial couple, surrounded by passive adults. It disturbed me on such a deep level and I wondered if anyone else felt the same way. So many questions arise– how is it that 6 young girls could have so much hatred for not only another minority, but one of their own race? NYC is the most culturally diverse city in the world, isn’t it?
As I turned my back to leave for my stop near 60th & Park, one of the girls tried to throw a piece of garbage at the back of my head (completely unprovoked by me– which is why I say they must’ve provoked the prior incident). She missed, and I ignored it and I kicked it to the side. I left the car quickly, and they followed. They followed me up the stairs laughing and giggling and egging each other on to try to throw the garbage at my head again. This second time they succeeded. As my back was already turned to them, I ignored them. I keep wondering what else I could have done. What could I have said or done, if anything? As a bystander, or as a victim?
I can’t get this incident out of my head. It’s shaken me, no doubt. The MTA needs to get their act together. MTA + police need to establish rules of conduct for both victims and bystanders and a real system with subway car intercoms/live video feed/policemen at each station– an interception system for effectively catching perpetrators of crimes before leaving the subway station.
I am an Asian-American living abroad in Rome, Italy. One evening I got poked by an exposed penis on the bus. It occurred on a very crowded bus, where it was difficult to find room to move. Unfortunately, other harassment experiences lead me to believe he “chose” me because I am not Italian. There were no less than three Italian women within groping distance. He poked my hand several times and when I realized what he was doing, I wedged my umbrella in between him and myself. He was a persistent bastard, but his penis lost a duel with my umbrella.
In more of what we’ve seen all week from media across the board, Bill Maher spent a considerable amount of his February 19 show cheaply exploiting Lara Logan’s Cairo assault by trying to convince a leery audience that middle eastern men are more sexist than American men, citing an example of a Muslim man in New York who beheaded his wife.
Distracting audience and viewer attention away from a real look at sexual violence by indulging in “this is why we’re better than them” rhetoric and wild goose chase examples of misogyny to support his hypothesis, Bill used TV privilege to assert his own ethnocentric agenda.
“…talk to women who have ever dated an Arab man—the reviews are not good.”
“I’m not pre-judging, I’m judging. They’re worse, what’s wrong with just saying that?”
Oh Bill, your male superiority complex just isn’t relevant.
Continuing on, Bill waxed proudly that American women are privileged to worry about things like equal pay and whether or not someone calls them names.
Thank goodness Tavis Smiley jumped in as a voice of reason, telling Bill that it’s not about who is better or less sexist but about really looking at the problem, pointing out that three inches of a knife blade in his back as opposed to eight inches is still a knife blade in his back.
C’mon, Bill, replacing sexism with racism is not a proper hollaback. And replacing sexism with more sexism isn’t either.
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