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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
Walking on West 16th street at 2pm in the afternoon, I crossed paths with a man who said “hey, sweetheart” and reached out to grab me. I dodged out of the way and yelled, “Who are you? Get away from me!” I kept walking, but he said, “OK bitch, no wonder you’re by yourself.” I turned back and responded, “You tried to grab me, do you really think that’s ok?” He said, “Nobody tried to grab you.” (oh, gee, I guess you just extended your hand out towards my chest because you needed to stretch???)
I fished my phone out of my purse, and pointed the camera at him. For some reason he pulled his phone out of his pocket and put it to his ear (even though he hadn’t dialed anything). He said, “Whatever, I’m an attorney, so, what are you going to do?” I’d already gotten a picture, so I said “I’m going to put you on the internet with other assholes who harass women on the street.” Again, I started walking away, but I guess he still couldn’t let me have the last word, because he launched into a diatribe, calling me fat, ugly, a bitch, and a kike. Classy.
During this rant, another man came by pushing a cart full of construction supplies. He said to me, “Don’t worry about what he says, you’re beautiful.” I appreciated that he was trying to be nice, but I couldn’t help feeling that he was kind of missing the point. I think one of the driving impulses behind street harassment is the assumption that women desire/need/are required to build our identities and sense of self on men’s opinions of us. But you know what? Good OR bad, a stranger’s opinion DOESN’T MATTER to me. If I don’t know you, I don’t care what you think of me.
Anyway, I let the construction guy get in between me and the ranting guy, and took advantage of the distance to get another photo. During his rant, I realized this guy was actually slurring his words. Since he was so interested in listing all the things he thought were wrong with me, I asked him “Do you really believe I care what you think of me?” Then, as he continued on, I said, “You’re slurring your words. Are you drunk?” Strangely, this was the comment that actually made him angry. He came towards me and yelled “Bitch, I will fuck you up!” This would have been scary if it weren’t for the fact that he couldn’t walk without stumbling back and forth. Instead, it was just funny. I laughed, and said, “you are really funny.” He said, “Funny? You’re jewisss.” I laughed again, and said “You’re hilarious!” then, since there were a couple of other people on the block watching the whole thing, “look everyone, it’s Mel Gibson!” I kept laughing as I walked away.
Submitted by Nancy
I work nights and one night on my way in to my job,
I was verbally assaulted by a horrific man on Market St.
I heard someone make a noise and looked up, which was
probably a mistake. I try to never make eye contact w/
men who harass and just keep walking.
This guy was almost pure evil in the way he was talking,
though. He made racist comments, and then called me an
ugly bitch and a c**t. I kept walking. It felt like
someone took a knife and stabbed me. He tried to engage
me in some kind of argument sparring with this taunting tone of voice, and I just kept on going. I was tired and
had a long night ahead of me, and felt like breaking down
for real. This was the worst experience of harassment I’ve
ever had happen to me. As I walked away, this psycho
kept screaming the word c**t over and over, and I thought
he was going to chase after me or try to hurt me physically.
This may not have happened during the daytime, but my job
is at night, and I can’t avoid that. Also, I don’t have a
car. This was horribly disturbing. I dont think I’ll ever
walk down Market St. at night ever again.
Submitted by Trina
So here I am, a 17 year old girl, black (it matters) in her school uniform, just going to the mall to get some stuff, and I hear it.
“Hey-o, pretty girl, lemme holla! Why the long face? I got some stuff to make you smile!”
I was actually about to spin around and tell him to pop off, but when I looked at him, I saw he ran one of the vendors selling lotions in the hallways of the mall.
Why is it cool to act this way towards me? I watched this guy ask other women “Hey, miss, would you like to buy some lotions?” But as soon as a black girl walks by you switch up your game? And you don’t even care that she’s obviously underage? FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON.
I just wanted to the MAC counter and get out, so I gave him the dirtiest look that I save especially for scumbags like him and kept walking.
Submitted by Mariel
I’m prefacing this story with the fact that I’m a person of color as race unfortunately comes up in this already crappy situation.
Yesterday, I woke up late for work and as I was scrambling to get out the door, I left my headphones and book at home – my usual way of blocking out street creeps. The whole day I was noticing that guys were just staring at my chest and saying creepy things. Perhaps it was because I wasn’t distracted by music that I was noticing it so much. After the third leering fool, I said to myself, “The next comment I get, I’m going to snap.”
On my way home from work, I had to walk through that long passage from the 1,2,3 trains to the L and I noticed that a guy was walking next to me and keeping in stride with me. I tried to ignore him but then he said, “You look like you’ve had a long day…” I continued to ignore him. Then he said, “Oh, that’s how it is? That’s how you get off?” And…I snapped. I said to him, “Leave me the fuck alone, dude. I don’t know you. Just get away from me and leave me alone.” He paused and then started to scream, “You stupid bitch. You stupid fucking bitch. Look at your converse – you want to be white, you fake white bitch!” I’m still in the passage way and there is no where to go but forward or backwards. I continue to say “Leave me alone.” and try to push through the crowd of people. He is still screaming until we get to the L train platform where he attempts to get into the same car as me but I duck into another one at the last minute.
I don’t regret saying something though I have this feeling of shame and failure as well.
Submitted by ACP
My two girlfriends and I were walking toward the Hotel Rivington on Friday night. We passed by a group of three guys who were catcalling at us and one of them grabbed my arm as I walked by. I said, “Ew” and shook him off. When we walked away, one of them shouted, “Go study for your SATs fucking Chinese bitch.”
I marched up to him and his friends and told them not to call me a bitch. The one who called me a Chinese bitch, who was probably about 6’2″ and over 200 pounds (I am just over 100 pounds) shoved me two or three times – hard. I was yelling things like, “Oh, you’re going to push me? You’re going to push a girl?” He kept threatening to hit me, and he threatened to sic his professional boxer friend on me who he said would basically beat me to a pulp.
Then he spat in my face and bolted.
My biggest regret is not getting his name or photo.
Submitted by Andrea
It has become a regular occurrence for me to get cat called as I walk to work, go home, or go about doing my business. I am a 29 year old Asian American woman who graduated from Columbia University with a Masters in Urban Planning. I find it deeply demeaning and offensive for men who are ignorant to call out to me in Chinese or some other Asian dialect, as if I don’t speak English. I hate being whistled at, called baby, being asked out jokingly on the street. It is disgusting, and there have been times that I have gotten hostile (throwing my ice cream at someone, or yelling at them) because their remarks just got to me so. How can I go about doing my work, when my day is interrupted by sexual hostility? This is a real problem, especially in a city where smart successful independent women are so visible. These cat calls need to stop. Men need to be made aware that this is an issue. It is not our culture here, and they need to know that what they do is abusive, and uncivilized. It is not enough that NYC is a hard place to find a good decent man to date, but that we have to be subjected to men we aren’t even dating as well?
Submitted by Diana