Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Denver, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Lubbock TX, Manhattan KS, Muncie IN, New Orleans, New York City, NYU, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Richmond VA, San Fernando Valley, San Francisco, SUNY Oneonta, Tucson, Twin Cities
I was waiting at the light rail station on Tukwila International Boulevard, a very troubled stretch of road near Sea-Tac Airport where there’s been a rash of seedy motel activity in recent years. On my way home from work, I had just gotten off the train and just missed my bus home, so I had to wait half an hour. I used to walk home from there because I love walking and it’s only two miles, but walking there by myself proved extremely dangerous and stressful. There is literally CONSTANT harassment, not a moment’s peace. And not just harassment but stalking and following.
A man in his 20’s approached me, and welcomed himself to sit right next to me in a plaza full of empty seats. He had one of those fake gold teeth, pants belted around his mid-thighs with his flannel boxers on proud display. I have never, ever, ever understood the appeal of this.
“Hey girl”, he said (of course). “Hi”, I said (sheepishly and making a point to appear busy with my phone). He asked me if I would join him on the 128 to the Admiral District. I cringed. That was my bus. I told him, politely, that I was engaged (at the time), flashing my ring for added credibility. He smugly declared “Girl, that’s not real! I’d get you a real one!”.
I was a little fed up with his ego. I said “Really.” flat and sarcastic. Not that it’s anyone’s business, but after doing my research, I directly asked my now-husband to get me a stainless steel, cubic zirconia ring, because it’s still very durable and I can’t make sense of spending thousands of dollars that at the time we didn’t have for something that’s value should be largely sentimental anyway.
Mr. Underpants kept going on, about how my fiance must have been a cheapskate, how a fine-ass bitch like me deserved diamonds, and how if I had a brain I would leave my husband and get with Boxersface (you can see that the underwear thing is a hangup for me).
While I do realize that the reason we women must reveal our relationship statuses because the only way to nullify strange mens’ “ownership” of us is to already be “owned” by a man, my relationship has very serious, significant meaning to me. I have only been with one man (which was not a religious decision), and, ever since, I have never had one iota of interest in going out with anyone else. The thought doesn’t even occur to me, whatsoever. Men=not interesting. So having a man, not to mention one who belongs to a subculture I’m PARTICULARLY turned off by, tell me that my relationship is meaningless to him and if I don’t let him destroy it, I’m “stupid” is in actuality a personal attack on my independent life decisions as a woman.
So I told him, “Gross, you’re gross, leave me alone”. And he said “Bitch, you’re just such a fine bitch, I just wanna show you how a bitch like you is supposed to be treated”. So by now, I’ve been called a “bitch” about sixteen times in my entire life and every last one was by this guy. I don’t think I want this guy to teach me how I’m “supposed” to be treated.
Thinking I was finally going to tell one of these losers off, I took a deep breath, and was interrupted by “Hey, what’s going here? Leave her alone, she doesn’t have to put up with this.”
I looked up and saw an older man, maybe in his 30’s, with a lovely wife holding a lovely little girl with might I add, the most adorable little afro. Think Blue Ivy =) Never you mind how he was dressed because his character is more the issue here, though I feel compelled to share that he was apparently confident that people would know he was wearing underwear whether they saw it or not. I thought, there, look at that, THAT’S a man. Of course, Pantyman mouthed off to him, told him to “Stay out my business.” Funny. Staying out of other people’s business is a virtue for wannabe homewreckers, I guess.
I thanked the family man. He offered to trade seats with me (at this point all the seats were now full). I was so grateful that I gave his family the leftover cookies that I had baked for my coworkers that day. He gave the seat to his wife and child, though, and stood right next to them (what a guy). From across the way, I could see and hear the man lecturing (insert underpants-related nickname I can’t think of any more of here). I was completely sold.
And finally, the bus came and the jerk thought we could reconnect or something. He was saying, “C’mon, c’mon, just go home with me one time, your fiance doesn’t have to know!”. I said “Are you kidding me?”. He said “What? What? You can’t have your own life? Your fiance doesn’t let you kick it with other dudes? What are you, his pet?”. I said… “Are you kidding me…?”…
And then, suddenly, everyone in line to get on the bus started putting him in his place, telling him to give up, leave me alone… He kept trying to bother me on the bus and the driver made him sit in the back. He raised some civil rights argument, and had the nerve to compare his lowly self to Rosa Parks (fighting for his right to harass women is totally the same thing as fighting for equality, not like, the opposite or anything), and I’ll admit it was a tad awkward, but no one else seemed to be offended.
Ultimately, it was both an exhausting and wonderful experience. Having so many people come to my aid was amazing. So often this kind of harassment goes totally unnoticed. In fact, in areas like Tukwila, you can be so surrounded by jerks that they’ll all just cheer a harasser on. It was great to see that there are people on that street who are willing to say it’s not okay.
It seems that the primary form of harassment I endure is being followed by car. I love to go for long walks, with my iPod, with my headphones. It’s discouraged because you’re supposed to be ever aware, lest you’ll be spirited away by one of what seems to be a massive army of would-be ax murderers. I resent that, though, because walking with my iPod is something I enjoy and I feel entitled to doing what I please.
It does seem to happen to me a lot, a man slows down as he drives past me, gives me a looong, hard, unmistakable look, and drives away, only to mysteriously reappear minutes later, drive off, and reappear again. Sometimes they try to talk to me, and still return even if I wave them off. Perhaps more disturbingly, sometimes they don’t try to talk to me at all, and are probably just monitoring my movements until I hopefully take a turn down a more secluded road. Sometimes they park on the shoulder and try to force me to pass by them, mere inches from their car doors, forcing me to cross the street where there isn’t a safe place to do so, or to turn back and not get where I’m trying to go.
In Bellevue (where I used to live, and where my husband works) this only happens about the half the time I go out. But in Tukwila (where I live now) it *always* happens, so I don’t go out on foot, or shop, in my own neighborhood, ever.
I’m not a confrontational person by nature (I mean VERY not confrontational), so it can be very difficult for me to puff myself up and argue with people.
But the most recent time, I found myself becoming angry. I had just been followed around 148th by a man in a pickup truck who passed by me exactly eight times, even stopping in driveways and waiting for me to walk past so he could plead with me to get in his car. My protests didn’t seem to deter him. Eventually, my heart was racing, my knees wobbling – frankly, I didn’t have much confidence in my ability to walk anymore. So I hid in the bushes, my old trick I pull out when what was supposed to be a peaceful, enjoyable walk is turned into a terrified jog toward the nearest store or bus stop, wondering if the world is really so horrible that these men could actually be thinking what I think they’re thinking.
After the man in the pickup crawled at 15mph down a very busy 35mph road nearing rush hour, craning his neck and cursing loudly through his open window, I emerged from the bushes with a spider in my hair, feeling defeated and whipped into submission. Naturally, I was planning my return route to my car, abandoning my “fun” walk altogether and wishing I hadn’t already gone a mile and a half, even though the plan was for five or more.
Of course, seconds later, a different man in a Lexus nearly rear-ended a BMW staring blankly over his shoulder at me. Then, he scurried into the U-turn lane and tried his luck. I was completely emotionally drained and stressed to the maximum. I furiously waved him off, glaring, no mistake that I wanted nothing to do with him. He passed by me, and, of course, jumped right into the next U-turn lane (148th is full of them). He passed by on the other side and yelled out his window. I held up my hands like “What!?”. He got in the U-turn lane. Shouted at me again (each time, I believe all he said was “Hey!!”). I started to cry. He got in the U-turn lane. I wondered if these men have, I don’t know, lives? Places to be? Personalities? Suddenly I realized that the most pathetic, degraded people were these men who seemingly had no souls and no morals and no concept of the damage that this selfish, disgusting behavior causes to their personhood.
What was this, the fourth time he had turned around to yell at me? Sadly this is a small number in my experience. Finally, uncharacteristically lusting for blood, I screamed, “I’m gonna call the cops!!!”. He sped off. The two older women walking a few yards ahead of me stared at me as though I were insane.
I did feel stronger. Often times, I feel that my freedom is being taken away from me, that the streets aren’t as open to me as they are to men, or worse, that if I want to enjoy the streets, I must thereby accept that I’m subject to whatever treatment the men, whom “own” the streets, see fit. It didn’t seem possible to me that there was any way to deter one of these more persistent harassers. They buzz around like flies. You can swat them but they won’t relent.
I couldn’t help noticing that, after scaring off the last guy, I was free to walk the rest of the way to my car without incident. I’m sure it was because I was storming down the sidewalk looking like Satan, and it must have frightened any potential stalkers. I’ve been told that the probable reason why I in particular am harassed so very, very much is because I have an “approachable” demeanor. But I don’t want to have to be upset before I’ll be allowed to enjoy myself. I won’t be able to enjoy myself if I’m upset.
Since then, I found the whistle that my dad gave me in my desk drawer. At time time, I thought he was being paranoid. He’s lived in the slums of LA and I have not. But apparently these thugs crawl all over the place. For fun, I taught my dog to respond to the whistle with tricks. I’m thinking from now on I’ll just blare on the whistle whenever a man makes me feel threatened, see if I can train them like the dogs they are.
DISCLAIMER: No offense is intended to dogs. My dog is actually much, much better behaved than a lot of men =)
I live in Harlem, the street harassment capital of the eastern sea board, so I am, unfortunately, not a stranger to it. This didn’t happen in Harlem though.
I was staying at my friends house in DC. He was at work, so I was taking the sunny day to walk to the local movie theatre. I had just had the thought of how lovely and calm, and sunny and quiet it was, and how nice it was to not be cat called as I walked when this young guy, maybe 25 *maybe*, says excuse me.
I turned around and said yes.
He said “Does your husband know you’re out looking so nice?”
I stopped walking, looked at him and said “Don’t. Stop. I don’t know you.” then started to walk away.
He said “Well, does your husband?”
I kept walking.
He started shouting “Don’t be like that. Oh, I see, you are one of those people -those negative people. I feel sorry for people like you. I hate people like you.”
and I kept walking
and I checked over my shoulder at every stop light because we were sorta going to the same place so he more or less followed me for five blocks- and I was scared. When I got to the movie theatre, I cried in the bathroom. and I hated being a woman that day.
I was walking downtown to my apartment — about a mile total. I was waiting at a crosswalk when a man came up right next to me and put his hand on my arm. He was very drunk and looking at me with a stare that put a chill down my spine. As soon as I could, I crossed the intersection. He kept up, walking directly to my side less than a foot away. I tried to shake him off, but he continued to follow me through the next couple of blocks, putting his hand on my arm at each crosswalk pause.
I finally went into a bank to shake him off. The three women tellers were as shaken as I was when I told them why I was there. When I couldn’t see him anymore, I went back to the street. On the next block, he jumped out at me from some bushes he had been hiding in. I walked faster, but he kept up. A maintenance man saw what was happening and stopped the guy, telling me to keep going.
That delay only worked for so long and the guy caught up with me. I called 911 and by the time I was under the underpass and across the bridge a police officer zoomed through the intersection and stopped right in front of us. As he was arresting the guy, two more police cars came up. I declined to press charges or declare myself a victim. He probably just needed to sober up.
It’s not like he hurt or threatened me, but I’m having a hard time shaking it off, given that the low level street harassment continues as it always does. Someday, I hope women and men can look back at street harassment as an unfortunate past problem.
I was in a drugstore few weeks ago and was looking at some products when I felt something brushed through (with some pressure) on my butt. I thought it was just a bag of a lady so I didn’t take notice of it. Second time it happened, I saw a man just walked past behind me and he was talking to his girlfriend/sister before that. I looked around and I was really sure he was the one that touched me. I panicked and try to spot if it was his hands or just something he was holding. It was his hands. And then it happened again and this time, I stared at him and he just gave me a smirk and actually stood staring back at me. After a while, the girlfriend/sister called out to him and he walked away. Not before talking another look at me. I was so freaked out and I don’t know what to do. He was obviously younger than me, probably just a teen. I was wearing a tank top dress that was mid-thigh length.
I often experience stalking in the mall or when I am walking home. There was so many times that the strangers stalk me till I was almost reaching home. I has to rush to the lift (pretending that I wasn’t running away at the same time) and I pressed on multiple levels so that the stranger wouldn’t know which level I am staying at. I shouldn’t have gone to my block where I am staying, but I was afraid to walk anymore further with someone following me.
Verbal / Ogling:
Many times there are strangers who gives me the dirty look and eye me up and down. I wear casual office wear most days and these are the days that are the worse. I have no idea why. Even at work. Sometimes strangers pretend to talk to me, like saying ‘Hi’ and eye me all over. Sometimes the more disgusting ones whistles and stuff. For example, yesterday when I was about to cross the street, a man old enough to be my grand father commented at me and said something I didn’t want to hear.
Yesterday in the train, a older man stood facing me throughout the whole journey. Everyone was facing the door (including me), but he was the only facing me. He kept leering at me and when other passengers blocked his view of me, he shifted to make sure he sees me again. It was so disgusting and he tried to move closer but there was too many passengers and I kept moving further away too. When I alighted, he tried to come closer, but I sneaked off with the crowd quickly.
Last year, a man went on catcalling at me almost every morning the moment I left home on my way to work. He was always riding in his car, and shouted something like “hey beautiful” while he drove past me. He even purposedly changed route, just to be sure to greet me every time he saw me approaching. That pissed me off so much, but I was never able to answer back because I was always too angry or he just drove past too fast. Sometimes I also considered changing my morning routine in order to avoid him! That stopped when I actually changed my habits, luckily for other reasons.
Every day I walk from my house to my gym. It’s only a half mile. I wear compression shorts because I’m a runner and because I like them. Every single day some guy tells me how hot my ass looks in my spandex shorts. I’m serious when I say it’s every day. 100% of the days that I walk to the gym it happens. Most of the time it’s just a quick “you look GOOD!” and nothing more. I ignore it and keep walking.
This week a guy was walking out of his apartment as I was walking by. He quipped “DAY-UM! Where you work out at??” I ignored him and kept walking. He followed me and continued to ask “Why aren’t you answering me? you don’t want me to get in shape like you?”
He followed me a half mile to the gym. My heart was racing. I didn’t know if I should start screaming or start running or turn around and tell him to go to hell. I knew that once I got to the gym, he wouldn’t be able to follow me inside because he’s not a member, but when I was walking home I was shaking with fear that someone would follow me in the opposite direction and there would be no one to help me if the street harassment turned physical. This is the fear I live with every single day. Just because I am female and walk alone to the gym.
I was competing in a beauty pageant in the Wisconsin Dell’s. After the competition my family and I went down to the waterpark. As I’m walking, I see this guy with a video camera watching girls. Then he sees me see him. He smirks and he points his camera right at me and watches me walk away.
I was working one Friday night until close. Throughout my 5 hour shift, 4 men had stopped at my desk to talk to me. After a certain point (usually after 45 minutes of them standing there) I would kindly say that I needed to get back to work and EVERY SINGLE ONE stayed and kept talking to me. The conversations turned into asking when I would be off work, where I was from, and if they could have my phone number. After I explained to one that I had a boyfriend, he replied that he didn’t want to be my boyfriend… He was just “trying to get it in.” It is not right that I went to bed that night with fears that one of those men followed me home. Women should not be scared to go to work because MUCH older men don’t know how to keep it in their pants.
Stopped at a gas station with my family in upstate Alaska. this guy held the door open for me then kept watching me as I walked around for like 15 minutes until I found my grandpa. He still stared at my body even when I walked out the door. I felt like I was having a panic attack as I got in the car.