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I went into a Walgreens last week to pick up a calendar I had made in the photo department. There were two young men in the section, one that worked there, and another who was trying to print something next to me. The man at the counter was helping me while I examined the calendar when all the sudden I heard the second man say, “Hey, I’m talking to you. You probably didn’t realize it but I am.” I just looked at him with a confused look on my face. He said, “I just wanted to tell you that you look very nice. Your outfit is really nice. I don’t mean any disrespect by that, I just wanted to tell you.” It was awkward but I just said thank you and looked back at my calendar. The man just kept talking though. He said, “I don’t want you to think I’m disrespecting you, I just wanted to give you a compliment.” The guy behind the counter shook his head like he thought the man was ridiculous but said nothing. In the end, the only way I could get the man to stop talking to me was to assure him that I took it as a compliment and that I wasn’t offended. Now that I think about it though, I shouldn’t have to assure someone that being creepy and weird is ok. Even if it is a compliment, I don’t owe you anything for saying it to me and I certainly shouldn’t have to reassure you that bothering me is ok.
21 years old and walking at 6pm in the Oxford Circus area of London wearing a big baggy jumper and dark tights, a man blocks my path and tells me he’d like to give me ‘an hour long orgasm’. When I tell him to leave me alone he calls me stuck up and arrogant. I experience verbal harassment in London on an almost daily basis and it’s disgusting.
I had on a short sleeved button up blouse and some black pants that are tight up top and then get wider from the thigh down. I had a bike helmet on, digging through my backpack, and some nasty guy walks by and says “dang!” So I whip around and he is watching me as he’s walking. I call him a weirdo, while giving him a dirty look. He looks away and keeps walking.
I’m technically male but am more comfortable by dressing to look androginous and/or more female. I wasn’t dressed as a girl exactly, but while walking to my flat a guy who was perhaps in his mid 60’s, who was just standing there doing nothing, grabbed me and felt my private parts through my trousers quite thoroughly. As I looked at him in horror, he nodded, grinned and said “just checking.” I ran and called the Police. They came down and interviewed me. They then asked me what I was “expecting them to do about it.” I was very upset but I managed to ask them to press charges. They refused and just left. They weren’t rude to me,but he was still out there later. I just feel so vulnerable and powerless as if the Police won’t help me, what can I do? I’m still trying to work out who I am and how I feel and this has really set me back and hurt me. Why did he feel to need to check me like that?
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!
I stopped at the gas station midday this past summer and as I was walking back to my car an older man (probably well into his 70’s) had backed into the spot beside my car and was directly beside my drivers side door. Well as I’m getting into my car he asks me how much? I said excuse me and he had the nerve to actually say how much for that pu$$y and said he needed some young white lady in his life. Said he needed what I could give him and I should stop looking at him like I’m disgusted. I was floored, never have I had someone speak to me that way! I wasn’t in revealing clothing at all either, I had on jeans and a regular t shirt (work attire).
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.
The first time a man exposed himself to me I was 11 years old in Cinncinnati, Ohio.
I am now nearly 50 and I have gotten so used to ignoring street harassment that I stopped thinking about it years ago.
The list of serious street harassment experiences I have had is so long that it is pointless to list them all. Everything from the city worker in city uniform in a city truck wiggling his tongue through the crotch of his fingers, to men brazenly grabbing my ass as I walk down the sidewalk, to the every day “you’d look good on me”, and nowadays:”You still lookin’ good for an old lady, you a cougar baby?”….and the kissing sounds, those are the most revolting.
I’ve learned to ignore them, stay aware from those parts of town, and not to use the train or bus because of the harassment. It’s just not worth it to deal with it.
Sadly: it is just become a background factor in my life. I just live accepting that this is the way it has always been and will always be: no one has ever done anything about it, bystanders often laugh or jump in and join the harasser. You can call the cops, but they do not take reports. I have even had them say “Why do you want to report this and ruin the poor guy’s life?” or some other version of “boys will be boys.”
Now I watch the same thing happening to my daughter and I am furious.
My story is not specific, because it happens too many times a day to count. I currently live in Medellin, Colombia, currently one of the most notorious hubs for sex tourism, street trafficking, and child prostitution. Before I decided to come here to start a vegetarian food project with a friend, I traveled mostly solo or with one female friend throughout Colombia and Ecuador. Traveling on your own has its challenges, but traveling as an independent female is another story. You are always on the streets, and thus, are in a constant state of harassment. Before you set foot out of your own city, you are constantly reminded of ‘how dangerous’ it is for you, how you ‘should travel with a group, a boyfriend, or a male companion’, how you should ‘never walk alone’ because ‘you never know what horrible things could happen to you… as a woman’. Sometimes men (and women alike) like to take additional steps in making sure you don’t venture out to foreign streets. They say ‘you are being naive’ (thank you for completely undermining my intelligence), they say ‘there are safer ways to do it’, they say you could ‘just save up more money, and go someplace else’. Before I left on my trip, I had many people do everything they could to strip me of my confidence, condescend my abilities, and essentially tell me that I was setting myself up for a horrible demise. Me. It would be MY fault, if something terrible happened to me somewhere in which ‘wasn’t my place’.
Meet Colombia and Ecuador, two of the loveliest countries on Earth. Meet Colombia and Ecuador, where I didn’t manage to escape unscathed. I cannot make less than a 5 minute walk without being catcalled, hissed at, or looked up and down in any city I have been in. 5 minutes. That’s about 3 blocks. And I’m a fast walker. I have been called (translated from Spanish): my love, my heaven, my life, my sky, my little thing, my princess, my queen, my sweet, baby, girl, white girl, beautiful, pretty, delicious, and ‘wow’. While those might sound like more than compliments to some, I am not a fan of the comments. I did not ask for them. I do not want them. I do not have a choice. These men disgust me.
That’s the cakewalk. Then comes the hissing. You know that sound you make to call your dog? Well they use the same one for women. Hissing. Don’t worry, they still call their animals the same way. There’s not much of a difference. And there won’t be later either. It is symptomatic, and no one does anything about it. Women are dogs here.
What do the comments turn into? The hisses? Oh it doesn’t stop there.
I’ve been followed for blocks multiple times. I’ve had to hide. I’ve had to turn around and yell at men stalking me. They smile. Or laugh it off. Or ignore me. Or point at me and say how much they’d like to fuck me. Or ask if I have a boyfriend. Or if I will marry them. But it still doesn’t stop.
I’ve been groped in the metros. I’ve had my hips, my arms, and my ass squeezed. I’ve had every inch of my body purposefully pressed upon. I’ve had stiff dicks and sweaty hands invade my space too many times during rush hour. It never stops.
The winks, the catcalls, the hissing, the squeezing, the stalking, the sexual comments, they are everything that signifies the complete lack of respect for women where I currently reside, and that is on all levels.
At one point at a festival, I was drunk… like almost everyone else. I was talking to a guy whom I had never met. I do not know him still. I do not remember his name. I don’t know what we talked about, and I don’t know how any of it happened. I remember flashes. I remember walking into a filthy bathroom with him. Horrible things happened. One flash I have was of him pulling his pants down. No condom. My feeling of fear, disgust, entrapment, helplessness, isolation. I could do nothing. The friend I was with had no idea… I never had the heart to tell him. I was crushed. My soul was gone. I was dead for a long time.
I was so traumatized, I couldn’t feel anything for awhile. I didn’t want to exist, or move, or speak. I was a changed person. I went from vivacious, funny, friendly, and wild, to a shell in moments. No one knew what happened, but the friends I was staying with knew it was something terrible. I didn’t know if I would find any part of my old spirit again. That was the worst part. But a different me is back.
I refused to be defeated. Before, I almost always reacted to street harassment. I would yell, I would silently put up my middle finger, I would fight back. I was strong. I was vigilant, careful, and conscious. No one thought I would be the one, but 1 out of 5 is pretty staggering.
For women, going out into the street is a gamble. I lost just one time. But honestly, I’m glad it was me, and not someone else. I still react, but in different ways. I harness all of my intensity to shock men, to scare them, to let them know without a doubt, that what they are doing is wrong. Often, I am successful. But It doesn’t stop. You can’t get everyone. Street harassment is a gateway to vicious assault, denigration, and decimation of female integrity and safety. If there is anything that I have learned, it is this: IT IS ALWAYS YOUR PLACE TO SAY SOMETHING. YOUR BODY, YOUR VOICE, YOUR DIGNITY. It belongs to you. Be strong, fight back. This is your world as much as it is anyone else’s. You might not be next, but someone you love will find their time… it’s always when you least expect it.
A man (who had harassed me once before) started following me and asking many personal questions – do I have a boyfriend? well ok you have a boyfriend but you’re not married right? etc.