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December 1, 2014 I was getting out of my car to go shopping at the strip mall on Airport Blvd in Pensacola. There was a man who was putting his groceries into his car and took notice of me. I could hear him making comments about me as I walked past.
I walked into the shoe store and noticed he walked in behind me. He followed me throughout the store and then walked out. A moment later he walked back in and I left to go to another store. He walked out and began stalking me again. I walked into Marshall’s and immediately ducked behind a spinner rack. He walked in and I saw him looking for me. As he walked further up the aisle, I dashed back out the front door and walked to my car.
I am 5’10” and 55 years old. I have been followed before and I am not afraid to confront a stalker. I was prepared to confront him if needed, but was glad I did not have to.
As a woman, I’ve obviously faced a lot of cat calling. All of us have, from whistles to grabbing. This one instance isn’t about flirting though… It was about sales! On opening night at the state fair, I was out with my parents and kids. My kids needed a bathroom so I wandered off from my parents while they checked out vendors. No big deal, since I’m an adult after all! On the way to the bathrooms, a salesman for a popular Dish company decided to try to sell me on the service. I didn’t make eye contact, said “no thanks”, and kept walking. He decided that he was going to have my attention, so it was ok to grab the double stroller I was pushing with my two small children in it! Normally I ignore the harassment, but he brought out the crazy mom in me and I lost it on him. He had my attention alright! Stunned, he just walked away, no apology. If I were a man or with a man, he wouldn’t dare physically try to stop me for a sale!
What made this story worse is that I contacted the company they were selling for, and the reply I got? “It was a third party seller.” No investigation. No apology.
Street harassment doesn’t JUST take the form of half-assed flirting. The entitlement isn’t just related to trying to get into bed. It extends into every aspect of a woman’s life. We deal with unwanted contact in our daily life, from “compliments” to sales techniques! It was unfortunate that my daughter’s experienced the gender inequality at a young age, but I am happy that I showed them it is ok to stand up for yourself. We all need to stand up for ourselves and for other women when these types of things happen!
Running Encounters in Beechview – Part II
Saturday morning I decided to do a run in my neighborhood – Beechview. I left the house around 7am. Heading South on Broadway Avenue, a man (I would guess him in his 60s) gets off the “T” and is walking toward me. As I approach, he asks “How’s that concrete treat your knees?” I respond “they are fine.” As I pass, he turns and begins running with me, asking “Do you mind if I run with you a little while?” I look him up and down (he’s in street clothes, but is wearing some sort of New Balance type shoe) and slightly baffled say “Are you kidding me?” No, he says. “I’d rather you didn’t. This is my time.” Oh, okay, he says I will just follow you for a while. Then I hear his voice trailing off – have a nice day… As I’m heading North by the No. 28 Fire Station, I see a guy walking on the sidewalk and I move over into the street, as we pass, he says to me “Keep on runnin’, little girl.” “Why do you think it’s okay to say that to me?” I ask. “uhh, I was just trying to be encouraging” “It’s not okay”, I respond. I’ve continued running so I hear some unintelligible yelling and then very loudly “F*** YOU! F*** YOU!
So, in case you don’t understand what is wrong with this – a good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t say it to a male, don’t say it to a female (ESPECIALLY ONE YOU DON’T KNOW). I highly doubt either of those encounters would have happened if I was male.
I was only baffled by the old guy – Sir, I don’t know you, you are in street clothes and I’m trying to exercise. This isn’t social hour. A good morning is appropriate, but keep moving. The other guy, I would guess at 30s – 40s. What you said, could be interpreted as menacing – Keep on Running – like if you don’t I”m going to get you AND calling me a little girl is wrong on every conceivable level. Calling a grown woman whether you know her or not a little girl is sexist and demeaning. My husband was mortified that I spoke up to this second guy, but my argument is if we don’t speak up, how will anyone get the message? I can’t keep my head down and pretend like I didn’t hear it and I’m not going to fake smile at the guy awkwardly like “aw gee thanks”.
This morning I noticed the man next to me on the subway had taken a creepshot of the woman sitting across from him and was sending it to his friends to mock her. I immediately thought of confronting him, telling him what he was doing was not okay; telling her what had happened. What I actually did was take a creepshot of him as I disembarked, shaking with rage. I’m still really upset about what I saw, but most of all, I’m sorry to her for not helping her.
I was at Starbucks with my female friends sitting by a giant window next to the sidewalk and a group of teenaged boys came walking up. One of them thought that it would be hilarious to start making dumb faces right in front of the window at us. We all felt so awkward and tried to ignore them. He put his hand on the window so one of us could oh-so-romantically have our hands touching with the glass between us, which none of us obviously did. Then, one of them came inside and put his hand over me to touch his friend’s hand and his arm was touching my chest. I told him, “Okay, you’re touching me and I will fucking scream.” He backed off, but it’s absolutely repulsive that boys start doing this so young and that victims feel awkward because they don’t know how to respond. Why should we learn how to defend ourselves when we aren’t the problem?
I used to live in South London, I have moved out of this area now because of the amount of street harassment I used to get. I would get it at least three times a day. It varied from men staring, to wolf whistling, to walking along side me, making rude and inappropriate comments. I have received comments such as ‘c*m on my face you f***ing slut’. I have never known these men and the ages always very from about 18-40. I have been ‘stroked’ when walking past and one man went to grope in between my legs while looking me directly in the eye; luckily I saw it coming and managed to dodge a little and he grabbed my thigh instead. It makes me so angry when it happens but, I never know what to do. I have to bite my tongue as I want to say something to them but, realistically I’m too scared. It’s not worth it, I don’t know who they are or what they might do – and this is the most upsetting thing.
Walking back to the train in a group of three from hanging out with some friends, and some guy on my left says “so beautiful” so I make a disgusted noise and continue my conversation with my friends. He says “nice ass” and makes a grab for my butt, so I spin and scoot almost out of his reach so he just grazes my ass. I keep walking and he shouts a string of insults at me, including “bitch” 3 or 4 times. My friends don’t say anything, and keep talking. It completely ruined a night of laughter and de-stressing that I badly needed. Now I just feel ashamed that I didn’t knock him out, didn’t escalate the situation or do any of the things I always think I’ll do, and I don’t feel great about my friends I spent the night with either.
For much of my adult life I never realized that some of the comments I was getting on the street were harassment. Even though they made me feel uncomfortable I would respond politely and get away as quickly as possible, often leaving with an odd feeling about the whole situation.
One of the ones I hated the most was when men would tell me to smile, and in the past I would usually feel obligated to flash them a quick smile to appease them. This has happened on several occasions but one time stands out in particular, a guy told me to smile so I smiled and kept walking and then he stopped me and told me it looked fake and to give him a real smile, so I did my best to give a genuine smile. To this day it bothers me that this guy got upset that I couldn’t give him a genuine smile on command and that he felt entitled to tell me what to do with my facial expression.
On a busy street in the middle of the afternoon a man walked towards me and as he walked by he stuck out his hand and grabbed my ass. This is the first time this has happened to me on the street, (as an ex-nightclub employee in the UK it has happened a few times before in a club). I was shocked into stopping dead. I turned to look at him as he walked away and he looked back at me over his shoulder with a repulsive leer of a smile. The second time he looked back I decided I would follow him and get his photo.
There is something powerful about taking a person’s photo without their consent. He did not like me doing it.
I carried on doing what I had planned to do but when I passed some police I stopped to ask them if they thought I should report the incident. They said I definitely should so I filed a report. Those two actions made me feel a lot better, like I was able to take back some control.
So glad to find out that an organization like Hollaback now exists. When I lived in New York, I was followed by men, got cat calls from men in cars and generally harassed on a daily basis. It never occurred to me at the time that it was a form of sexual harassment and in fact, could be dangerous. It is a form of power that some men use over single women. A woman walking alone is an easy target.
After awhile, it makes women afraid to be women. Just going to the grocery store becomes a drama filled occasion. It’s not even about dressing sexy. Women get harassed in just a t-shirt and jeans.
The worse would be when I was groped in a crowd. It’s hard because you really learn not to trust men. Then, you finally meet a good one, like my husband. I’ve always missed my time in New York, but now I remember how hard it can be.
It’s hard to be a single woman in New York. Harassment is never cool. hollaback!