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In the midst of this #yesallwomen trend I have been following, I get off the bus already feeling vulnerable and nervous. Not even thirty seconds after getting off the bus a man walks towards me, and fairly loudly mumbles “hey girl, I was wonderin’ if you was single.” I ignored him and kept walking to the MFL, and he kept whispering at me “girl. hey girl. i’m tryna talk to you.”
I do not know how to properly respond to this while feeling safe.
I have infinite experiences of verbal and physical street harassment with threatening, sexual undertones- but these occasions stood out to me.
I was at a festival with a group of my friends, the age demographic predominantly being about 16-21. At one point, as my friends were all in a tent, i lingered directly outside- packing some things in to my bag before i joined them. I was literally centimetres away from my group when a hulking man in his mid 30’s- evidently stronger, bigger, and able to over power me if he wanted- entered my personal space and began saying “your friends have all left you, they told me to come and get you- come to our tent”. Not only was this man clearly to old for the age demographic, which in itself made me feel uncomfortable, but he was actually lying to me in an attempt to get me to come to his tent. He had seen me in a vulnerable position, on my own, and taken the opportunity to try and deceive me into leaving with him. I felt genuinely threatened, as at that moment, it could have been possible for him to forcibly take me without anyone initially knowing or able to locate me. Considering the reports of rape at this particular festival, and his sleazy remarks towards me- it comes as no shock that i felt completely intimidated.
At this same festival, i woke up in the morning to find two men, both considerably older than me, sitting in the entrance to our tent (which they must have opened themselves). One of the men was groping my thighs and stroking my legs in a sexually threatening way- saying “i’d love to wake up to these legs”. Feeling utterly repelled, i responded with a look of clear disgust and told him to ‘get off’. He had the audacity to look shocked and offended at my remark, saying “oooohhhh she didn’t like THAT!!” and asking me if i was a lesbian. I don’t know how you are supposed to respond when you wake up to a complete stranger touching you *WHILE YOU SLEEP* without you even vaguely hinting towards wanting any attention.
In the next situation i am about to outline, i didn’t feel threatened, but i think it is a horrific demonstration of how social conditioning from acts as a catalyst for the objectification and street harassment of women. I was walking home from sixth form, when a group of boys ranging from the ages of about 9-10, shouted sexual remarks at me- outlining what they were ‘going to do to me’. Shocking. These are CHILDREN. Evidently then, they did not actually intend or even desire what they shouted at me. Clearly then, these kids have watched this behaviour in older men and copied it, influenced by the pervasive objectification of women as ‘things to hurl abuse at’- not fully understanding the meaning of their behaviour. It’s a vicious cycle- the observable harassment of women permeating the minds of young boys and presenting itself as acceptable.
My Dad explained to me that he did not realise or comprehend the impact of ‘normal’ street harassment towards women, until he was approached in exactly the same way by a group of gay men- all bigger than him- and he was put in the vulnerable situation that women find themselves in every day. Unwanted sexual advances like this are NOT compliments. They are THREATENING, INTIMIDATING and DEGRADING.
I come from Honduras, and now I am living in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It was the first day of college when we had the second class of the first day. Then a guy who later on wanted to date me, said that the first thing he saw of me, was that i was pretty, and he liked my body. That was the very only reason why he wanted to get to know me.
Later on when I heard that i was like how dare you? You saw me as an object you didn’t even ask my name first, or wanted to get to know who I am as person before you already decided you wanted to date me because of my body?
TALKING TO THEM “WORKED”
As I was leaving a grueling and wonderful dance class, a group of four construction workers nearby whistled and catcalled. I was dripping sweat and still in my leotard and jazz pants. I decided to challenge their ignorance, and said, “Listen, I’m an athlete; I’ve been knocking myself out for almost 2 hours perfecting something that’s really difficult. Show some respect and stop that!”. They applauded and one guy said “Right on”, and shook my hand.
To this day, I don’t know if it was the right thing to do, or if it made them think seriously about their behavior, but I was glad I’d done it.
The institute where I study is about ten minutes away from my house. I’ve been attending that institute for two months with no problems until two weeks ago. A couple of weeks ago a building started to be constructed near by my house and institute, so every morning when I leave (about 7:45am) I meet with the men that are working in the site. The harassment started with a man calling me beautiful, it may not be offensive, but I was alone and they were in a group, he is a man in his late forties and I’m a nineteen-year-old girl. I started seeing the men every morning, and it went from being an uncomfortable situation to me becoming frightened when this same guy came close to my face one day and whispered ”she is so beautiful”. I felt scared and disgusted and couldn’t concentrate in my classes for the rest of the day. I told my mom about it, trying not to make it sound like a big deal and said that I was simply going to change routes. She agreed and asked me to text her when I arrived. The day that I changed routes, I thought I had finally found the solution and as I was entering the institute, someone from across the street yelled at me ”Hey Beautiful”, it was him again. I texted my mom, and after she talked with my father, he drives me every day to school now. My parents said they wanted me to and could tell the police I was being harassed daily by the same guy. The problem is I never had the guts to look at his face.
Man at airport drop off was drunk, grabbing his genitals, and hit on me with invasive and inappropriate questions. Attempted to open my car while I wasn’t in it. Airport security responded very quickly and took him away.
I walk 2.5 miles home from work almost everyday and there is a man in a white, unmarked work van who passes me each day, driving in either direction. He has yelled everything from “Nice ASS!” “Check out them TITS!” to “Hey I’m talking to you bitch!” Since he passes around the same time everyday, and has been seen driving in both directions, I have reason to believe he drives up and down that section of road looking for me. I have no other route to take home.
I pulled up to the gas station on the corner of Dundonald and Smythe streets in Fredericton, NB, Canada. I realized that the pump I was at was debit-only, so I returned to my car. While I was bent down looking for my debit card, I heard a man yell from a passing car “Yeah bitch you bend over!” It happened so fast I have no idea what the man looked like.
On a 12 minute walk, 3 men – all in separate cars – honked their horns at me, and a group of men on the back of a truck continuously commented on my physical appearance, referring to me as mango, pie, and yellow.
Today I was walking back from school at around 3:50pm, by myself. Two men were walking on my side of the road towards me. I didn’t cross, since two boys from my school were just ahead and could see me. When the men walked past I kept my head down as not to provoke them, and when they walked past in silence I thought I’d gotten away with it, but after a few seconds one of them turned around and shouted “I’d finger her!” Followed by the two of them laughing and the other shouting “Sorry, he’s sick in the head!”. It was embarrassing and scary, and while I worked up the courage to glare at them after the first remark, after the second I just wanted to cry.
I ran until I was right behind the boys from my school and when I got home I reported them to the police, but this isn’t the first time I’ve suffered harassment on that stretch of road and the police just told me that “they were only being immature” and “that happens when people get let out of school”. These were not school children. They were fully grown adults and I am a fifteen year old girl.
Frankly I’m disappointed that the police didn’t do more, my little sisters walk that stretch of road twice a day and I don’t want them to ever have to suffer that kind of humiliation.