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As I walked home from work this evening wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, a man walked toward me looking at me as if he had some sort of ownership over womankind. As we passed he said in a low voice, “You shaped like a black girl.” I shook my head as he passed, and I saw him leer at me from behind as well.
As the month of September draws to a close, many young students are already starting to focus on what their mid-term projects will be, coming to terms with that mystery meat served up in the cafeteria, and getting into the rhythm of heavy amounts of school work after a summer of freedom. This is the life of a typical middle-schooler, and it doesn’t seem to have changed that much over the last twenty years. But one thing has ~ the prevalence and viciousness of girls getting bullied by other girls. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a new phenomenon by any means, it’s just that it seems to be taking a particularly virulent form now. Dangerous, even, but not just physically. All of us probably remember either seeing or even being a party to bullying, even before we reached the relative sanity of high school or college, but there is a not-so-subtle difference. Young female students seem to be showing more aggressiveness toward each other, and now with the flourishing of social media, the ways that they can inflict harm have become more cruel, more public, than ever before.
Typically, when we think of bullying, the image of some poor kid being pushed around on the playground comes to mind, but girls as a cohort tend to bully each other in less physical ways, especially as they get older. Young girls are emerging into adulthood not only by growing in mental and physical maturity, but also by grappling with the all-important issues of body image, and it’s close cousin, self-esteem. They are more vulnerable and hence, susceptible, to all the messages that we and their peers are sending them about themselves every day. So it makes it incredibly easy for an insecure girl to hurt another girl’s feelings, to crush her already fragile self-confidence, especially when it comes to sexuality.
The teen world in many ways tries to mirror the gravitas of the adult world, and that can translate into damaging rumors being accepted as fact. Assaults on reputation, or character assassination, is one weapon which some girls may use, especially out of jealousy. Other common methods are ostracism and harassment, in the form of name-calling. These can work particularly well when used as a group, to gang up on their target. Although the threat to a girl of being bullied and harassed by a fellow male student is very real, most bullying of girls is perpetrated by other girls. Facebook-posted, texted, yelled, and whispered epithets like ‘slut,’ ‘bitch,’ and ‘whore’ can have long lasting effects on the psyche and future ability to form healthy relationships. And sadly, perhaps because many adults have either been subjected to this treatment, or they were perpetrators themselves, not enough has been done about it. Next week, we’ll take a look a some of the ways a girl can effectively fight back, from Facebook to in-person encounters, so that she can regain her power as an emerging woman.
I was walking with a friend about 5 feet behind another woman who was walking alone. As she walked by two men, one of them began to walk with her and was leaning into her very closely, as if he was going to kiss her. She began walking much more quickly and as she moved ahead of him, he reached out to her and squeezed her butt. She didn’t look back, but began running forward at that point. My friend and I, seeing what had happened, also began running so that we wouldn’t have a similar encounter.
My friend Arielle has never really been harassed before. We were walking, a group of four, around Union Square today, and we saw a man with a “Free Hugs” sign. One of my friends immediately ran up to him and hugged him with no assault involved. Arielle decided to get a hug, too. She hugged him, and I saw him thrust into her and grind. He asked her, “Do you like your new friend?” I said “Okay,” as a way to tell him that it was time to go. He didn’t let go, but Arielle broke free. He said, with a smile, “Bye, new friend!” and walked away. I asked her if he grinded her, to which she said yes, and that he “grinded her really hard.” We called the cops and immediately left. I hope for the sake of her that this scumbag is arrested.
It was around 9:30 this friday and I was starving so I had my mom wait in the parking lot while I ran in to get some food by McDonalds. As I was getting out a pack of guys started whistling at me and telling me “babe you look good”. I actually sprinted to my mom’s car. When I told my mom she FLIPPED out on ME and got into a traffic jam. She told me to just deal with it. I’m fourteen years old and this has been happening since I was twelve. Earlier this day on the train a guy kept blocking my path and telling me things like “mama come over here” and another guy was like “damn mama you look good”. These weren’t even guys, they were grown disgusting men. I’m so freaked out I try to avoid the train by all cost and I will never eat McDonalds again.
I was walking down the street around mid-day and a guy came right up to me and yelled in my face, “GIRL I WANT TO EAT YOUR [expletive conveying vagina].” I turned around as he walked by and said loudly, “EW!” and he kept walking. Another man who overheard just looked at me and laughed, as if this event was amusing to him. Gross. Proud to hollaback!
I was walking my dog at 7am. This man stuck his head out the window and made kissy noises as he drove past. He got stuck at a stoplight and I walked back to take his pic. He looked a little confused, and I yelled “you’re going on the internet creep!” I walked my dog down a different block in case he drove back around. Feels good to take back the power.
I had moved to Philadelphia just a few days before and I was out exploring. I love my neighborhood. I’d grown up in the suburbs, but my family has a 70+ year history in the Federal St row-home where I live now. I decided to go check out 9th St (only tourists call it “the Italian Market!”) and start to learn what all is around, make myself at home here. There is a produce stand at 8th & Washington that, like the others further down, straddles the sidewalk. My path between the wooden crates of fruits and vegetables was partially blocked by a white-haired man with an enormous belly. He leered at me and looked me up and down. He smirked. I felt immediately angry at his intrusion into what had been a wonderful walk so far. With that simple act, the million other things on my mind and the beautiful day itself were suddenly and forcibly replaced, against my will, by this man, his body itself coupled with his very violent gaze. The rage in me was overpowering. It felt like the seconds it took me to walk up to, by, and away from him were stretched out into minutes. I started to shake, but I looked him in the eye and spit something awkward out like, “I bet it’s been a looooong time for you, huh?” I don’t care that it was ineffective (it always is, because his power is not about sex, it’s about asserting that the street is HIS turf and NOT mine,) I just wanted to keep my head up and try to look undeterred. I wasn’t, of course. That was 2 years ago and I still get so mad just thinking about it. I’ve avoided that intersection as much as possible even when it put me out of my way, and when I couldn’t avoid it, I’ve struggled to smirk back at him (he’s ALWAYS there, but I don’t know if he’s the owner) and look strong. I AM strong. I try very hard to maintain a balance in this city between keeping an eye out for potential dangers and just going about my life, but people like him make it harder. I don’t want this to be normalized anymore. I know it’s not always safe to hollaback, but I want us to get there. Advertizing individual perpetrators is tricky because it can help feed a myth that these are isolated incidents, but if we use the great opportunity set up by the folks here and tell our stories, the bigger picture will become clear. I know confronting is not always safe (and, please, always have your safety in mind,) but any action from giving the finger to snapping photos surreptitiously that will make you feel even slightly less powerless is worth considering. I’ll have your back.
Here is the video of my confrontation with him today. You can see the camera shaking, but it did feel good: http://youtu.be/oh417ONbwPg
Reposted from Hollaback Czech Republic
by Alicia Brooks
There are certain things in your daily life that you do without even thinking about. Things like brushing your teeth, going to work, crossing the street or waiting in the inevitable line at the Albert. They have become such a part of your life that thinking about them would be redundant. You have been putting on your shoes for years, why bother giving it a second thought?
Taking public transit in Prague has become one of those things for me. I know which trams to take, what time the bus comes and what car I should get into for optimal speed upon exit. It’s clockwork. It’s clockwork except in the case of taking the night trams.
I swore off night trams when I swore off partying downtown. I like being able to walk home – or stumble home – as the case may be. But just this past week I found myself going home at 3am on a night tram. Twice. I had conveniently forgotten about the smell of puke, the loud drunks and the way it seems to take an eternity to get home no matter where you live.
Thursday night I was waiting at Narodni Trida for the 58 with my flat-mate. We had had a fun evening full of laughter and alcohol and topped it off with an always delicious and regrettable slice of street pizza. The tram was going to take another fifteen minutes to get to us, so we took a seat on the steel benches. My friend was regaling me with a story about something when I saw him. I didn’t want her to have to see what I was seeing so I tried not to change expression in any way.
He walked by us as if he were on one of those moving platforms they have at airports – slow and sooth. He wanted me to get a good look. He had his penis in one hand shaking it rapidly in my direction and the other hand (which was somehow far more offensive than the penis) was under his mouth, fingers in a peace sign tongue lapping at the air. The international sign for “lick pussy”. He seemed to walk in slow motion.
I think I was stunned into silence. As soon as he was out of sight I turned to my friend and said, “Holy shit! Did you see that fucking guy?” It was obvious to me that she hadn’t, and for that I was glad. One less person who has that image scarred on their retina. I recounted what I had witnessed and was met with multiple “Ewws”. I quickly remembered why I don’t like to take night trams.
One of the things that I refuse to get used to is harassment – in any form. A strange man shaking his genitals, an ass grab at a bar, yelling at me from across the street how “hot” or “fuckable” I am. It’s all harassment, and it will never be second nature as long as I continue to get pissed off about it.